Working With The Five Moments Of Need

Are you able to convince clients, stakeholders and SMEs to cut back on the massive content they load into a course? Do you need to decide whether to include performance support rather than what seems like an entire curriculum?

You may find your answer in the Five Moments of Need model developed by Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson. It delineates five specific conditions or situations in which people require instruction or assistance.

When I first came across this approach, a light bulb turned on. This was exactly what I’d been looking for to cut through the content tug of war I often play. I’ve tried convincing course stakeholders that less content provides more learning. I’ve explained the limitations of working memory and cognitive load. All of this has brought limited success. But nearly everyone can relate to a moment of need.

Five Moments of NeedThose Special Moments

Mosher and Gottfredson have distilled our workplace requirements for knowledge and information into five special moments. The first two in the list typically benefit from formal, structured learning, particularly for novices. The final three typically benefit from performance support, including just-in-time information, micro-instruction, conversation and other less formal learning approaches.

The Needs

The five needs occur:
1. When learning for the first time
2. When wanting to learn more
3. When trying to remember and/or apply
4. When things change (I would add, when things change in a minor way.)
5. When something goes wrong

Fitting into Your World

So how can you fit this model into your world? After you’ve done some research and analysis to understand your audience and what they need to perform, you should be able to identify which tasks and content correspond to a specific moment of need. During course design, this should allow you to streamline the content. Include the skills and knowledge that involve learning for the first time or learning more (needs #1 and #2). And support tasks and knowledge that correspond to needs #3, #4, and #5 through other approaches.

For example, in an orientation course for new employees, you may want to present an explanation of the company’s complex investment and health benefit options in a formal course. An audience of new employees would be learning this for the first time (need #1). On the other hand, it might be difficult to remember this complex information when it’s time to invest or choose health options, so a simple support web page through the Human Resources Department would be appropriate for fulfilling the need to remember (need #3).

Using for Push Back

Once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy to use the Five Moments of Need to steer SMEs and stakeholders in the right direction. For example, I recently attended a meeting where I distributed the Five Moments of Need list to each person present.

As we discussed the various elements of the course content, I would simply ask the group what type of need the content fulfilled. If it turned out to be a need from #3 to #5, we agreed to present the content in a performance support context. In this particular organization, the easiest approach was to distribute support information in .pdf documents as attachments in an eLearning course (Articulate had this capability).

Lining Up Needs and Approach

There are many approaches for providing instruction or performance support that correspond to each moment of need. Here are some suggestions below for starters.

Moment of Need Possible Approaches
When learning for the first time eLearning, blended learning, virtual classroom, self-study
When wanting to learn more eLearning, blended learning, virtual classroom, self-study, mobile learning
When trying to remember and/or apply Job aid (online or offline), manual, mobile performance support
When things change Job aid (online or offline), documentation, mobile performance support, microblogging (Twitter, Yammer), wikis, IM
When something goes wrong Help Desk, FAQ, mobile performance support, forums, microblogging (Twitter, Yammer), wikis, IM

As always, use any model as a guide only and make your decisions on what’s appropriate for the specific audience and learning environment for which you’re designing.
Source: Performance Support 101

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  1. Sally says

    This was a great post! I had the same reaction reading this – light bulb illuminating that content tug of war feeling. Thanks for putting it into words.

  2. Susan Ward says

    This is a very helpful post! You’ve outlined what sounds like a simple and useful process for helping stakeholders think about what/when training is needed, and how and when to encourage the use of performance support resources and tools. Thank you!

  3. Michelle Childs says

    Hi Connie,
    Awesome post, thanks. I’ve been aware the Five Moments of Need, but you have put it in a format that makes it so easy to put to practical use.

    Thank you :-)

  4. Connie Malamed says

    Hi Michelle,
    I do think this approach is remarkable and I’m so thankful Bob and Conrad came up with this. It’s very easy for my clients to understand.

  5. Kerry says

    Thanks for the excellent summary Connie.

    Found it very useful and have been sharing it with various IDs.

    Just posted a link to this page in the Instructional Design & E-Learning Professionals’ Group forum on LinkedIn.

    Thanks again,



  6. Connie Malamed says

    Thanks, Kerry. I think it’s a great paradigm. We’ll probably need to keep changing it over time, because things evolve. But it’s a great way to use as a deciding factor now.


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