Understanding Learning Pathways
Before diving into the creation of learning pathways and the different approaches to creating them, let’s briefly explore an overview of learning pathways. It’s important to understand exactly what learning pathways are and why you might use them in your education or training program.
What are learning pathways?
Learning pathways describe a route taken by a learner through a series of courses, assessments, or learning activities to achieve a certain goal. The goal is set by the learner or the learning provider and involves enabling the learner to gain knowledge, onboard successfully, reach proficiency in a job role, or acquire a new skill. Learning pathways are most effective as structured programs that cover a selection of related modules or courses that enable mastery of a particular topic or subject. Common learning pathway examples include:
- Employee role proficiency
- Member or individual onboarding
- Product training
- Customer onboarding and education
- E-learning and online courses
Why use learning pathways?
Presenting learners with a series of modules without any guidance can quickly overwhelm them and create confusion leading to disengagement or worse, course abandonment. A learning pathway takes a comprehensive topic and breaks it into manageable, progressive modules that learners follow step-by-step. An effective learning pathway ensures learners can clearly see and understand how they are progressing and removes guesswork about what they should do next.
Adopting the learning pathways approach provides a number of benefits for both learners and the issuing organization. For learners, learning pathways help them to:
- Remove the guesswork of what to do next and how it aligns with career goals
- Progressively build their knowledge and skills
- Learn in a flexible way at their own pace
- Increase learning motivation and satisfaction
- Improve knowledge retention and application
For organizations, learning pathways offer:
- Increased course enrollment and completion rates
- Increased learner engagement and retention
- Improved learning structure and communication of learning requirements
Accredible's Pathways support organizations in the creation of their learning pathways by streamlining the ability to:
- Capture and communicate program requirements
- Build and maintain visual learning pathways
- Set eligibility criteria for entry and progression
- Track real-time learner completion rates
- Reduce the time taken to create, manage, and track pathways
Designing Effective Learning Pathways
An effective learning pathway guides learners through a structured series of modules to a target outcome. There is no guessing about the next step or confusion about how to proceed. Learners follow a logical order of knowledge building, knowledge application, reflection exercises, and complete mini tests as they work through the comprehensive educational experience. However, to ensure learners get the most out of the learning pathway, it needs to be carefully planned prior to launching.
Planning a learning pathway
Define the learning goal. The first step in planning a learning pathway is to define the learning goal which identifies the target learner, their starting knowledge, and the skills, knowledge, and competencies that they will gain once they have completed the learning pathway.
The information required to define the learning goal will depend on the outcome of the learning pathway. For example:
- Employers will need to conduct a training needs analysis and identify skills gaps to determine learner goals, what is holding them back, what skills are missing, and what they need to achieve proficiency.
- Higher education institutions offering continuing education programs need to define their target audience and their current competency level, then identify the most important outcomes they want learners to achieve and ensure they are attainable with the activities planned within the allotted time.
- Product trainers will need to define the critical setup processes that will ensure customers understand the basics and maximize the value they get from the product or service.
Outline the learner journey. The next step is to outline the basic structure of the learning pathway similar to a storyboard. The goal of storyboarding the learning pathway is to identify what is needed for each module of the pathway, how it will be delivered, and who needs to be involved. At this stage, it’s important to identify the order of the individual modules, define key steps and milestones, and determine how each module flows into the next.
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a commonly used framework for writing learning objectives and can be used to determine the learning pathway hierarchy. The taxonomy describes how learners move from the fundamentals to increasingly complex levels of knowledge and includes six levels of understanding: Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create. Each stage of the taxonomy builds on the foundation of the previous stage, so it’s important that each step of the learning pathway is effectively reinforced so that learners can progress successfully.
Create or optimize content. The final step in planning is to audit available content resources against the defined learning goals and the learning pathway structure to ensure it isn’t too much information or too difficult to engage learners, and determine what content is missing. Optimizing existing content requires fewer resources, but sometimes new content will be required to bridge the difficulty between milestones or as reference materials to assist learners in retaining new knowledge.
The defined learning goals and the information used to define the learning goal, such as the target learner and level of starting knowledge will greatly impact the format of content delivered. When creating or optimizing content, take the time to translate content into different formats (e.g. interactive content, video, text, graphics) to meet learners’ needs.
By aligning content formats to the personalized learning styles of the individuals, your learning pathway will be more engaging and help keep them on track to completion. It’s also important to keep content for each module concise as one of the main benefits of a learning pathway is breaking down a complicated concept into manageable, bitesize sections. By keeping each section short and simple, learners can better structure their learning and will find the pathway easier to follow and complete.
Learn more about the different types of content and how to plan and create engaging content for learning programs in our Creating a Certification Program with Digital Credentials guide.
Building a learning pathway
Once you’ve planned your learning pathway, you have a couple of different options when it comes to building your pathway to enroll and manage learners: you can develop your own in-house system or implement best-of-breed, third-party technology.
Building your own in-house learning pathway solution allows you to customize it and adapt it to your team's unique needs, rather than trying to adapt your team to a tool that was built for the market. But it also requires significant resources to develop and continuously manage. For example, an internal system requires you to:
- Manually track and advise on learner progress through the pathway
- Manually issue awards as learners hit milestones or complete the pathway
- Track and maintain award certificates including actioning changes to certificate information like name changes or corrections
- Handle queries from learners that don’t know what to do next
This is not only time-consuming for anyone responsible for managing learning pathways, it doesn’t offer a good experience to your learners.
A third-party learning pathway platform simplifies and automates the process of building learning pathways and managing learner progress. It also allows your organization to focus on opportunities to improve the performance and design of your program without the distraction and cost of running and maintaining internal systems.
In comparison, a quality third-party learning pathway platform will:
- Automatically track learner progress
- Integrate with digital credential award issuance platforms
- Provide guidance to learners on how to move through the pathway
- Enable learners to track their progress and see what’s completed
Accredible’s Pathways streamlines building and largely automates the management aspect of learning pathways, contributing to both time and cost savings. Using Pathways as part of Accredible’s digital credentialing platform enables you to:
Visualize learning. Accredible enables you to build clear learning pathways with improved communication around the requirements for completion. For example, you can build a pathway containing a combination of both mandatory and optional requirements with optional pathway completion criteria e.g. finish 2 out of the 5 options. Or you can set different option pool requirements e.g. finish any of A, B, or C and any of D, E, or F.
Remove guesswork. Your pathway will automatically calculate and display learner progress so your learners never feel stuck or need to guess what to do next. They can view all the pathways they have enrolled on, track their pathway progress, view and share their earned credentials, and determine which module or modules to complete next.
Incorporate external requirements. Add optional or mandatory external items to pathways to indicate learners need to fulfill additional requirements to progress or complete the pathway. This includes exams from third parties, mentoring, work experience, degrees, and licenses or permits.
Incentivize progress. You can auto-issue milestone digital credentials to learners as they earn them on their way to an optional, overall completion credential. The issued digital credentials are completely customizable and can be shared to social media, added to LinkedIn profiles, and embedded online. They are hosted on a dedicated page with plenty of space to include:
- Contextual details about the completed module or pathway
- The skills or knowledge gained by the learner
- The validity and expiration (where applicable) of the credential
- Uploaded evidence like transcripts, exam results, etc
Gain insights. Insights are used to determine where content is unengaging for learners, if the difficulty level is too high for specific modules, or if the difficulty level increases too steeply. You can use the data gained from insights to improve pathways by adding intermediate content to reduce the difficulty curve and rewrite or reproduce content that is unengaging or too difficult for learners.
For example, are your learners consistently completing 2 out of 4 provided options? Use this opportunity to survey learners to discover why some courses are taken less often or are considered unfavorable by learners. Use the answers provided through the survey to reposition courses with new topics or messaging that appeal to learners and keep them engaged.
How leading organizations are using learning pathways
Many organizations are seeing success with learning pathways, enhancing the learner experience, and increasing program enrollment and completion. Here are two short stories from organizations using Accredible’s Pathways alongside feature-rich digital credentials.
State of Missouri
In early 2023, the State of Missouri looked to streamline how it issues and tracks credentials that showcase the skills, learning, and achievements of its 50,000+ team members.
“With 50,000 team members who might be engaging in any of these paths at any time, it was a huge burden to try and track who has completed which path at which time and who has completed all six of them and should they get this master of all credential at the very end. It’s a giant ask,” said Tom Joseph, Senior Talent Development Specialist for the State of Missouri.
The State of Missouri implemented Accredible’s digital credentialing platform and Pathways to accelerate its credentialing program and establish six distinct routes for capturing and communicating the training content within its certification program. Pathways enabled the team to offer a clear roadmap for learners to follow, automate the issuance of capstone credentials, and gain valuable insights on their most popular courses, where learners were engaged in their learning, and learner drop-off points.
Joseph shares, “With Pathways, we’re able to track who has completed each of the six paths at any point within a quarter and send out each of those individual credentials. We’re no longer spending time manually tracking who’s completed all of them across all six paths, allowing us to spend our time elsewhere.”
Part of Wharton School's Division of Executive Education, Wharton Online implemented Accredible’s digital credentialing platform and Pathways in early 2022 to help learners understand their learning options and track their progress throughout their learning journey.
Using Pathways, Wharton Online created structured and visualized learning paths that communicate key credentials and skills within the program, helping improve learners’ understanding of program requirements. Pathways’ analytics provided the team with enhanced insights into how their learners were progressing and who was reaching completion.
“The visualization is really nice to track the pathway, double click on each component course, and get to the point of ‘do you want to register?’, ‘do you want to earn that credential?’, then go ahead and click on the button and that will take you to a page to do so,” said Erik J Froelich, Senior Director, Innovation, Technology, and Design, Wharton Online.
“Where it has also driven value for us is the automation of credentials once someone has completed a path—something we didn’t have before we came to Accredible,” said Froelich. “It has eliminated the manual operation that we had to invite requests from people who had earned the component badges, to say, ‘Hey, if you’ve earned these, then we will send you the summative badge for the program.’ We were able to eliminate a lot of aggravation and time just spent doing those manual tasks because we adopted Pathways.”
Since launching Pathways, the team has seen increased learner engagement, with 90% of issued credentials being engaged with by learners—everything from downloading them, adding them to their resumes, and sharing them across their social media channels.
If you want to learn more about both organizations’ programs and experience with Accredible’s Pathways, you can watch this panel discussion with the State of Missouri’s Tom Joseph and Wharton Online’s Erik Froelich.
Frogames successfully launched one of the industry’s most sophisticated online learning programs, offering expert training in everything from Android development to Python programming and blockchain. But they faced a key issue: how to drive the course completion rates for their programs?
“People usually sign up for online courses because they’re affordable—not because they plan to finish them,” says Juan Gabriel Gomila Salas, co-founder of Frogames. “But I want them to finish Frogames courses. It doesn’t matter if they pay $1 or $100. It’s important that our users get the full experience.”
To solve this problem, they replaced their traditional learning courses with interactive learning pathways and digital credentials. The goal was to incentivize their students to continue learning and reward them on completion of their learning.
“In traditional platforms, you take one course from here and one from there, but there’s no connection or pathway to follow,” Salas explains. “We needed something that would provide more incentive and fit into Frogames’ advanced gamification approach.”
Frogames partnered with Accredible to offer their learners shareable digital credentials and clear learning pathways across their 200+ available courses. The result? Their course completion rates skyrocketed.
“Since we introduced digital credentials and the gamification system, our course completion rate has improved by three times,” Salas says. "People aren’t just paying for courses. They’re completing them, talking about them, and sharing them with their peers. And each time they complete a course, they’re encouraged to move on to the next level of certification—by either purchasing more courses or buying a subscription.”
Accredible Pathways enabled Frogrames to develop full-blown educational journeys supported by stackable microcredential badges and certifications at each pathways’ finish line. The digital credentials are issued to their learners automatically as they reach milestones within Thinkific, Frograme’s learning management system, saving the team time and resources.
“People can follow pre-built paths—ones that make it easy for them to go as deep as they need to progress in their careers,” Salas explains. “It’s a very different online course experience. It was a big step in helping us drive course completion and overall program growth.”
You can hear more from Salas on how Frogames has used Accredible to triple course completions, increase digital credential sharing by 67%, and increase referral traffic by 3% to its program.
Your pathway to program success
In the ever-expanding education and training landscape, learning pathways can not only help you meet market demands and learner expectations for tying skill development to career outcomes but will improve your program enrollment, completion, and overall growth. And by combining learning pathways and digital credentials, you’ll:
- Enhance the learning experience for individuals and promote continuous learning
- Deliver improved communication around learning value and outcomes
- Create and meet the demand for dynamic, flexible learning programs
For more information on how to get started with Accredible’s Pathways or to see Pathways and digital credentials in action, book a demo today.