Action Mapping Made Easy

Cathy Moore has set our little e-learning world alight with her action mapping techniques. The Kineo design team are big fans. We joined her recent session at Learning Technologies on ‘Action mapping for great e-learning’. If you’ve not tried it as a technique, you really must.

Cathy Moore’s session described her approach to designing e-learning courses – stepping away from the information, and focussing on activities that lead to real behavioural change instead. She spoke about the importance of using real-life scenarios, and used examples to show how this could be done. The point? To make e-learning interesting, engaging, and realistic.

Here are the five key points from the session

Courses that dump facts, facts and more facts on a learner, with an occasional quiz, don’t work – they lead to cognitive overload, passivity and boredom. This doesn’t change people’s behaviour (and it’s really boring).

  1. Action mapping is a visual approach to e-learning, which focuses on performance, not information – so what learners need to do, not what they need to know.
  2. If the learning is to cause a real change, there has to be a measurable business goal to work towards. Cathy used this example – old goal: ‘Teach learners all about infection control’, new goal: ‘Decrease infection control errors by clinical staff by 20% by 2012’. This way you’ll really know if the course is effective.
  3. Action mapping uses activities, which mirror what learners need to do to reach the business goal. The activities put the learner in the work situation, and ask them to make decisions like the ones they would in real life.
  4. Creating these activities means that learners can fail in a safe environment, and learn from these mistakes – after all, it’s the best way to learn. 

Using action mapping, designers can create interesting, interactive courses that are scenario-rich, and mirror real-life activities. It completely overhauls the old-school e-learning style, so that designers aren’t just designing information, but are instead designing memorable experiences.

So what can you take away from this? Wel,l the answer here is real change! The point of action mapping is that it’s all geared towards measurable performance improvement. So if a client wants to decrease infection control errors, they can be confident that the e-learning course will actually target this. It might be tricky stepping away from all the facts and information, and getting into this new mindset, but the learning is so much more engaging and effective – it really pays off.

Cathy Moore’s guide to action mapping – in four simple steps

  1. Identify business goal.
  2. Identify what learners need to do to create that change.
  3. Design activities that mirror what learners will do in the real world to reach our goal.
  4. What do learners really need to know in order to carry out the activity?

We’ve been designing for performance change for a long time at Kineo; some of us were schooled at the knee of Roger Schank who was leading the charge on this approach back in the 1990s– but kudos to Cathy for explaining what’s absolutely common sense in a clear, no nonsense way.  If you sign up to doing action mapping, you’ll create better e-learning – no question.

Find out more about how we’ve done this for M&S here, where you can see the results of taking a performance-based approach to learning.