The Role of Instructional Design Once a training specialist has written the course's learning objectives and confirmed…
So, in recent weeks, we’ve started diving down through the steps of the analysis phase of ADDIE. We’ve done our Discovery and Aligned our Business Goals. Now, it’s time to Analyze Learners and Contexts, and Conduct an Instructional Analysis.
Analyze Learners and Contexts
What Do Learners Already Know?
During a learner analysis, the training specialist examines the learners as a group. Sometimes this step is called a training audience analysis or even just an audience analysis. In this step, the training specialist examines the learners’ current knowledge and capabilities. What do the learners already know and have the ability to do?
The training specialist uses the information from the learner analysis to create a course that focuses on your learners’ actual needs. If you don’t conduct the learner analysis, you’ll have to make assumptions about the learners’ current capabilities. Sometimes, if you are very familiar with your audience, you can make informed guesses. However, some assumptions can lead to unexpected surprises when you launch the training project.
How Audience Analysis Works
Imagine that an instructional designer is creating a new-hire course for delivery drivers in the package delivery industry. The training specialist spends weeks designing and developing a course that covers the following topics:
- How to collect packages from customers
- How to stack packages in their truck
- Which forms to use
- How to provide customer service
- How to handle undelivered packages
Now, imagine that the course goes live. On the first day of class, a large portion of the class asks, “When do we learn how to drive a delivery truck?” In this example, the instructional designer didn’t analyze the learners’ capabilities and assumed that all of the learners would have commercial drivers’ licenses. Because that assumption wasn’t accurate, the course leaves a key learning issue unaddressed. The course would need to be redesigned to fit the company’s hiring practices.
Keep Learners Involved
You want a course that challenges but doesn’t overwhelm your learners. If you don’t take time to study the learners and their contexts, you could make a course that bores learners because it’s too basic. You could also create a course that’s impossibly difficult for a group of learners—because it might assume that learners know more than they really do. It is not only important to know what material you’re going to teach, but also what your learners need to be taught.
Conduct an Instructional Analysis
Give Learners Clear Directions
Have you ever used an online map service to create a set of driving directions? When you enter your starting point and your destination, the service provides a series of step-by-step instructions that will guide you to your goal. Training is no different; you need a roadmap and directions.
- Your learner analysis provides your project’s starting location
- Your company’s business goals provide the destination
- Your instructional analysis provides the step-by-step instructions that take learners from start to finish
When Intulogy’s training specialists look at a training project, they identify what people will need to learn to achieve the company’s business goals. The learners might need new knowledge, skills, or behaviors. Intulogy’s training specialists conduct an instructional analysis to determine how to guide learners from their current capabilities to the course’s goals.
Create an Instructional Analysis
During the instructional analysis step, a training specialist might conduct a task analysis and create a competency map for learners. These tools help the training specialist define what learners must be able to do once they have completed the course.
Think back for a moment about the online roadmap. You can’t just walk out of your front door and instinctively know how to travel to a new place. Worse yet, imagine if you printed out a set of online directions that were missing an important turn. You might get lost and frustrated; you might even give up and never arrive at your destination.
For learners, training is a journey; they rely on you to provide them with an accurate set of directions. An instructional analysis ensures that the course will:
- Cover all information and steps that learners will need to know
- Exclude information that learners already know
- Exclude information that learners don’t need to know
The more accurate the instructional analysis, the easier the journey will be for the learners.
Think from a Learner’s Perspective
If you ask an expert to create a list of steps for a task, they’ll probably omit many steps they instinctively perform. An expert can take the right actions without consciously thinking about each step. When a training specialist conducts an instructional analysis, they watch the process with fresh eyes. They look for “unstated” knowledge and steps that the expert never consciously thinks about.
Imagine you want to teach someone how to write and send a letter. You probably learned this skill when you were in grade school, so you don’t consciously think about all of the mundane details it takes to mail a letter. You’re an expert now; you’re intuitively capable of those tasks. You’d actually have to stop and think about each step that you perform.
- Write the letter, including the introduction, body, and closing
- Address an envelope properly and legibly
- Affix proper postage to the envelope
- Deliver the envelope to the post office
That’s a basic task analysis, but there are some assumptions here that could cause problems for someone just learning how to send a letter:
- The list never tells the learner to put the letter in the envelope.
- The list never tells the learner to seal the envelope.
- How does the learner determine proper postage?
- Where should the postage stamp be placed?
Now, consider all of the complex tasks involved in writing a proposal, navigating your company’s in-house proprietary software, or meeting compliance requirements. If a learner doesn’t know about a step, it could mean the difference between success and failure. The instructional analysis makes sure that the course content exactly matches what learners need to know.