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ATD Blog

The Case for National Learning Standards

Friday, May 6, 2022

The concept of a learning ecosystem is becoming reality in numerous enterprising partnerships. If organizations continue to be added to and participate in this ecosystem, then national learning standards may be in order; at present, none exist. In the absence of a national standard, an employee will struggle to have their employer recognize any (or all) of their learning events, accomplishments, competencies, and experience.

Based on lessons learned from the talent development toolkit case study the Department of Defense conducted and work completed at the United States Office of Personnel Management, a federal-wide vision should address integration touchpoints listed below with regards to national standards for learning programs, which would help prepare the future federal workforce, among others. This list of proposed national learning standards is based on interviews conducted with federal chief human capital officers (CHCO) and chief learning officers (CLO) about their top 10 needs. The list is not in any priority order.

The top 10 needs of CHCOs/CLOs are:

  • Universal unique identification: protecting learners’ privacy
  • National certification and credential registry: one source for national certifications
  • National common course catalog: visibility into learning events
  • National learning record store: data home to follow learners
  • National chancellor for government learning: one person responsible for action
  • National learning directory: a better use of classrooms and capability
  • National learning data standards: to allow data, content, and events to be shared
  • National learning requirements process: ensuring the rigor of developing content
  • National development center: a home for these national programs
  • National learning lexicon: to better understand the language of learning
  • National competency directory: a firm foundation from which to build learning

Many detailed learning standards exist on technical topics. It is work that can be leveraged and moved forward. Standards in learning architecture, adaptive instructional systems, data security, instructional strategy, performance progress tracking, user identification and authorization, competency-based learning, learning content, access, search, discovery, credentials, learner profile, content types, and rubrics are essential to ensuring employees have access to quality solutions. To make the learning ecosystem a reality in our lifetime, national learning standards will be the catalyst to complete as well as the glue that will hold and protect the ecosystem.

About the Author

Reese Madsen is the founder and owner of MEMY&I, LLC. He is a senior learning executive that consults on program design, development, and improvement for the federal government sector. Using his 40 years of federal service and the last 15 as a chief learning officer at the Department of Defense to support national and federal learning programs. His experience included leading a learning enterprise of 52 schoolhouses and programs for the U.S.’s largest government department - including overseeing a $2 billion budget supporting 2.5 million professionals. He developed policies, plans, programs, and training for civilian, military, government, academic, and industry workforces. This included maintaining a Learning Enterprise comprising of 5,000+ courses, the first nationally accredited government certifications, and providing more than 21 million hours of instruction per year.

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I applaud this list and commend action toward achieving it. I'm also happy to report that substantial progress is being made on a number of these items, including the development of a national Credential Registry, and the use of a common, open data format to describe all credentials, providers, competencies/skills, assessments, outcomes, quality indicators, pathways and links to job skills, known as the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL).
Completely agree and believe credentials could be low hanging fruit for moving forward as a shining example of a best practice. Trying to get the other areas of interest as evolved as your Credential Engine and Registry would strengthen a national learning ecosystem.
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