Education Technology

What is a Learning Path?

A Learning Path is a selection of courses tied together for learners to progress through, mastering a particular subject or program. It allows you to enroll multiple users in multiple courses at once saving you valuable time.

The best way to understand Learning Paths is to see them in action. Let’s do that now with everyday examples of them in use: Onboarding new hires usually takes weeks, if not months. Typically, they have to take multiple courses in an LMS before they have completed their employee training. Traditionally, you would have to enroll your learners in each of the courses individually. But with Learning Paths you can skip this tedious step. As courses are grouped together, you only have to enroll your learners once. Then they are automatically enrolled in all the courses, drop-fed each course, one after another, until they cross the finish line, completing their onboarding goal.

The types of Learning Paths

Type 1: Sequenced Learning Paths

With Sequenced Learning Paths, the learner is enrolled on a Path that contains a number of courses in a particular order. As the learner completes each course, they’re given access to the next.

The admin chooses to allow access to the next course immediately or after a set period of time. In a Sequenced Learning Path, the learner must complete all courses in order to complete the Path.

If you need a learner to only progress to the next course if they’ve passed an exam, then you can ensure that a learner only has access to courses at their level of understanding.

However, Sequential Learning Paths don’t always have to be done by subject matter. They’re ideal for those who want to build structured learning programs for a collection of courses to be done in a particular period of time.

Type 2: Learning Paths with Learner Choice

Alternatively, Learning Paths with Learner Choice are a more flexible choice. In this case, the learner has to complete a certain number of courses available to them.

For example, the learner is given 6 courses to choose from, with the completion of 3 being the goal. They pick the 3 they want to do and the order in which they want to take them.

A choice-based Path is a fitting pick when the order isn’t important. This version of a Learning Path gives the learner more power to choose their own Path.

Type 3: Specified timeframe    

This is a lesscommon type of Learning Path. As the name suggests, there is a specifiedtimeframe for each course within thesequence. A Learner cannotmove on to the next one before the specified time elapses, asthis is deemed to be the minimumtime required for the Learner to understand, absorb or interactwith the material.

For example, a timeframe of 4 days is allocatedto the first course. At the start of the fifth day, the learner will automatically be granted access tothe next course, regardless of how much they have actually done.

This also means that if the learner completed the course in a mere two days, they won’t have an option to move forward - other than waiting for the entire four days to pass. The same can be done with smaller, more specific timeframes. Such as being online on the page for an hour before being allowed to go from step 1 to step 2 of a course.

3 Main Advantages of Learning Paths

1. Creates a more structured training program

Commonly, Learning Paths are used to add structure to training programs. When rolling out training to your learners, they give you the ability to control both the order in which courses get assigned and the timeframe in which the courses become available.

2. Saves admin time

From your point of view, as an admin, it’s normal for Learning Paths to be set up well in advance of learners being enrolled to condense administration time. Then, once you set the learner off on the path, they’re largely self-sufficient. Your learner finishes one course, and they’re automatically added to the next – no work needed from you.

3. Drives learners to a goal

From the learner’s perspective, a Learning Path ensures that they are working towards an overall goal. It keeps them on track and engaged with your course content. If the course is sequenced they can focus on the goal that they are currently working on without being overwhelmed.

6 Tips to Create Learning Paths

1. Consider the overall learning goals

Even when creating learning paths for each individual learner, the goals and objectives of the course must still be an integral part of the learning experience. The key to creating a successful learning path strategy is to develop a plan that seamlessly blends the course essentials with the needs and wants of each learner. In addition to the individualized goals and objectives they set for themselves, they must also walk away from the learning experience with the key subject matter.

2. Empowerment is key

For a learning path to be truly successful, online learners must feel as though they are in control of their learning experience. This can be achieved by allowing them to choose which learning activities they complete next, how they receive the learning content, and even which learning assessments they will take. For example, you can offer them the chance to test their knowledge via online scenarios, multiple choice exams, or essay online assessments. The key is to make them feel like they have a direct say in the learning process, rather than telling them how, what, and when they are going to learn.

3. Stress the importance of online self-assessments

In addition to the mandatory learning assessments that learners must complete throughout the course, it’s also important to offer them online self-assessments that they can take on their own. Provide them with one or two quizzes or simulations that enable them to test their own progress and knowledge comprehension. Include a self-grading rubric or answer sheet that offers them the opportunity to correct their mistakes and receive the right information. Also, don’t forget to make them aware of the fact that you are there to offer support, should they need it.

4. Create periodic milestones

Periodic milestones give learners the chance to check their progress along the way and ensure that they are on the proper path. In fact, it’s a great idea to make weekly checklists that your online learners can follow in order to stay on-track and up to date. If you want to give your learners more control, simply create one list of mandatory assignments, exercises, and assessments, and then another that features optional tasks. You can even use project management online platforms to keep them organized, or integrate the checklists right into the homepage of the course.

5. Cater to multiple different learning styles

Not all of your online learners have the same personal preferences or learning styles. This is why it’s important to integrate a wide range of online activities and exercises into your course, so that your learners have the ability to choose what works best for them. Auditory learners can listen to virtual lectures or podcasts, while visual learners can watch videos and view image-rich content. Those who prefer to read their way through a course can opt for text-based modules. Variety gives every learner the opportunity to benefit from the course and create a learning path that is ideally suited for their needs.

6. Learning pathways offer invaluable data

A learning path offers online learners a wide range of advantages. However, professionals can also use them to discover more about their audience and course design. For example, if you closely examine the learning path of a single learner, you can find out what online activities they prefer, how they are progressing, how they like to receive their information, and if the exercises are successful. Thanks to the analytics and tracking abilities of modern learning management systems, you can view all of this with the click of a button. In many respects, learning paths give us the rare chance to see learning behaviors, first hand, so that we can improve our learning strategy moving forward.