Analysis For eLearning Projects

When you are hit with a new training or eLearning project or even an idea for a project, you need the facts before you can proceed. You can usually gather the facts by conducting one or more forms of analysis, of which there are many flavors.

You’ll find that the amount of effort required for an analysis varies. In some cases, it involves no more than interviewing several key people. In other cases, an analysis might involve pouring over organizational documents or examining survey results from scores of audience members. The depth of the analysis depends on the organizational and project goals.

Here are some of the most common forms of analysis that I use. If you have other types in your tool belt, please share with us in the Comments section. You may never need all of these types on one project.

Needs Analysis or Assessment

There are several types of needs assessments. The most common type is based on the discrepancy model. It assumes that there is a training need and it defines the gap between the current performance of a target audience and the desired performance. At a high level it identifies the knowledge and skills that are missing and might also delineate workplace issues and attitudes that could affect a training initiative.

How to get the information:

  • Interviews with stakeholders and managers
  • Interviews with target audience members
  • Interviews with other relevant staff, e.g., Information Technology and Human Resources
  • Provide surveys and questionnaires to the target audience to assess knowledge
  • Observation of target audience members performing relevant tasks

Audience Analysis

The goal of an audience analysis is to help designers and developers understand their audience to serve them most effectively. The audience analysis identifies each audience group who will engage in training and the characteristics of each group.

Try to identify the following:

  • Demographics (gender, age range)
  • Cognitive characteristics (educational level, language, prior knowledge related to subject, computer literacy; learning preference‚ÄĒindependent, motivated, requires assistance, etc.)
  • Work characteristics (job roles, work responsibilities, work schedule)
  • Affective and social characteristics (interests, attitudes and biases, what makes them laugh, what they disdain)
  • Any other traits that could influence the strategies and approaches to learning you might use

Although each group is composed of individuals, try to focus on the similarities within each group. After your audience analysis, you may want to see how to create learner personas.

How to get the information:

  • Interviews with members of each audience group (individual or as a group)
  • Interviews with supervisors of each audience group
  • Interviews with Human Resources
  • Surveys and questionnaires completed by the audience members
  • Research about the field

Task Analysis

The task analysis breaks down all the tasks that are part of a specific job role. It includes: task descriptions, subordinate tasks, importance of tasks, length and frequency of tasks, task difficulty, equipment required to do the task, and the work environment and conditions in which the task is performed.

How to get the information:

  • Interviews with those skilled in performing tasks (individually or groups)
  • Interviews with their supervisors
  • Observation of skilled individuals performing tasks (on site and via video)
  • Documentation regarding the job role
  • Relevant training materials
  • Research about the field

Instructional Analysis

The instructional analysis (or learning task analysis) examines and breaks down the learning tasks of each specific instructional goal. It provides the steps and associated subordinate tasks that are required to reach each goal. The instructional analysis should only include what’s really necessary to reach the goal and eliminate the extraneous material. A good reference for this is The Systematic Design of Instruction. See this demonstration of how to do one type of instructional analysis.

How to get the information:

  • Analysis of the content from relevant training materials, organizational documents
  • Interviews with Subject Matter Experts
  • Focus groups
  • Observation of the skills to be taught

Environment Analysis

The environment analysis identifies the learning environment(s) in which a course will occur. The environment can vary from mobile employees listening to a podcast, to employees in one room watching a synchronous webcast, to virtual employees engaging in an independent learning project.

How to get the information:

  • Discussion with project manager and supervisors
  • Observe the environment

Technical Analysis

The technical analysis identifies the hardware and software specifications that an online course must accommodate. This includes the type of device on which the course will run, operating system(s), type and availability of Internet access, media capabilities (audio, video, graphics), authoring tools required, and the requirements of learning management system if one is being used.

How to get the information:

  • Discussions with IT manager
  • Discussions with course Project Manager

This list is just a starting point for getting started with analysis and to really conduct one, I suggest you research it more extensively. The most important thing to remember is that most analysis simply involves getting down to the details … and using common sense.

Join me on Facebook for more resources, tips and discussion!

Related Articles:
A Framework For Designing Online Learning
Learner Personas For eLearning
Rapid Course Development

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  1. […] Here is a nice, succinct blog post from Connie Malamed over at The eLearning Coach with some tips on conducting one in an eLearning environment.¬†Some of the key points include interview a wide variety of employees, narrowing down what demographic information will impact your course development, and what environmental or technical issues you may face along the way. […]

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