How Human Performance Technology And Learning Experience Design Are Integrated

How Human Performance Technology And Learning Experience Design Are Integrated
Monkey Business Images/
Summary: Learning Experience Design, LXD, is big and broad, and encompasses the entire ecosystem of learning both on the macro and micro scale. A trend is occurring in the eLearning space, where ISD models have taken precedence over HPT, and we miss out on the broader context of performance solutions.

Human Performance Technology And Learning Experience Design: Are They Mutually Exclusive?

How many times over the span of your career have you been asked to develop training, either Instructor-Led Training or an eCourse by a client or a boss where the training/eCourse was an implied solution to a performance problem? It’s happened to me more times that I can count on both hands throughout my career and while I smile and say "no, problem, I’ll get on this right away", my mind goes to that place that says, "My title is Instructional Designer because freaking miracle working isn’t an official job title". People in our field know that even a miracle plus a course does not equate to performance. The most recent time it happened was a few months back when a client came to me and asked for an eLearning course. The client told me they were implementing a new eCommerce system which was being integrated with a legacy ERP system and a new CRM system. Their processes were ill-defined, and they were still in the sandbox environment because the user acceptance testing had not been completed yet. While most of you are probably thinking, "run-away", my mind went to Human Performance Technology, HPT, and thinking about how we can make HPT more agile.

Learning Experience Design

Learning Experience Design (LXD) is big and broad, and encompasses the entire ecosystem of learning both on the macro and micro scale. A trend is occurring in the eLearning space where Instructional Design models, Agile, and rapid eLearning development tools have taken precedence over HPT. They talk about using models such as ADDIE, SAM, Agile, and LLAMA to name a few. By sticking to these models, we miss out on what would be the broader context of how a performance solution is structured in terms of the need’s analysis, the cause analysis, and how the causes connect to the training intervention rather than some type of performance intervention.

Let’s review the models, starting with:


Agile is a program management process born out of software development. In the agile process, all the activities, the tasks that are to be done, and the persons to do these tasks are all decided up front. After prioritizing the activities, a few of them are selected and the rest are put on a backlog to be addressed later. In the agile process, there are iterative learning cycles with the focus on the stakeholders over processes. Instead of adhering to detailed plans, the process is responsive to change.


The "ADDIE" model, which stands for: analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate, was created for the US army in the early 70’s. In the analysis phase, issues and problems are identified. Course purpose, learning outcomes, and objectives are determined in the design phase. Content and structure occur in the developing phase. In the implement phase, a pilot run of the course occurs, (formative evaluation) and finally in the evaluation phase, a summative evaluation takes place. ADDIE has been criticized for being linear and predictive, as well as antiquated. In this classic model, designers, Subject Matter Experts, and stakeholders tend to work in silos, and there isn’t much opportunity to change the course specifications after the first two phases. Learner testing isn’t always completed until just before the implementation, so little can be done to align course objectives with the required performance.


Meg Torrance, in 2017 brought us LLAMA, which stands for the lot like Agile management approach. It is a modification of the traditional Agile technique used to support Instructional Design and development projects. It looks more like a repetitive ADDIE model. LLAMA starts with an analysis phase as in Addie, then moves through interactive cycles of design, development, implementation, and evaluation, which repeat until the most viable solution is achieved. Subtle differences can be seen in LLAMA and Agile learning objectives, where the learning objectives are a substitute for user requirements. The syntax is also different. With standard learning objectives, the observable behavior that the learner must learn to perform is specified. In the LLAMA learning objective, the designer creates stories that start with a training need and then provide context to the need. The assumption is that the performance analysis has already been conducted, and the instructional solution is the most appropriate solution to the problem.


SAM is an acronym for Successive Approximation Model derived from Agile processes by Michael Allen in 2012. It was introduced as an alternative to ADDIE, and emphasizes collaboration and efficiency. The iterative steps are primarily in the design and delivery phase. The preparation phase, sometimes called a savvy start, includes a collaborative review of the project’s background and any existing data generated via HPT.

Adopting any of the models just mentioned above will not give you a faster, cheaper, more efficient course design projects; which is what Agile promises us. Agile helps enable an Instructional Designer to meet the constantly changing demands of an organization's needs while moving through to the completion of a project.

Human Performance Technology

Which brings me to HPT, Human Performance Technology. HPT is a systematic process which helps the user to understand what the performance issue is and what caused it, so an appropriate intervention can be designed to address it – which may or may not be a learning intervention. In the upfront analysis, the user looks at the entire ecosystem of the performance issue, be it the environment, organizational rules, the individual in the job, the job standards, specifications, the motivations etc. to understand what the performance issue is. The designer then does a gap analysis to determine what how big the gap between the desired state and the actual state is. The gap analysis gives the designer a metric to use in the evaluation phase, which determines if the intervention implemented achieved the goals of the project. This process has been criticized for being linear and archaic.

There is a lot of synergy between HPT and LDX, and they are intertwined. HPT looks at the entire ecosystem of the performer, while LDX encompasses the ecosystem of the learning design. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.

The question is now, how do we make HPT more agile?

Stay tuned for the upcoming article on how we make HPT more Agile.