You’ve all heard this phrase before: “Know your audience!” It is one of those truths in life that crosses over many disciplines. If you’re making a speech, you are taught to know your audience. If you’re writing a paper, you are taught to know your reader. If you’re selling a product, you are taught to know your consumer. So if you’re designing training, you need to know your learners!
In the world of instructional design we call this a learner analysis. It is the process we go through to find out who we are designing training for. We want to find out as much information as we can about our future learner population. We can conduct a learner analysis in many ways; we can interview the learners themselves, interview their managers, research general hiring requirements for the jobs they hold, or conduct surveys.
In Langevin’s instructional design workshops, we give you a list of suggestions about the kinds of information you may want to collect about your learners during the early stages of your instructional design process. As you can imagine, this process can take a fair amount of time so some people wonder why we should even bother.
We should invest the time to do a learner analysis because knowing information about our learners can affect many design choices we make. Here are just a few examples of how information about our learners can impact the instructional design of a course:
- The number and location of our learners will affect our choice of training strategy (i.e. e-learning vs. instructor-led vs. on-the-job).
- The experience and knowledge level of our learners will affect our activity choices during training.
- The cultural mix of our learners will affect what we say and how we say it during a training session.
- The presence of subject-matter experts (SMEs) in our future learner group will affect the structure of our class, as we may want to use them in some way to help teach the novices in the group.
- The knowledge of any physical disabilities of our learners will affect our choice of training room and classroom layout.
I teach new designers the importance of conducting a learner analysis all the time but I stress that the process need not be as time consuming as one may fear. I encourage trainers to get to know as much as possible about their fellow employees when they are not designing training for them. Be social! Talk to them in the hallways, the cafeteria, and at the company holiday party so that when you do design a training course for them, you already know them!
In what other ways will a learner analysis affect the instructional design of a course? Please, share your ideas with me and our readers!