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Learning pathway

Learning pathway

Table of Contents

Let’s do a little mind experiment. You’re getting ready for a trip to a totally new place: maybe it’s a city, maybe it’s a hiking trip. Would you do it without a map?

Well, we certainly wouldn’t. 

So, why should professional development be any different? 

Don’t leave your learners stumbling around without a map. Instead, you can provide them with learning pathways that act like roadmaps for learning opportunities. 

In this guide, you’ll discover:

  • What’s a learning pathway
  • Why a learning pathway is a must for your learning programs
  • The benefits of adopting learning pathways
  • Ways to implement them in your organization’s training programs 
  • Some examples of learning pathways 

Now that we have our map in hand, let’s set off!


What is a learning pathway?

A learning pathway is a designated road through an educational experience, like an online course or training program. It aims to help a learner achieve a learning goal, such as upskilling. At the end of the learning pathway, the learner can receive a digital badge or a certificate. 

Every learning pathway has:

  • A clear trajectory
  • Milestones 
  • The final learning objective  

Put simply, a learning pathway is a chosen route through a training program. Commonly used in e-learning, learners must complete a series of training modules in a specific order to reach their final destination (the learning objective). 

With a correctly mapped learning pathway, learners can get a good idea of their advancement. This helps keep learners motivated and engaged. 

You’ll find learning pathways in every learning scenario, from academic institutions to corporate training programs. Online learning platforms such as LinkedIn Learning have embraced this learning process too. 

Instructional designers and other learning stakeholders can use learning pathways in any training program and any learning approach. In other words, no matter what learning theory shapes your learning and development program, you can offer your learners clear learning pathways to guide them along their learning journey.

Now that we know what a learning pathway is, let’s take a look at why they’re so important.


Why are learning pathways important?

Learning and development are a priority for today’s organizations, whether they’re corporations or non-profits, or even small enterprises. 

Everyone wants to upskill their team members, equip them with the right competencies, support and foster a learning culture, etc. 

But, with so many different things to learn and so many possible learning paths to take, it can all get a little overwhelming.  For learners and educators alike. 

That’s where learning pathways come in. When someone lays out a clear learning path, you and your learners can breathe a sigh of relief. That’s because a learning path presents everything about the learning experience―the subject matter, the modules to take, and the learning goals to achieve―in an easy-to-understand way.

Think of it this way. You’re going on a road trip. You already know your final destination (your learning objective), but you need to figure out how to get there. So, you mark off all the stops you need to make on your way. That’s what a learning pathway does. It tells you where you are, where you’re going, and the steps (training activities) you need to take to get there. 

As self-directed and personalized learning becomes increasingly popular in corporate settings, giving learners clear learning pathways is a must. Namely, because it helps them choose where to direct their attention based on their professional development interests and needs. This is also great news for organizations trying to plug specific skills gaps in the business. 

Overall, using learning pathways offers significant benefits to your company’s learning and development strategy:

  • Increased employee engagement
  • Enhanced productivity 
  • Progressive and continuous knowledge building

Want to know more? We’ll drill down into these benefits in the next part of the guide.


Three benefits of learning pathways for an organization

Learning pathways are a useful concept for learning experience designers, learners, and all learning stakeholders in an organization. 

Here are the three main benefits of using learning pathways in your learning programs.


Benefit #1: Increased employee engagement

Engagement is key for learning. If learners aren’t engaged, they’re unlikely to grasp the learning content and achieve the learning objectives fully. 

There are many reasons why a learner might not engage with your training program: 

  1. The subject matter is irrelevant to their job and background
  2. The learning activities are too difficult or too easy
  3. The presentation and format of the learning experience don’t  match their learning style. 

Luckily, having clear learning pathways helps to address many of these issues. 

This is because your employees will know exactly what they’re going to learn, how they’ll learn it, and what benefits this knowledge will give them in their job and career.


Benefit #2: Enhanced productivity

Everyone knows that being productive is important, but did you know that employee engagement is one of the best ways to boost productivity?

According to a Gallup survey, teams with high employee engagement are also 21% more productive. That’s nothing to sneeze at. 

Boosting employee engagement is just one way that learning pathways impact productivity. Because they also make the learning process clearer and faster, learners are more motivated and retain knowledge better. This translates into better job performance.


Benefit #3: Progressive knowledge building

People have talked a lot about the benefits of continuous learning. In a fast-paced business environment, companies that want to stay competitive have to keep learning.

Learning pathways are a great way to achieve this. Your trainers can control the order and the timeframe in which they present learners with learning objects.

Because the milestones and the end goals are clearly defined, it’s much easier to  assess learner progress and step in when necessary. This could entail offering extra support to those struggling or more advanced learning objects to overachievers. 

The benefits are clear now, but how do you go about implementing all of this in your company? We’re glad you asked., Keep reading to find out.


Four ways to implement learning pathways in your organization

We’ve seen the benefits, so how do we implement learning paths?

Here are the four steps you need to take.


Step #1: Identify your learning goals

A learning pathway is essentially a roadmap to a learning goal. How can you make a map if you don’t know where you’re going?

So, your first task is to define  what learning goals you want to accomplish. Are you trying to upskill your workforce or do you think your sales team could brush up on their soft skills?

Identifying any skill gaps is always a good idea. You can do this by conducting a thorough skills analysis, collecting employee feedback, and gathering data from your Learning Management System (LMS). Where are employees tripping up during training? Checking assessment results will give you valuable insight into where extra skills training is needed.

You can also research what skills are popular and in demand in your field. 


Step #2: Decide on the learning model

Next up, you’ll need to decide on the learning model. These days there are many ways to deliver learning experiences to learners. From in-person training sessions to blended learning to fully online courses.

It’s important to remember that everyone has a different learning style. The best way to boost the effectiveness of your training is to cater to these different styles. For instance, by using learning models such as multimodal learning and personalized learning. This is a great way to offer varied learning activities that appeal to different learners and keep them engaged. 

In recent years, microlearning and gamification have emerged as popular trends in corporate learning. Short learning pills that learners can digest  quickly work perfectly with our hectic lifestyles.

Speaking of engagement, gamification can bring a sense of accomplishment and fun to learning. Awarding learners badges, points, or rewards is a fantastic way to build a dynamic learning culture in your organization.

Which one should you choose? There is no one right answer. You should choose the learning model that best fits your learners and desired learning outcomes.


Step #3: Set milestones

If we imagine a learning path as a roadmap, then at the end of the road the learner has gained a new skill or new knowledge. 

But, just marking the beginning and the end doesn’t make for a very useful map. 

This is why learning pathways have milestones. They’re essentially the signposts that guide the learner to the final destination (the desired learning outcome). 

So, deliverables and milestones are crucial elements of a learning pathway. Learners should always know what instructors expect of them next, how much of the training program they’ve completed, and how much is still left. 

As they complete the tasks and reach milestones, learners will feel a sense of accomplishment. This will increase learner engagement and boost completion rates. 

There is a benefit for trainers too as the completion of milestones is a useful metric to track learner progress.


Step #4: Offer constructive feedback

Your employees should feel supported as they learn. Offering timely and constructive feedback goes a long way toward making the learning experience pleasant and meaningful. 

Feedback is also crucial to the concept of learner-centered learning, which is becoming increasingly widespread in corporate learning and development. 

Employees can get learning feedback from their trainers and through LMSs as well. Learners can receive it in real time by completing assessments with on-screen feedback. Another way to do it is through adaptive learning, a teaching method with built-in feedback and encouragement that guides learners through branching learning pathways. 

Of course, feedback shouldn’t be a one-way street. You should be open to learner feedback and use it to optimize and tune your learning experiences.

Now let’s look at some examples of learning pathways.


Three learning pathway examples

You can use learning pathways when designing any training program. The concept of a learning pathway isn’t dependent on what kind of training you’re offering. 

To give you a better idea of how it all works, here are three examples of how learning pathways can make your learning and development programs better.


Example #1: Employee training

No matter what kind of employee training you need, a learning pathway can make it more effective and engaging. 

From onboarding to reskilling, you can streamline the learning process with this focused approach to learning. 

Learning pathways also cut down on learning-related bureaucracy. Instead of manually enrolling an employee into a bunch of different courses, you just give them an LMS login and let the learning pathway guide them. Automating training management tasks saves L&D teams a lot of precious time and resources. And let’s face it, most of us already wish there were more hours in the day.

At the same time, thanks to the milestones, you’ll have a clear idea of how each employee is doing on their learning journey.


Example #2: Partner training

Partner education is an important part of any branding and sales strategy. After all, your distributors and other associates are often the face of your product to the customer. 

Using learning pathways can simplify partner training. Just like with employee training, you can point your partners to your LMS, and let the learning path guide them. Everything from getting to know your brand and company to diving deep into the nitty-gritty of product knowledge


Example #3: Customer training

The modern customer is inundated with different offers for products and services. This can be overwhelming, to say the least. Customer training is a simple way to stand out from the crowd and add value to your customers. 

But, if your customer training courses are a hodge-podge of different disconnected learning modules, the customer will likely become frustrated and give up.

Learning pathways come to the rescue! 

With a learning path approach, you can gently guide prospective customers from learning about your product to making a buying decision. Once they choose to buy, the learning pathway guides them to content that will help them get the most out of the product. After all, customer success equals business success. 

You can support the entire customer journey with well-crafted learning pathways. 

Up next, we’ll recap what we’ve learned so far.


Now over to you

A learning pathway is a designated roadmap that guides learners through milestones to the end of a learning experience. 

With learning pathways, learners always know how they’re progressing and what they need to do. Because of this, using learning pathways boosts learner engagement and helps them achieve learning goals. 

There’s no limit to where you can use this approach. Whether it’s employee or customer training, giving a clear learning pathway will make it better.

We’ve prepared a handy glossary on the subject if you’d like to read more about how different kinds of learning can help organizations.