Courses versus Performance Support, which is your priority?

Performance support is ‘in’ and courses are ‘out’ is perhaps the perception you will reach through listening to the learning industry commentators of the day. My view is that there remains a need for both. Let me explain why.

Back in 2011 Bob Mosher & Conrad Gottfredson introduced the “Five Moments of Need” for learning and this offers a valuable lens through which to identify the differing type of learning support required by individuals. The five moments of need are defined as:

  • Learning for the first time (NEW);
  • Learning more (MORE) – expanding depth and breadth of knowledge, skill and competency;
  • Applying what you’ve learned (APPLY) – translating knowledge, skill or competency into the learner’s unique job role and organisational context;
  • When things go wrong (SOLVE) – troubleshooting and problem solving ‘in the moment’;
  • When things change (CHANGE) – When people need to learn a new way of doing something, which requires them to change skills that are deeply ingrained in their performance practices.

Where the learning goals and objectives are extensive and tightly time bound then courses are likely to offer the better learning experience and where the learning agenda is more personalised and dispersed in time then performance support is the sensible approach. Thought of in this way would lead to a [oversimplified matching] such as:

NEW = Courses

MORE = Courses

APPLY = Performance Support

SOLVE = Performance Support

CHANGE = Depends of the extent of Change

Of course, the situation becomes less clear as the formats of what we may define as ‘Courses’ continues to evolve and change. For example, by its very nature micro-courses (microlearning) and video assets are constructed in such a way as they lend themselves for use as performance support tools.

If we frame the conversation as one about performance improvement, then I would suggest that courses and performance support are both tools and activities that should be utilised in appropriate ways to achieve the overall improvement goals. Let’s get less hung-up on what is the best/better approach and more on delivering the desired outcome.