First Pants, Then Shoes: The Secret to Effective Learning Design

Growing up, I was a big fan of the Gary Larsen comic strip, “The Far Side.”  Besides being funny and irreverent, it also had the ability to convey common sense (and occasionally even wisdom), in a lighthearted manner.  One of my favorite panels was a depiction of a man sitting up in bed in the morning and staring  at a large sign tacked to his wall that read:  “First pants. THEN shoes.”

I find myself coming back to this at different points in life as a reminder to slow down, prioritize, and keep things simple.  And it is particularly relevant in the work we do today as learning professionals.

As we continue to embrace the expanded ability to provide targeted value for learners, stakeholders and shareholders through social platforms, gamification, MOOCs, curation and better use of data analytics through xAPI, we need to ensure that we remain committed to optimizing the learning management system and not just the individual components.

To get the full benefit from each and every component available, you need to have confidence that it not only delivers to the individual, but to the learning organization and infrastructure as well.  Effectiveness and efficiency are system level measures for a learning organization and are the sum of the integrated (or non-integrated) elements.  How much is the organization gaining if the new point-of-use system requires a new platform or doesn’t integrate with tracking or reporting capabilities?  Only by viewing decisions at both the learning system level for the organization as well as the learner, we can be sure we are selecting the ‘best fit’ solutions for the system.

More than ever, with so many choices and so much technology disrupting (positively) the learning environment, it’s important to step back and take a look at your learning system, blueprint and architecture.  If you haven’t taken the time do a thorough needs analysis that takes into account the changes in learners, the learning environment and the increased need for business accountability, make that your first resolution for 2017.

Bob Szostak is an avid Far Side fan and Manager of Business Development in North America for Raytheon Professional Services.