This three-part guide shows you what questions to ask and how to use what you find out to make important decisions about the design and delivery of the training you develop.
You will need to ask questions about:
- The learners who will participate in the training
- Their performance at work
- The training project, itself
This first part of the needs assessment triage guide details what you need to find out about learners. What to Ask About Learners
Who is the target audience for this course?
You need to know if you will have to customize the course for multiple groups of learners.
For example, we recently designed a single e-learning course for 7 different groups of learners. They all needed to know the same information about a specific compliance policy. How this policy applied to each group, though, was very different. We customized scenarios for each group so that they could understand what they needed to do specifically in their role to remain in compliance with the policy.
In addition, sometimes you can determine an instructional approach that might appeal to a specific group of learners. For example, generally speaking, I’ve found sales teams to be high energy and competitive. So, if I know I will be designing a course for a sales team, I try to incorporate games that play to their competitive spirit.
Where are the learners?
You need to consider if there will be any cultural implications that will affect what learning activities you design.
For example, when we recently designed a class for a team based in Taiwan, we decided to use case studies instead of role-plays. We thought this approach would be more in line with the formality with which the Taiwanese approach education.
We also did not use a crossword puzzle as a fun way to review vocabulary. We felt that this activity wouldn’t work well for a team who speaks English as a second language.
In addition, if you know learners are located all over the world, for example, you’ll need to recommend a delivery method that is sensitive to time zone issues, such as an e-learning module instead of a webinar. And, unless learners are planning to come together for a meeting, for instance, you know that instructor-led training is not an option.
How many people are in the target audience?
You need to design learning activities with the number of possible participants in mind.
For example, a competitive team treasure hunt to find company information as part of a new hire orientation might be awkward to conduct with one or two people.
In addition, you need to make sure that the cost of the training is not outrageous on a per person basis. A project sponsor will probably not approve a huge budget to train a small number of employees. The one exception might be if the training is mission critical.
What, if any, constraints should I be aware of?
Constraints under which learners are working can drive your choice of delivery method and learning activities.
Here are examples of some constraints that I have l heard when I’ve asked this question along with the possible impact they could have on my design and delivery decisions.
Learners don’t have access to personal computers or tablets at work. And, cell coverage is spotty in our location.
A technology-based solution, such as an e-learning course or a webinar, is not going to work for this audience.
Learners are super busy. It is difficult for them to even find the time to eat lunch!
Self-paced learning could be a challenge. Instructor-led training might be the best solution because it creates time for learning.
Learners travel a lot. They have plenty of time to read on the plane.
An e-book might be, and in this case was, a perfect learning delivery solution.
It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to complete this triage needs assessment of the potential learning population.
Coming up next: What to ask about job performance.