Action Mapping for ELearning


Ever wondered why the best laid plans for eLearning go awry? Why the human resources managers are unhappy and why the employees fail to perform? This is despite the good scores they achieve in your eLearning courses.

Sure enough, you developed entertaining content, complete with game-show style quizzes. Your course registration and completion rates are better than ever. And the testimonials and ratings by employees are in an all time high. You even have an effective community-of-practice style conversations under your courses. Managers and senior executives sometimes join in and provide their insights on a recurring problem.

Your next eLearning course is receiving positive enrollment numbers. You still are not satisfied! You, and the performance evaluation committee. The ultimate goal of any eLearning course is to improve employee performance or change their attitude towards their job. Your trainings seem to be hitting the plateau.

Without the increase in performance measurement, the management will ultimately decrease investments in training programs. You know this would hurt your organization in the long-run. A growing organization needs to be a learning organization to meet the challenges of a dynamic market.

If you have exhausted all your eLearning evaluation checks and still can’t determine the gap, allow us to help you. In this article we explain the benefits of Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping when integrated in the eLearning course design. That’s right! Start from the very beginning, and use these four Action Mapping points to transform your current and future eLearning programs into action-driven courses.

What is Action Mapping?

You must be familiar with the term “cognitive overload”. It’s when learners are dumped with overwhelming information and expected to assimilate in short time. The quiz is abrupt and demands instant churn out! The courses are information-centered rather than work-context-centered.

Unfortunately, most eLearning courses are designed as information dumps. No wonder, they fail to lead the learner to the desired performance objectives.

Think: learning objectives vs performance objectives. Your courses must be successful in acquiring learning objectives, which is proved by escalating scores. But, they need a boost to achieve those performance objectives your organization needs.

Action mapping is a visual approach to eLearning, which focuses on performance, not information. It’s all about what your learners need to do, not what they need to know.

Change is the actual reason behind eLearning. If change is happening, it should be tangible and measureable. Think of an old goal in a Customer Service course: “Teach learners all about quality service.” The revised, action-driven goal can be “Teach learners how to increase customer registrations by 20% by Q4 of 2015.” This will change the way you design your eLearning course. It will also enable you to measure the effectiveness of your course.

The action mapping strategy uses activities that directly mimic what learners need to do to reach the organizational performance objectives. This involves, running a hard check on the choice of activities and games you provide through multi-media in your eLearning course.

Real-world situations are best created when the course designer has some job-context field notes ready. These provide an accurate picture of the scenarios, dilemmas and decisions the learner would take in real life. Creating activities around these notes will help you select the right scenarios, the right avatars, the real personalities learners encounter and the decision predicaments they can relate with. Such activities provide a safe environment for learners to fail. They can learn from these mistakes and improve real-work performance.

Action mapping concepts will encourage the design for interactive scenarios that replicate real-life activities. Instructional designers and eLearning developers do have this tendency to design content using traditional classroom format. This method leads to information-based content (the more the better) with little direction on how to apply the information. The goal here is to design memorable learning experiences that stay with the learner at work.

Follow these steps to re-vamp you courses into action!

The Four Steps of Action Mapping

  1. Identify business goal: Organizational goals have to be linked with performance goals. In between the two, you can identify learning goals. The difference is, with action making, your courses do not end with achieving learning goals. They continue towards activities that build performance skills and attitudes.
  2. Identify what learners need to do to create that change: Talk to front-line managers. Study job descriptions. Outline action-driven activities, the verbs. Integrate those in your course. For example, customer service in event management requires quality and excellence protocols. Instead of teaching the essentials of good event management, discover what was lacking in the last performance. What were the expectations of managers from their teams? These learners do not need to know everything but practice activities that will fill their current performance gaps.
  3. Design activities that mirror what learners will do in the real world to reach your goal: Create real-world scenarios to test their decision making skills instead of Trivia style games. Action mapping is all about selecting the right concept-reinforcement activities. Activities that offer opportunities to practice and fail till they finally master the concept.
  4. What do learners really need to know in order to carry out the activity: No, the learners do not need to know the history of event management. They do not need to know the history of their company in the event management field. They need to see how the best event management teams are performing and how they can learn from them. They also need to know the latest rules developed by their managers. A short job-aid type course with relatable characters talking to them in scenarios and a list of options will help.


So what have we achieved from converting your current (and future courses) using the action mapping steps? Measurable performance improvement.

So, if your organization wants you to meet some performance numbers (KPI’s etc), you can be confident that your eLearning course will actually meet them. While it’s walking on a route less travelled, developing content with lesser volume of facts and figures, you can be assured that learning will be more engaged and effective.

What’s more, you will finally get a chance to be the hero – the ROI hero!

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