Action mapping

Action mapping is a popular design process used by learning designers, created by Cathy Moore in 2008. It’s based on the premise that a lot of e-learning and other training interventions happen without a real business goal in mind. Action mapping encourages learning designers to identify a measurable business goal as the first step in learning design. In fact, if you follow Cathy’s flow chart you mind find that training isn’t really the answer after all.

Action mapping takes you through four steps (taken from Cathy’s blog):

  1. Identify the business goal.
  2. Identify what people need to do to reach that goal.
  3. Design activities that help people practice each behavior.
  4. Identify what people need to know to complete the activity.

xAPI helps you to evaluate whether learning solutions have the desired impact on learner behavior and business performance, but it can only do so if you know what that desired impact is! A process like action mapping will force you to identify those impacts even before you start designing your learning solution.

The kinds of activities that come out of the action mapping process tend to be much more practical and realistic than those you might have designed if your starting goal was imparting information. As such, these activities may be harder to track with older learning specifications like SCORM. xAPI enables you to track the detail of how the learner interacts with scenarios and activities, so you can see exactly where they are struggling. It can also give you data on use of job aids and other information resources.

Data driven action mapping

Action mapping requires you to identify what behaviors are required to meet your business goal and then what information people will need to practice those behaviors. But how do you know? You can take an educated guess based on your experience and advice from your stakeholders, but it’s important to test the theory.

The page on Kirkpatrick explains how data about business metrics and learner behavior captured via xAPI enables you to evaluate whether changes in behavior caused by your learning really do have the business impact you wanted. You can also use data about where learners struggle within activities and their usage of information resources to determine information that they don’t really need and gaps in the information you’ve provided.

Run a pilot project tracked with xAPI to test the assumptions behind your action map before rolling your solution out to your whole organization. This will ensure the behaviors and information you’ve identified really are those needed to reach your identified business goal.

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An LRS gives you actionable insights from your learning and performance data. Use an LRS to evaluate your learning solutions and their impact on behavior and performance.

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