A Strategy Canvas Helps You Plan and Manage Learning Projects

It’s natural to feel frazzled when you’re in charge of a project that’s way out of your comfort zone and above your pay grade. It sure would be nice to have a consultant guide you through, but that’s not happening with your budget. You’re on your own. What you need is a roadmap or framework to guide you and your colleagues through the planning thickets.

Enter the strategy canvas. I was first introduced to the “canvas” concept by Jeff De Cagna of Foresight First, who shared a business model canvas (illustrated below) during a long-ago SAE session. Recently, at the ASAE Annual Meeting, I met a canvas again, this time thanks to Bucky Dodd and Carolyn Muller from LX Studio at the University of Central Oklahoma during their session about enhancing the webinar experience.

business model canvas

The purpose of a strategy canvas

A strategy or business model canvas, as you can see in Jeff’s old example above, does not look intimidating. You and your project team simply work through each section together. The conversations you have along the way give you a better sense of what you’re creating together.

A strategy canvas serves as a helpful framework for staff, instructional designers, volunteer SMEs, and/or education committee members when your association is designing new products, like an online course or educational program. It helps to align and remind everyone of project goals, scope, and other elements.

When you complete the canvas, pin it somewhere online or in the office as a reminder to your team of essential project details. The canvas approach is especially helpful when you’re juggling many projects. At a glance, you can quickly get the gist of a project, remember where you’re heading, and who’s involved.

What to discuss and include in a strategy canvas

Your strategy canvas should include whatever information is most important to guide your team’s work. Here are the sections that LX Studio includes in the Learning Strategy Canvas they use when designing an educational program, plus ‘answers’ from a few of the sample canvases in their resources for attendees of the ASAE session—warning, this link may not last forever.

Learning objectives/desired results: Answer example: Apply a set of competencies in a job role—describe those competencies and job role.

Methods of communication: On-demand micro-presentations, short e-book series, videos, enhanced (in post-production) webinar recording, animations and visual explainer content, podcast series, live online process demonstration.

Methods for supporting learner dialogue: Online live expert Q&A session, online community board, discussion seeded with starter questions, in-person welcome reception for blended learning, in-person sharing and reflection session, chat box.

Methods for showing evidence of learning: Task demonstration activity or recording, pre- and post-video quizzes, capstone project, exam, in-person or online work portfolio sharing, digital badge/certificate.

Methods for supporting practice: Drill and practice activities, live online demonstration and work sessions, practice job tasks with a checklist, on-demand knowledge quizzes.

Methods for providing and using feedback: Peer feedback, compare examples, instructor feedback, interactive quizzes, submit questions to an expert, online live expert job coaching.

Unique value proposition: Notice that you do this section after mapping out the rest of the learning experience. What differentiates this program? You may need to go back and tweak other sections if you can’t come up with a unique value proposition.

In the last section, describe the experience: synchronous/asynchronous, virtual/physical, formal/informal.

What other information would be helpful to your team? We found other canvases online that might help you come up with a version tailored to your needs.

strategy canvas meeting

Strategy canvas inspiration

Another learning-related canvas is the Customer Education Content Strategy Canvas from Skilljar. Their canvas includes these sections:

•    Summary: What the resource will cover and why, how it fits into other things you’re doing.
•    Business goals: Desired impact on your organization.
•    Measure of success: Metrics to track progress toward achieving business goals.
•    Learning objectives: What learners will be able to do after engaging with the content.
•    Audiences
•    Style: Talking head, screen recording, animation, slides, text, SCORM, other.
•    Format: Synchronous or asynchronous.
•    Learning activities
•    Production process and timeline
•    Stakeholders and production team
•    Notes
•    Distribution and access: How the resource will reach its audience.

From the list above, these sections are the most useful: audiences, production timeline, and stakeholders/project team.

Here are two other learning-related canvases to check out:

•    Learning Experience (LX) Canvas from LXD.org
•    Learning Strategy Canvas from Learning Development Framework

The Canvas Revolution shares dozens of canvas examples on their site. However, if you’re reevaluating your learning business model, definitely start with the canvas illustrated above from Jeff De Cagna.  

A strategy, experience, or business model canvas is a useful tool for guiding discussions about future learning programs and reminding everyone involved of where you’re going and how you will get there.

instructional design
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