top of page

Select learning modalities

"What are learning modalities?"

"What should be considered when selecting a learning modality?"

Once learning designers have defined the goals and target audience for a learning experience, they lead project stakeholders toward a decision on how the learning will be delivered. They have multiple learning modalities to choose from–from synchronous options like instructor-led training and asynchronous options like eLearning. Each modality has its own unique features that can support a project team in achieving their goals.

Through this lesson, you will be able to identify the most common types of learning modalities and examine considerations when selecting a modality for a learning experience.

What are learning modalities?

Learning modalities typically fall into two categories: synchronous (as in “live”) and asynchronous (as in “on demand”).

Review the following carousel, which identifies the most common types of synchronous and asynchronous learning modalities used in the industry today:

What should be considered when selecting a learning modality?

When coaching stakeholders to select a learning modality, consider discussing the following questions:

Organizational practices and preferences

  • Which learning modalities are currently supported by the organization?

  • What learning modalities are stakeholders and learners expecting for this initiative? Why?

  • What learning modalities has the organization used for similar learning experiences? How did it go?

  • Does data collected during the analysis phase suggest a modality that deviates from the organization’s norm and, if so, what is the appetite for a change in direction?

Learning audience

  • Does the data-driven learner persona (or persona spectrum) indicate learners would prefer or need a specific learning modality for this experience?

  • How many learners need to complete the experience (scalability)?

  • Where are learners geographically located?

  • Are they available/able/willing to travel?

  • What time zones need to be accounted for? Do learners’ schedules align and allow them to meet synchronously?

  • What language and localization requirements need to be considered?

  • Do learners need (or could they benefit from) accommodations?

  • What is the target audience’s level of technical proficiency?

  • What technology devices, internet access, and other resources are available to learners?

Proficiency requirements

  • What proficiency level do learners need to achieve upon completion of the learning experience (e.g. foundational, intermediate, advanced)?

  • To what extent do learners require immediate coaching and feedback to achieve that level of proficiency?

  • What is the nature of the content and, in this case, does/should that have an impact on the learning modality?

Available time, budget, and resources

  • What is the desired launch date for this learning experience, and does that have an impact on the learning modality?

  • What budget is available for development and delivery?

  • What resources can be leveraged for this effort (e.g. subject matter specialists, vendor resources, technology, physical space)?

The following are general guidelines for selecting the most common learning modalities; however, it is important to note that organizational and learner needs may require more flexibility than what is presented here.

Airport training: a learning project case study

Amir and Kristine are designing a course to help airport staff recognize and report signs of human trafficking. Kristine has started the detailed design (writing the learner description and learning objectives), and now they're ready to help their client select a learning modality.

Amir and Kristine schedule a call with the client to review organizational and target audience needs, proficiency requirements, and available time, budget and resources. During that call, they note the following considerations:

  • eLearning is widely used, accepted and expected among staff.

  • The learning audience works different shifts, so there is no single time that works best for instructor-led training (ILT) or virtual instructor-led training (vILT).

  • Learners speak a variety of languages (primarily English and Spanish).

  • The content is low complexity and highly stable, and it does not require personalized or immediate coaching and feedback from experts. This means that using automated feedback is sufficient to achieve the outcome/objectives.

  • The client's primary focus is on getting this learning experience done “right” (instead of fast), so the timeline is flexible.

  • The budget is medium and they have SMEs and software licensing available.

After discussing these points, Amir and Kristine recommend eLearning as the best modality for this course, and the client agrees.

Summary and next steps

Choosing the most appropriate learning modality for a learning experience requires designers to consider various synchronous, asynchronous, and blended delivery methods to help achieve a program’s goals. Although there are many learning modalities to choose from, each learning modality’s unique characteristics can help a learning designer consider how these characteristics would benefit a training’s organizational needs, target audience, desired state, content, resources, and potential for scalability.

Now that you are familiar with selecting learning modalities, continue to the next lesson in LXD Factory’s Design series: Plan the Design phase.


bottom of page