The 5 Learning Models: Mass Distribution

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Last week I introduced the Performance Support learning model with its emphasis on Information Dissemination under urgent time constraints. Meanwhile, other organizations may similarly spend the majority of their resources on providing content, but do so on somewhat longer time frames. They are likely operating in the Mass Distribution learning model.


One-Size-Fits-All Learning

Mass Distribution is what most would consider the traditional model of corporate training. It involves providing information in the most cost-effective way possible, which usually means the broadcasting of identical content to the entire workforce, no matter their department, unit, or position. Because the content must be relevant to so many, it tends to be broad, generalized information, without delving too deeply into specifics. Examples might include courses on time management or emergency preparedness, something just about all employees would benefit from.


To address accessibility concerns, the technology requirements of Mass Distribution learning will often be low, for instance, simple eLearning courses or product specification documents for multiple job roles and functions. In all cases, the company is at the center of the process, deciding what content to produce and how to distribute it.


  • By providing a single set of content for the majority of employees at once, Mass Distribution is often a cost-efficient model of learning.
  • Mass Distribution allows L&D to provide a consistent learning experience across an entire organization.


  • By definition, Mass Distribution means there is less emphasis on personalization or localization of content. The scope of the provided material may be very limited, rarely delving into deeper processes.
  • To deliver skills practices, the model requires excellent facilitation capabilities in planning and execution.


To operate in this model, organizations need broad knowledge, broad design, and broad distribution. Instructional designers must be able to find the commonalities between high-level learning categories applicable to and understood by all employees (regardless of job function). In addition, the material must be developed to be delivered within the constraints of lower technology requirements.

The model is also dependent on the amount of time needed for preparation. Because such a broad base of knowledge needs to be boiled down to wide-ranging material, designers will require extensive time prior to execution. Just because content isn’t deep doesn’t mean it can be delivered without planning.

Connection to the Learning Revolution

Mass Distribution is the most conventional learning model and one that is being upended by the learning revolution I’ve been describing. Mass Distribution continues to be “cost effective,” but how much value is it still providing when so much of its primary product – knowledge – is conveniently available to employees outside of the company’s programs?

In the Learning Revolution blog I outlined the general shift in control from the company to the learner, and this is especially true for businesses in the Mass Distribution model. People are owning more of the knowledge and also have more control over the speed of that knowledge. L&D departments operating in the Mass Distribution model no longer set their own pace for information dissemination, and will eventually be positioned only to play catch-up with the workforce’s needs. The speed of business has motivated learning leaders to provide content faster (as in the Performance Support model), or focus more on skills development, which would suggest the learning models I’m covering over the next few weeks.

Questions to Qualify if Operating in a Mass Distribution Model

  • Is the majority of our content developed for mass distribution, regardless of job function or role?
  • Is content created with people’s existing skills and competencies in mind?
  • Is the majority of the organization’s supporting resources located in a central repository?

If your L&D department is asking these questions or you recognize your organization’s activities following the Mass Distribution model, the time may be quickly approaching to transition to a more workable structure in the new learning environment. You may consider some of the models I’ll be covering in the coming weeks on Saltbox Savvy, as well as taking small steps towards change with a transitional strategy.


Even if you aren’t in a Mass Distribution learning model, your organizations should still commit some time and resources to information dissemination. But rather than trying to provide all the information to everyone at all times, put yourself in the shoes of someone trying to find the information. Consider what kind of information they aren’t getting or can’t get from external sources, then concentrate your resources there.