Blog Post

More with Less: How Modular Content Allows Education Teams to Scale Development

Greg Russell
July 6, 2023
illustration of building blocks on gold background

The 2023 State of Education Initiatives report found that 33% of learning professionals had their budget cut in the last year—and 15% lost team members due to layoffs. 

Yet these same teams are often asked to produce quality work that delivers ROI despite having fewer resources.

One way we can do more with less is to scale learning content development using modular design.

What is modular design?

Modular design is an approach to eLearning content development where content is created in reusable blocks. You can leverage these reusable components in different combinations to scale content production and delivery. 

Think of these blocks like Legos. There are a number of different Legos—square, rectangular, angled, etc. These legos can be put together in different combinations depending on what you’re trying to build. 

How to get started with building modular content

In eLearning, modular content allows you to reuse content in different places and for different audiences. For example, you might create a video overview of a key platform feature that’s relevant for both employees and customers.

The key idea here is to not build a training for one purpose—but to think about what content can be created and leveraged across initiatives. With fewer resources, scalable content creation is essential.

Analyze learning needs with a skills matrix.

When building out modular content, start with an understanding of learning needs and how those vary for the different audiences you serve.

To do this, you can take the following steps:

  • Identify all the meaningful learner groups you need to support. Start with more broad audiences (e.g., customers, employees, partners), then get more granular (e.g., sales team, customer success, etc.). This will help you identify the larger segments or 
  • Identify all the core skills each learner group needs to learn, and develop learning objectives for those skills. Be thorough in your outline.
  • Consider the levels of knowledge and skills required for each audience segment. Some groups need to have more depth than others (e.g., your support team may need more depth than your sales team).

Make this process your own! The following chart provides an example of a skills matrix we mapped, but feel free to adapt this to what works best for your team and workflow. 

Build a curriculum map.

With your skills matrix in hand, it’s time to identify all the content you could ever possibly need to address your needs analysis. As you’re doing this, you may discover existing content that can fill those slots in the short term (e.g., recorded webinars, documentation, eLearning). Insert those pieces to give yourself a better idea of where the gaps are.

Now you’re ready to develop your content roadmap. The roadmap should include net-new content that addresses gaps in learning needs, along with opportunities to improve existing content. This roadmap will allow you to build out curriculum purposefully and intentionally. 

Here’s an example of what a content map might look like:

Develop a standard build of smaller components. 

Design a standard build of smaller components to combine into larger courses. Developing a standard will ensure there’s consistency across the team when identifying modular components and building net-new modules. 

Think back to our LEGO analogy: Even though each LEGO might have a different shape or color, they all have a flat base with holes to connect with another piece. This ensures that the LEGO builder can connect all of the pieces to build their creation.

Here’s an example of what this looks like for DISCO University

In this example, you see how seven modules are used in different combinations based on the audience. 

Splice existing content into modules.

Break existing courses down into core components that cover specific knowledge and skills that can stand on their own. This gives you more modules to work with as you build moving forward.

You can then slot these modules into your curriculum map—or use them to build content to fill in the gaps. 

Design new resources for reusability. 

When creating new content, keep reusability in mind. Think about context and what prior knowledge different learner personas might have.

You can create a piece of content that is relevant to different audiences, then augment that piece with additional resources that help each persona build upon what they’re learning.

Reference that example above to see this in action. 

Start where you are and build over time.

It’s not necessary to halt all content production, go back to the beginning, and redo all of your work when implementing content modules.

Instead, start with what you have and make a commitment to building modular content over time.

About the author

Greg Russell headshot
Greg Russell
VP, DISCO University
Greg Russell is an award-winning educator dedicated to providing personalized, next-gen learning experiences for today’s working professionals. As DISCO’s Vice President of Global Enablement, his team builds world-class education experiences for customers, partners and employees, using cutting edge technologies to make learning efficient, effective and engaging.