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Learning Engineering: What Is It and How Can the Government Benefit?

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Mon Dec 12 2022

Learning Engineering: What Is It and How Can the Government Benefit?
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Significant amounts of training and education are developed by the US government for both internal and external efforts. Internally, trainings can range from compliance-focused efforts, like cybersecurity or diversity trainings, to upskilling for job requirement and responsibility changes, like contracting rules and tasking or for promotion, like senior executive service (SES) leadership training. Further, the Departments of Education and Defense also create education and training courses, pathways, and future learning concepts that have far-reaching impact for learning across the US. In fact, the Department of Defense (DoD) Education Activity (DoDEA) is the largest K-12 education system in the country.

With all the learning content and process creation happening within and across government, it is necessary to remain constantly up to date with the latest developments in educational programming, designing, and delivery.

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Enter learning engineering

Learning engineering (LE) is the next generation of educational design that recognizes a multitude of delivery mechanisms—live, mobile, virtual reality, and more—incorporates a deeper understanding of how the brain works, and capitalizes on the research and knowledge of multiple disciplines, like engineering, psychology, data science, and neuroscience, to design the most efficient and effective learning pathways, programs, and content. It is the next level of instructional systems design in that it approaches learning from a multidisciplinary perspective and is structured holistically rather than linearly.

By incorporating all aspects of learning design, learning plans are more efficient and learner-centric, thereby also increasing impact. For learning and development (L&D) professionals, there are six key steps in the LE process:

1. Capability assessment. This involves identifying the key competencies to be achieved and is usually accomplished through interviews with subject matter experts and reviews of current syllabi. The goal is to define what a learner will be able to do once the learning process is complete.

2. Competency modeling. In this stage, you develop a five-stage model that describes what a learner’s behaviors or skills will look like from the point at which they begin the process to the point at which they are an expert. Defining each stage at the behavioral level helps focus instruction and experiences on moving an individual up the ladder of development.

3. Instructional technology and resources review. The third step in the LE process involves determining which instructional elements or technologies are already available. In all companies, and especially in government, there are so many solutions built in silos that can now be connected for learner pathways without having to create these elements from scratch. Without this step, the good idea fairy will, once again, create another framework, policy, product, and process, among others that are costly and fail to build on lessons learned from previous projects. Use of existing technology and content materials is therefore encouraged.

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4. Framework design. This step involves organizing all the current instructional elements or those gathered during the interview stage to align with the developmental model. Once that is complete, gaps in materials and technologies can easily be identified.

5. Recommendations. In step five, recommendations are clarified and provided to the development team.

6. Assessment and Personalization. Once all the learning elements, technologies, content, and experiences are created, personalized pathways can be designed that delineate their progress through the developmental stages from competent to expert levels.

For the government audience, these processes are already being formed into policy, lending support for their incorporation into education and training practices. More importantly, this holistic approach to learning development results in more effective learning outcomes at a lower cost—always a win in the public sector.

For more information on LE, check out Modernizing Learning: Building the Future Learning Ecosystem, a free government publication.

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