Learning Environments by Design

By Catherine Lombardozzi, ATD press (2015)

Summary and highlights of the learning environment design framework described in my book.

A learning environment is a deliberately curated collection of materials and activities to support the development of a specific knowledge base or skill.

The learning environment design framework encourages designers to assemble a wide range of robust learning resources and activities. The big idea is to provide learners with a deliberately curated, well organized set of resource and activity recommendations, so we don’t waste time creating customized courses, and they don’t waste time hunting for resources for themselves.

The origin story

One of the rallying cries in the L&D conference circuit in the mid-2000s was “no more courses.” Thought leaders were attempting to free designers from the tyranny of traditional training and get L&D professionals to consider all the other options we had to support learning in organizations. Personally, I didn’t believe courses were ever going to relegated to the past, but I recognized the point that formal training programs as typically conceived would become a smaller part of our recommendation portfolio. I had to ask myself – if we didn’t support learning by designing training, what else could we be using?

Taking into consideration all the options we had for blended learning (different formats), the resources available on the internet, informal learning materials and practices, social learning strategies, how managers supported learning, on-the-job experiential learning, and more – I generated a list of components that might be part of a robust learning solution. I organized the list into catagories, all underpinned by learner motivation and self-direction:

  • Resources: Study and reference materials in a variety of formats
  • Training and Education: Formal courses, workshops, and modules that address specific learning objectives
  • People: Active interpersonal connections that support learning
  • Development Practices: Company- or manager-defined on-the-job learning activities
  • Experiential Learning: Learners’ own on-the-job action and reflection

(See Highlights below for the component chart.)

Such an array of options begs the question of how a learning strategist might go about designing a comprehensive and coherent recommendation. Learning Environments by Design attempts to answer that question. Our current views about modern blended learning in its many varieties are based in this kind of a framework. My approach is not the only way to envision how to design multifaceted strategies; others have articulated similar ideas.

Graphic of book cover

Purchase Options
Overview Materials

If you’d like to explore development programs or consulting in learning environment design (aka modern blended learning), contact me for a free consulting session to explore the possibilities.

Highlights of the learning environment design framework

Evolving ideas…

While the core framework is still relevant, these ideas have been expanded and enhanced over time. My more recent thinking can be found through these links:

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Last updated: May 12, 2022 by Catherine Lombardozzi
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