Needs Analysis – Analyzing eLearning course audiences
The ADDIE method is the tried and true method instructional designers use when approaching a new project. The “A” in ADDIE stands for “Analysis” – taking time to review the desired learning outcomes and figuring out how to best achieve them. It is also the time in the project’s lifecycle where the ISD professional should get to know the intended audience. The world’s most beautiful training module, with all the content, interactions, and examples one could dream of, can fall short for the learner, if it does not address the core questions adult learners have – what’s in it for me? Why should I spend my time on training when there is a growing mountain of work on my plate?
Determining the core needs of your target audience is both the most important task you may perform when working as an instructional designer, and also the most difficult one. The initiation of the project is most likely not driven by the requests of an end-user, but rather managers or leadership, who determine that there is a knowledge gap and training is the best possible solution. Depending on your position in the organization, (consultant versus contractor versus employee), you may have the opportunity to revisit the root cause for training development, and recommend whether eLearning is truly a viable solution.
Once it has been determined that eLearning is, in fact, the ideal solution, you should begin to look at your learners.
• Who are they? Do they all have the same job or play a variety of roles in a particular department? What is their general age, education level, and rank?
• What are the desired changes in behavior? How can you achieve these outcomes with eLearning? Will learners need additional support after training? What constraints might learners encounter?
• When will they be expected to complete the training? Is there an argument for short-form or long-form eLearning? How much time will leadership give learners to dedicate to this training?
Getting to know your eLearning audience should be a large part of your work during the initial analysis phase. This can be done by holding informal focus groups with learners to discuss what skill they are developing and to learn about the constraints they encounter on the job. If possible, you can deploy surveys with open-ended responses to learn what the end-users think, and how they view the training need you are trying to solve- is it even a problem in their mind? The more you can put yourself in the learner’s shoes, the better the training material will land.