Capture early design thoughts quickly and effectively for discussion and critique

The Learning Event Canvas is a tool to use in designing a Learning Event [1]. It can be populated by experienced and novice Learning Designers. It is designed to be read (or consumed) by those who are sponsoring the design of a Learning Event, as well as those ‘building’ the Learning Event as specified in this design.

The Learning Event Canvas was inspired by the Business Model Canvas (created by Strategyzer) as a way to present on a single page, a coherent concept of multiple inter-related parts. Instead of a Business Model, the new Canvas presents a Learning Event, with dimensions more relevant to such a context.

Image of Learning Event Canvas Template

Questo has created a Learning Event Canvas template  (PDF) available for use under a Creative Commons licence with stated conditions. The sections of the template can also be simply redrawn on a whiteboard, or large sheets of paper, for population by a group in a co-design session.

The Canvas performs a number of functions:

  • Simple yet coherent documentation of an initial concept
  • Prototyping or hypothesising quickly about potential learning offerings; there may be more than one concept that is valid to consider
  • Tool for conversation and exploration with sponsors, clients and collaborators about the proposed concept(s)
  • Early evidentiary record of intellectual property should such assurance be needed

The Learning Event Canvas has 8 key dimensions that are explained below.


Learning Event Key Dimensions

Note: The Canvas is not meant to capture every detail about your proposed Learning Event. Aim for a macro view of essential details that lean the design in a particular direction.

LEARNER – Segments:  The groups of people who are doing the learning.  If you choose to be learner-centric in what you offer, then this is the group whom you serve in designing and delivering the Learning Event.

LEARNER – Aims: The Learner’s aims in receiving the learning. It should always be written from the Learner’s perspective. For example: ‘Seek fresh insights to resolve organisational challenges’ compared to ‘Offer fresh insights to resolve organisational challenges’. Summary points only; derived from interpretation of Learning Needs Analysis or other research.

PURPOSE: What the Learner’s organisation, and the provider of the Learning Event, seek from the learning; why they are associated with this Learning Event. This is purpose of a higher-order than Learning Outcomes/Objectives.

The two purposes may not be directly aligned. It is worth noting – there may be creative tension between the two purposes that needs managing and resolving in your design choices.

CONTENT: The topics and contents of the learning. This covers the acquisition of knowledge, skill, tools and mindsets.

METHOD: How the learning is delivered. Some examples, ‘Instructor-led’ vs. ‘Self-directed’; ‘Classroom-based’ vs ‘On-the-job’; ‘Whole-day’; ‘Half-days, one per week for 5 weeks’; ‘Small group (5-10)’ vs ‘Large group (30-50)’.

EXPERIENCE: Adjectives that describe the experience for the Learner. e.g. ‘Thought-provoking’; ‘Social’; ‘Reflective’; ‘Immersive’; qualities of experience you hope they report to others as describing the unique experience you intend.

RESOURCES – People: The people who must be present during the event to enable it to run effectively. e.g. ‘Facilitator’ vs ‘2 x Facilitators, co-facilitating’; ‘Ops Manager’.

RESOURCES – Place: The general setup of the space in which the Learning Event will happen.

RESOURCES – Materials/Artefacts: The other resources that are necessary to provide to enable the event to run effectively.

THEME – Emphasis: The key concept that is the basis for the learning. Often connected to a product brand. e.g. ‘Human-centred Design’.

THEME – Pattern: The central narrative that holds together all the parts of the learning; like the central threads of a tapestry that recur. e.g. ‘Applying Human-Centred Design in Organisational Change Projects’.  All CONTENT and METHOD should support this narrative.

MANDATE: This is the basis of your authority to provide this learning event. There may be 3rd parties you serve as they are a certifying or endorsing body for this learning. Any changes you make to the design of this event may need their approval.

These dimensions are presented with prompting statements overlaid on the Learning Event Canvas to help you when populating the various sections.


Populating the Canvas

There is no fixed process about how to populate the canvas. Start anywhere that makes sense to you or your collaborators, and collate your thoughts about the proposed design.

As you populate the various sections, you need to cross-check that what you are proposing is logical and flows in connection with others sections.

For example:

  • If you are thinking that the Event will be delivered via video-conferencing/webinar (METHOD) and that the EXPERIENCE should be Social, then do you have a mismatch of Method and Experience, or will you do something extra to create a Social experience over video-conferencing modality?
  • If you are thinking that the Event will be hands-on and practical (METHOD), what kind of room set-up do you need for that (RESOURCES-PLACE) and are there How-to topics included in the CONTENT?

One way to ‘read’ the Canvas to check for coherency, is a narrative like this:

For these LEARNER-Segments we will teach this CONTENT via this METHOD both in alignment with this THEME to meet the LEARNER-Aims while ensuring they have this kind of EXPERIENCE which will require these RESOURCES. The Learning Event will be ultimately successful if it serves this PURPOSE. 

Another version might be:

We have this MANDATE to provide learning aligning to this THEME for these LEARNER-Segments and LEARNER-Aims, which constrains us to teach this CONTENT via this METHOD with scope to provide this kind of EXPERIENCE using these particular specified RESOURCES. The Learning Event will be ultimately successful if it serves this PURPOSE in accordance with this MANDATE.


The Canvas in Use

An example of a populated Learning Model Canvas for Questo’s ‘Change Savvy Team Member‘ course.

Questo has used this Learning Event Canvas in Learning Design work for clients. (See Business Story ‘Gem of a course gets design treatment to sparkle with new value’)


What others have said

I’ve used the Questo Learning Event Canvas a number of times. From designing professional enrichment workshops to laying out the training program for a major CRM roll-out. It’s practical and easy to use, as well as provides a clear visual for a learning event before diving into the detail.
~ Brad Adriaanse, Organisational Design Specialist, Schmiq Solutions

I was absolutely thrilled to stumble across Questo’s Learning Design canvas. I knew there were things I was forgetting to consider, and it reminded me of them. Better yet when I used it to share some half finished ideas with my colleagues. We could quickly visualize where I was going, helping to fast track our shared completion of the design.
~ Nicholas Martin, Senior Consultant – Change Capability, National Australia Bank

[1] The term ‘Learning Event’ may feel odd; you might be tempted to replace it with ‘Training Course’. The choice of the term ‘Learning Event’ was deliberate. At the point of hypothesising what might be potential forms for learning, a training course is only one potential form and others might be equally worthy of consideration. Also an Event does not have to be limited to a single session – it can include multiple moments of interaction: “Event” as it is used here is a mass noun, like a ‘Wedding’ is an Event that might be made up of a Ceremony, Bridal Party photographs session, with a Dinner and/or Dance that follows, preceeded by a Bachelor and Bachelorette parties.


But wait there’s more

There are many things on the Questo website that can be helpful to organisational development practitioners. Check out Resources and Articles.


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