The Design of
Learning Programmes, Projects or Activities
A. Delivery Modalities, Methods and Media
Listed below is a taxonomy of learning/training modalities, methods and media.
A modality is a general classification which is distinct in its conceptualization from other modalities,
which can be delivered through a range of methods. The media are the ways in which information
is conveyed. Delivery methods are clearly modality-specific, although some methods can be used
in more than one modality. Likewise, media are method-specific although many can be used in
more than one method.
Most good training programmes will have a blend or a mix of modalities and most projects and
even learning activities might have a blend of methods and media.
The choice or blend of mode, method and media depends on the design considerations and
variables that follow in Section B and Section C.
Mode Method Media
1. Group course Workshop,
Group work Written Handouts
A face-to-face event, of any duration,
Role plays Verbal messages
in which a group of people come
Simulations Gestural and corporal
together with the prime purpose to
learn. In this mode, the facilitator,
Ice breakers Flip chart
trainer or subject matter expert plays a
Presentations Presentation software
prominent role. This is always
considered “formal” learning or more
precisely as “training”
Wall cards, poster sessions
2. Knowledge Sharing
A group of people, who need not and Communities of Practice Video/tele conferencing
often do not, share a common work Community of Interest Written materials
location, but with a shared professional Professional associations Wikis
interest, who exchange information for Networking ListServs
the purposes of learning. Web Spaces
Communication is normally via Social networking
electronic media, but it is not precluded programmes
that they meet face-to-face periodically
(in a mode 1 situation). While a
facilitator may be present, in this mode
the team members primarily provide
the subject matter input.
3. Team Learning
A small group of people who come Action learning Workbooks and other
together with the specific purpose to Problem-based learning, written materials
learn, and in some cases take action as Collaborative learning Video/tele conferencing
well, for a specific time limited Learning teams Wikis
duration. This may be an intact team or Intact team retreats ListServs
individuals who are convened After-action reviews Web Spaces
specifically for the learning activity. Peer assists Verbal messages
While a facilitator may be present, in Gestural and corporal
this mode the team members primarily messages
provide the subject matter input. (This
is not the same as group work in the
context of a modality 1 activity)
4. Distance Learning
A learning course where the Debate/Discussion Email
participants are at a distance from the Research Virtual Learning
course administrators, facilitators, Peer activity Environments (VLE)
subject matter experts and resources. Assignments Video and tele-
Learning materials may be in paper or conferencing
digital form and communication Video
between the tutors and participants Workbooks and other
and amongst participants is often written materials
facilitated by various electronic media. Written and verbal
Learning may be collaborative or communication
individual. Distance learning is often Pod casting
associated with the notions of “open” Blogs and wikis
enrollment and learning “flexibility” of
time and place.
5. On-the job Training
Learning takes place in the workplace Work assignments Verbal communication
and the learner engages in actual work. Guided missions Body language
There is usually some form of guidance Coaching Workbooks and other
through a coach, who is ideally a real Mentoring written materials
colleague, including the supervisor, of Shadowing
the learner. This is sometimes formal in Job swopping
nature but often informal learning. Cross training
Task- based training
6. Self Study
Learning in which the learner takes the Self-directed learning Workbooks and other
initiative and is fully in control of his or Research written materials
her own learning. The learner may or Self study course Internet
may not get recognition for the CD Rom/DVD e courses
learning investment and it is often Video
informal in nature. There is no
facilitator, coach or tutor with whom
the learner relates.
7. External Studies
A structured, usually fee paying course Academic courses Verbal communication
organized by an academic or training Sabbaticals Workbooks and other
institution. Usually specific to the needs External job placements written materials
of an individual or small group. Often Professional learning for
results in some form of certificate. certification or accreditation
B. Design Considerations
Listed below are some of the considerations that will influence the choice of modality, method and
Learning style Consider both VARK (Visual, Auditory, Reading, Kenisthetic) and Honey & Mumford
(Activist, Reflector, Theorist, Pragmatist) learning styles. Do they prefer to learn
alone or in groups? Is it culturally conditioned?
Motivation What are the expectations of the learner? Did they volunteer or are they obliged to
attend? Are they ready for hard work or there for the ride? Do they want to learn
or just get the certificate?
Competence Experts or Novices? Is this an advanced programme or a programme for persons
new to their field?
Age/Generation Continuous learners or jobs-for-lifers? Digital natives, migrants or novices?
Size What is the size of the group? Can it be broken down into smaller groups?
Location Where are the learners? One location? Dispersed? Where might they learn – at
home, at work, off site? Is there electricity? Is there learning equipment?
Language In what languages can the learners work and learn?
Education level Is the target group used to academic study, research, independent study,
assignment righting and being assessed?
Work situation What is their position in the workplace hierarchy? In what kind of organisational
entity do they work? What is the organisational culture?
Learner disability Do the learners have any disabilities which may need to be taken into account?
Heterogeneity Is the group homogeneous or diverse in all the above characteristics?
Learner Time How many learning hours do you have and spread over which amount of time?
What is the time availability of the participants?
Desired Performance (in the Work Context)
Competencies What aspect of competence are you addressing or what is the balance between
Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes? Is the intended outcome precise or contextual?
Measurement How will the learning be measured?
Activities, Satisfaction, Learning, Behavior change, Impact, Return on investment.
Stakeholder To whom are you accountable – learner, organisation, external partner? What are
their expectations? Are there “political” considerations.
Organisational How specific to a particular organization or the learners’ needs is the message,
specificity concepts and content?
Design and How big is the design and development team? How much time do you have
development available? What are your skills?
Funds Availability How much money is available? Are participants willing to pay?
Trainer availability What is the availability and flexibility of your preferred trainers? Where are they in
relation to the learners? Are they internal or external?
Trainer competence What are you trainers’ strengths or weaknesses? Are they trainers, facilitators,
Availability of other Do you have support staff, researchers, training assistants, learning coaches,
Human resources evaluators etc?
Training Materials Are they static or do they require regular updating?
Training Resources Are facilities, electronic connectivity, equipment etc. easily available?
C. Design Variables
This list, although not exhaustive, presents a dichotomy of variables that can characterize your training.
As a designer or developer of training, you will have to decide where to position your action in each continuum, on the basis of
your design considerations (characteristics of the learners, desired performance and inputs). Your decisions will affect your
selection of modality/ies as well as all your other decisions during the design.
Open enrollment Closed enrollment
No assessment Formal and strict assessment
Self Directed Directed
Technology heavy Technology light
In-house development Outsource