Learning Paths and Learning Journeys – is there a difference?

By Dr Lydia Cillié-Schmidt

Recently the term “Learning Journey” started cropping up more often in blogs and articles and I started to wonder whether there is a difference between the terms Learning Paths and Learning Journeys. I specifically searched for definitions of the two terms and although I could not find many, I am providing the definitions that I could find below:

Learning Journey Learning Path
  • “A Learning journey is a visual guide to help you think about the path to become fully competent. This visualization should make it easier to see every offering that is available for a topic and understand how things are connected. The journey is not a “mandatory”  track or sequence of courses.  It offers you a high-level view of your choices.  Based on your goals and your prior knowledge, you can select what would work for you”. https://cdn.training.sap.com/cdn/pdf/Success-Factors_learning-journey_beta.pdf


  • “A learning journey is also about a passage, a developmental process where individuals build capability through a series of related and complementary learning interventions. It’s about how all of these approaches are blended together to make a learning experience where the new skills or behaviours are put into practice and have a lasting impact and a deeper level of transformation. Learning journeys are highly customised, and experiences are usually structured around key themes and hypotheses about the future of the business”. https://www.trainingjournal.com/articles/feature/creating-great-learning-journey


  • “Learning Journeys are a strategic development approach anchored in business strategy, but with practical application. Ideally intended for groups, cohorts, or communities of leaders, a Learning Journey takes place over time. It incorporates multiple formal and informal development components into a unique design, which optimizes your training investment and maximizes learning “stickiness” to change behaviors and transform leaders”. http://www.oracle.com/us/products/applications/talent-mgmt-learning-journey-2095827.pdf


  • A Learning Path is defined as the total sequence of training, practice and experience that help a person from day one in a new role or task to proficiency (Williams, J. and Rosenbaum, S. 2004. Learning Paths: Increase profits by reducing the time it takes employees to get up- to- speed. Pfeiffer.)
  • “A learning path allows a learner to choose a route through (typically eLearning) content, which allows them to build knowledge progressively and often, individually. It allows the learner to become an active participant in the learning process and to create a deeper connection with the subject matter. Success is often measured by progress and improvement and the student reaching their personal potential”. https://coreaxis.com/learning-paths-vs-traditional-curriculum/
  • “Paths is a new, smarter way to organize relevant training and learning content into custom groups that guide each individual employee’s learning experience. Any given path may include a combination of lessons and nested paths (a path within another path) and be further customized with wait steps and due dates”. https://www.lessonly.com/blog/introducing-learning-paths-better-way-manage-employee-journey/
  • “A learning path is a graphical representation of your learners’ training plans. In NetDimensions LMS, learning paths show a graphical layout of a user’s training plans, courses, and learning objects”. https://www.peoplefluent.com/products/learning/netdimensionslms/features/learning-paths
  • “An online, sequenced, structured learning route” https://www.topyx.com/lms-blog/what-is-a-learning-path
  • “A learning path is a sequence of activities that allows a person to build knowledge or skill”. https://www.hrbartender.com/2017/training/create-learning-paths-align-goals/
  • “Van der Krogt introduced the concept of a learning path (“leerweg” in his original Dutch book) to refer to “a set of learning activities that are both coherent as a whole and meaningful to the employee”. This learning-path concept can be used to describe and understand how each individual employee makes sense of the multitude of work-based and intentional learning experiences and their choices as they move from one such experience to the next in their organizational context”. Poell, R., Lundgren, H., Bang, A., Justice, S., Marsick, V., Sung, S. and Yorks, L. (2018), “How do employees’ individual learning paths differ across occupations?”, Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 315-334. https://doi.org/10.1108/JWL-01-2018-0019

It is clear from these definitions that the two terms are often used interchangeably, with the main difference that Learning Paths consist of sequenced learning activities, whereas in some of the Learning Journey definitions, the activities are not necessarily sequenced, and learners can choose the elements in the Journey that will address their development needs. Another difference is that some of the Learning Path definitions focus mainly on learning content and do not include a full blended learning solution.  Other than that, Learning Paths and Learning Journeys seem to have the following in common:

  • Both follow the principle that learning is a process and not an event
  • Both focus on experience and practice to ensure the transfer of learning to the workplace
  • Both entail a framework of blended learning interventions and experiences to help the learner to become more proficient/improve performance/build knowledge or skill
  • Both provide a visual guide that describes all the learning interventions and experiences, as well as the support/resources/assessments involved in following the path/journey
  • Both are informed by business strategy
  • Both rely on technology to manage them better
  • Both measure success by looking at improved performance/proficiency

What is your view? Is there a difference between a Learning path and a Learning Journey?