By Matt Murphy

We have crossed the training industry threshold that performance-based learning can only be achieved at the point of need, based on true job competencies. The things that work are learning paths, prescribed workflows, purpose-built content and process-based training.

Completing a training program or passing a product certification just doesn’t ensure that somebody can effectively transfer the knowledge from the test to on-the-job performance. Simply providing a mixed bag of blended learning options doesn’t get us there, either. You have to start with the job role or define the outcome first, from either a top-down or bottom-up approach. What is most important is that the time is taken to ensure the outcome is clearly defined based on tasks and competencies for the job.

Step 1: Define the outcome

Most likely, your organization has a unique set of workflows that lead to specific outcomes. No one person is responsible for all deliverables of a project, but each person, each role, has unique competencies that define it and contribute to the team. You can do this by answering a few key questions:

What are the required competencies for the tasks to meet the deliverable?

Who is responsible for that deliverable?

Does that person have all the knowledge and skills they need to complete the deliverable?

Do we, as an organization, have all the required resources to ensure that people tasked to perform the job can be evaluated based on the required knowledge and skills?

Step 2: Align the Job/Role

Giving someone a training guide or a library full of product lessons will not ensure job competencies. The key to building more effective blended learning paths is to create a hierarchical structure of the knowledge and skills in your organization. Define the job role and responsibilities. In many cases, this starts by looking at the job title, description, and defined responsibilities within the organization.

Do these descriptions actually align with the tasks performed on project deliverables?

If not, what changes and adjustments need to be made to meet the requirements?

Typical job/role descriptions address recommended previous experiences, but they don’t address the current requirement or outcome. For example, the job responsibility might state, “working with BIM,” but the actual goal is to generate a facilities energy analysis from a model. This is a much more specific definition of the needed outcome—define the deliverable, give it a name, and then determine what specific, actionable competencies and skills are needed to create the desired outcome.

Step 3: Define the Competencies/Skills

Once you have defined each job/role, then you can then drill into the actual competencies and skills required that must be met in order meet the outcome. This is where the tactical aspects of the workflow are defined. In all cases, the candidate must complete a task that is actionable and measurable. To do that, you must clearly define an objective for each step of the outcome.

Objectives need to be actionable and measurable. You MUST write them down. The outcome is met when a series of tasks or skills are performed. The objectives must meet a defined criteria.

Only after you follow these three steps in identifying the outcome, determining whose job/role is expected to complete the outcome, and then defining the competencies or skills, can you then start evaluating what available content resources you have to support the learning.

Content and Context

The term “content” here refers to the learning resource. This content could be in the form of video, PDFs, or other institutional knowledge. Some of this content may exist in other training formats, possibly buried in “beginner,” “intermediate,” and “advanced” training guides. The guides could be self-paced or part of an instructor-led program. Doesn’t matter—It is not useful in the current form. Classifying content the “Old” school method is purely subjective. “Intermediate” doesn’t mean anything regarding defining the task or skill required for the job. That’s why it’s so important to complete the three steps I’ve defined first. The next step is to figure out what lessons, descriptions, exercises and samples should be extracted from existing content and then align it specifically to the defined context and outcomes. In this case, “blended” then simply becomes a term that describes gathering the appropriate content, regardless of its form. This is extremely powerful because the variety of content types ensures those with different learning styles can select based on their preference while still conforming to the desired outcomes. If there are gaps in content resources, then “purpose-built” content needs to be created, but it absolutely must be targeted and specific to the goal, and it must align with the outcome defined by the competency. Nothing more, nothing less. All the other content is just a distraction to the consumer. If you can package the content in multiple formats, even better. For example: video screen captures using Camtasia could have a naturally spoken narrative. If the narrative is descriptive enough, the audio could be transcribed into a written guide. Using screen captures from the original video could compliment the narrative text with step-by-step procedures. Thus, providing a blended solution for both visual and verbal learners based on the same content. The key here is not whether a “blended” solution is the answer, but whether the content provided is within the context of the defined knowledge and skills for the job based on the required outcome.