Everything you need to know about Microsoft 365 learning pathways
All organizations want their Return On Investment (ROI) for Microsoft 365. They want this technology to be used as intended by their users and to its fullest extent.
The Usual Way We Have Done It
- Build a knowledge portal on SharePoint
- Put a bunch of videos, documents and links to external content on that portal
- Content bought from a vendor or created internally
- Link to the portal and hope for the best (fingers crossed)
The Challenge With The Usual Way
There are a couple of challenges with the usual approach.
- You are the one who needs to keep everything updated – the portal as well as the content on the portal. That’s hard to do because usually it’s a team of one or a few people who are taking care of the entire end user base.
- The users have to take the initiative to find the information they are looking for.
Microsoft’s solution to this challenge is Microsoft 365 learning pathways. Does it live up to the hype? Can it make a difference in your adoption rates? Let’s dig into it and find out.
What is Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways?
- A learning portal created as a SharePoint communication site within your Microsoft 365 tenant
- Learning content for end users focused on Microsoft 365 apps such as OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams, etc.
- Content automatically updated, curated and delivered by Microsoft into your portal (delivered through GitHub CDN)
- Your own training content can be added to this portal
- An open source solution created by Microsoft
What Learning Pathways is Not
- Learning pathways is not a product. It’s an open source solution supported by the community.
- Learning pathways is not a Learning Management Solution (LMS) and Microsoft has no plans to go that route.
- Learning pathways is not a performance support solution
Installation and Configuration
You must be the Microsoft 365 tenant administrator to be able to install learning pathways.
An app catalog must exist at the tenant or you must create one in order to install learning pathways.
More info about app catalog: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/use-app-catalog
- Navigate to https://provisioning.sharepointpnp.com/
- Click on View the designs > Solutions > Microsoft 365 learning pathways
- Click on Add to your tenant button
- Carefully read and accept the permissions being requested
- Fill out the form and provide your contact email address and the location for the Learning Pathways site in your tenant and submit
What the heck is learning pathways installing at my tenant?
- The Microsoft 365 learning pathways app gets installed in the app catalog for your tenant.
- The other thing that gets created is a SharePoint communication site to host learning pathways content and administration pages.
When you as an administrator, navigate to the administration page of learning pathways, you will see a list of categories and subcategories underneath each category.
When you click on a subcategory, all the playlists available in that subcategory will be shown.
From the administrator’s perspective, here is the learning pathways terminology:
Basic configuration of learning pathways
- Tenant admin should provide the person in charge of learning and development ownership of learning pathways site
- Hide all navigation elements of the site you don’t want end users to see
- Fill in the placeholder information with content specific to your organization
- Hide application content you don’t want your users to see
- Provide everyone access to the learning pathways site
- Link to the learning pathways site from places your users usually see:
|What You Can’t Do||What You Can Do|
|You cannot change the order of existing products, subcategories, playlists, assets provided by Microsoft||You can create a new subcategory|
|You cannot add a new asset to a Microsoft playlist||You can create a new playlist in existing subcategories and in new subcategories|
|You cannot edit nor remove Microsoft provided assets||You can copy a playlist, then remove or add assets to it|
* These limitations make it challenging to tailor learning pathways to your specific governance guidelines.
End User Experience
From an end user perspective, the first thing they see when they go to the training page in the learning pathways portal is a list of Microsoft 365 products. Once they click on a product, they see a number of playlists available for that product. When a playlist is picked, all the assets (learning units) included in that playlist are shown.
The Anatomy of an Asset
An asset (learning unit) has many navigational and search components.
An end user would start by going to the learning pathways site and then from there going to the main landing page where all the products are listed. Then she would select the product that she is interested in learning more about and would be presented with the available playlists for that product. Once she clicks on a playlist, the first asset for that playlist is shown. From there, she can navigate to other assets in the playlist.
A couple of main caveats to be aware of:
- The regular browser back and forward buttons do not work as expected when navigating assets within learning pathways. For example, when a user navigates from one asset to the other and then they click on back to go to the previous asset, instead of them going back to the previous asset, they will end up on the main product training page. The reason for that is that the learning assets have their own navigation within the page. That navigation must be used by the users instead of the browser navigation which will be a transition from regular user behavior.
- The regular links that show up in the browser cannot be used. Meaning, a user cannot simply take the link they see in the browser address bar and send it to someone else thinking that they would arrive at the same page that they are looking at by following that link. That does not work for the same reason as the browser navigation does not work. Instead, to find a link to an asset, the link icon must be clicked and only then the link to that asset appears.
Getting people to the learning pathways site
Build it and they will come…? That’s rarely the case in reality.
You want to allow users various ways to be able to get to the learning pathways site.
Within SharePoint, you can put the link to the learning pathways site from the top link bar of your site navigation. Since there is no global site navigation built in within SharePoint, you will need to do that for all the different sites where you want users to be able to have access to the learning pathways portal.
You can also put a link to the learning pathways portal as a Featured Link on the main SharePoint landing page. That way, the link will always be available to users when they go to that landing page.
This is an immersive learning mode that requires the user to visit a learning location. It is metaphorically between a blog site and an LMS.
There are only limited options to bring that content to the user like a Performance Support system would.
Deploy learning pathways on other sites
When Microsoft learning pathways gets installed as a communication site, the web part that displays the learning pathways component is only available at that site.
In order to deploy the learning pathways web part to a different SharePoint site, you would need to first deploy the app to that other site and only then you can deploy the web part on that site and show learning pathways content to users.
Follow these steps:
- Add the Microsoft 365 learning pathways app to your site
- Deploy Microsoft 365 learning pathways web part to any page on that site
- Customize the web part as needed – show all products, single product, single playlist, or single asset
How do I know if learning pathways is helping my users?
The usage reporting / analytics for learning pathways is only available by looking at the actual usage of the SharePoint communication site that hosts learning pathways. There is no separate analytics that’s available for learning pathways content specifically.
It shows generic info such as number of unique viewers, site visits, site traffic insights, type of devices used to navigate the site, and pages most viewed.
This lack of tracking makes it difficult to identify gaps and address trouble spots hurting your adoption rates.
This is where learning pathways shines. The content is updated automatically – usually on a quarterly basis. Update info is available at Home > Adoption Tools > Admin Success Center > What’s New, What’s Changed.
Application update on the other hand has to be done manually. Start at Site contents > Microsoft 365 learning pathways > Details. If a new version is available, you will see a GET IT button.
Version 4.0 of learning pathways will be released sometime in the mid 2020.
This version will have support for 9 languages altogether:
- Chinese (Simplified)
- Italian (Italy)
- Japanese (Japan)
- Portuguese (Brazilian)
- Russian (Russian)
Better Together – Microsoft’s Partner Story
Building on top of learning pathways
Because learning pathways is a solution and not a product, Microsoft partners are encouraged to build on top of the learning pathways open source solution.
There are still many gaps within learning pathways and opportunities for enhancements where partners come in to complete the story for customers who need a more complete solution for their users.
VisualSP is a Microsoft partner which builds on top of the learning pathways solution and provides it to their customers as a fully baked product that they can deploy quickly and easily.
VisualSP + Microsoft learning pathways content
A Better Together story
- Over 700 videos and articles created and maintained by Microsoft
- Ability to customize and create your own content
- Content delivered in-context to the user
- Centralized customization and publishing
- Analytics of content usage
- Security trimming of content
- Full customer service support
Microsoft provides 1 and 2 in the above list.
VisualSP enhances the offering by providing all 1 to 7 in the above list.
VisualSP provides a training overlay on top of Microsoft 365 applications that serves up learning pathways content contextually to the user.
So for example, when the user is within Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, Yammer or other apps, they will see training content specific to just that app they are in. This experience makes the learning and understanding of features much easier for the user to consume instead of having to go to a communication site and look for the content that they want.
The same learning pathways content is also available when you deploy the VisualSP Teams app for learning pathways.
The content is available directly from an icon in the left bar navigation of Microsoft Teams.
VisualSP for Microsoft learning pathways
- Contextual delivery of learning pathways content in all Microsoft 365 apps
- Full usage reporting for learning pathways content
- No need to deploy and maintain a learning pathways communication site
- Security trimming of content within SharePoint
- Easy customization and administration of content
- Content can be pushed to users as needed using inline icons on the page and auto show on load
- Full support for the product
Call to Action
Get started with VisualSP for learning pathways for free.
Get in touch with us if you have any questions