Learning Paths vs. Traditional Curriculum: What's the Difference & Why Does it Matter?

When it comes to eLearning strategy, there is a long-time debate over learning paths versus traditional curriculum. Let’s explore the differences between the two methods so that your organization can make the correct decision on your pathway forward and you can see improved results from your learning initiatives on a grand scale.

Learning Paths Described

A learning paths approach allows a learner to choose a route through (typically eLearning) content, which allows them to build knowledge progressively and often, individually. It allows the learner to become an active participant in the learning process and to create a deeper connection with the subject matter. Success is often measured by progress and improvement and the student reaching their personal potential.

Traditional Curriculum Described

Traditional curriculum on the other hand is typically the teacher-centered delivery of instruction on certain topics to a classroom of learners. Success is often measured by proficiency of memorization and extensive testing of knowledge and skills comprehension. Traditional curriculum can be seen in the long-established, in-person, classroom style of learning used in most schools. Its primary techniques are oral instruction, reading and reciting facts. It is a passive way of learning that involves listening, reading, taking notes and studying either individually or in groups.

Learning Paths Versus Traditional Curriculum

There are many differences between learning paths and traditional curriculum. For starters, traditional curriculum can be likened to a “one-size-fits-all” approach, with one instructor and one set of skills or knowledge to be communicated to an entire class in the same fashion at the same time. Learning paths, however, seek to meet individual needs instead. They create learner-centric, targeted activities that are customizable to each individual while aligning with the greater learning objectives.

Other differences between the two include the fact that the traditional curriculum uses one delivery method that does little to accommodate individual students’ interests or learning styles. Learning paths use a variety of methods to accommodate both. And in traditional curriculums, students are required to advance at the educator’s pace regardless of personal needs while learning paths allow for improvement and advancement at the student’s own pace.

Choosing Between Learning Paths and Traditional Curriculum

As an L&D professional, understanding the difference between the two is important. Your role is to provide the best possible tools and solutions to support the learning and performance objectives of your organization and these two different types of educational methods are part of that.

eLearning, specifically, is trending toward the more progressive of the two methodologies: learning paths. Because of busy lifestyles and demanding industries as well as the understanding of different learning styles and efficiencies, the location-dependent, in-person large dump of information is becoming less useful. While the need for the highest efficiency from all employees is increasingly crucial to a company’s success.

A Final Note on Learning Paths…

Increased engagement in eLearning programs must be the ultimate goal in creating and deploying them. The success of your training programs are often measured in the success of your company. More and more we are seeing that individualized learning paths outperform traditional classroom settings when it comes to learner engagement, and engagement is everything when it comes to L&D.

We should also note that given the radical ways in which the world has changed over the past year, learning initiatives that follow the traditional curriculum path are necessarily becoming obsolete. You’re not going to get large groups into one room these days for all sorts of reasons, and group videoconferencing lectures and learning contain inherent shortcomings that are very difficult to overcome. This is yet another reason why learning paths is an approach that lends itself to today’s realities. It’s not only an effective way to learn, but it fits with the logistical limitations that every organization is dealing with right now in one way or another.

Interested in learning more about learning paths and how to implement them into your L&D strategy? Contact us today. We’re ready to listen to what you have to say, help you evaluate your challenges and of course work with you on implementing a learning methods approach that will have your learners retaining more information, progressing more quickly and involving themselves more thoroughly. All of this leads to better results, no matter your industry, the specifics of your initiative or who is involved with the process.