The 4 D’s of Learning: A quick illustrated guide to Modern Workplace Learning

The following is a quick illustrated guide to what you will find in my Modern Workplace Learning 2020 (MWL2020) resource.

The 4 D’s of Learning

Following the results of my 2019 Top 200 Tools for Learning (13th annual) survey I analysed the 100 tools on the Top Tools for Personal and Professional Learning list and identified 4 main uses of the tools as ways of learning which I called the 4 D’s of Learning (and which I mapped on the diagram below).

Although the diagram above shows how the 4 D’s of Learning are connected to one another, it is more appropriate to think of them as overlapping ways of learning. It is then easy to identify what and how learning takes place across the organisation. Some of the key activities are highlighted on the diagram below.

The 4 Ds of Learning and the new work of L&D

When I analysed the Top 100 Tools for Workplace Learning 2019 list it was clear that most of the tools focused on supporting DIDACTICS, i.e. they were used for designing, delivering and managing formal learning (classroom training, e-learning, etc). But using my 4 D’s model it becomes clear that there are many more opportunities to support the other three areas of learning – after all that is where most learning takes place. The following diagram therefore highlights some of these other activities that L&D needs to become involved in to support learning in a more holistic way across the organisation.

The 4 Ds of Learning and learning technologies

And what about learning technologies, well, traditionally the LMS has been seen as the hub for all organisational learning and development, but it is now clear from the 4 D’s model of learning (as illustrated in the diagram below) that it is a social and collaboration platform that lies at its heart of workplace learning – but one that is integrated with other platforms and tools to create a complete organisational work and learning ecosystem, such that learning and working are inseparable partners.

For more detail about this and other research behind Modern Workplace Learning as well as an in depth look at how L&D can support learning in the modern workplace, take a look at Modern Workplace Learning 2020 (available as web resource and PDF or paperback).

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Jane Hart

Jane Hart helps organisations and learning professionals modernise their approaches to workplace learning - through public workshops and bespoke consultancy. She is the Editor of the Modern Workplace Learning Magazine, and is the author of a number of books including Modern Workplace Learning 2020 as well as the resource for individuals How to become a modern Learner. Jane was the 2018 recipient of the ATD Distinguished Contribution to Talent Development award. You can contact Jane at