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Elements of Web-based Learning Design – Part 1

Joe is an instructional designer, working with a large electronic goods manufacturer. Recently, he designed a web-based training (WBT) module for the company’s service staff. The online learning module was highly interactive and contained stunning animations. Joe was confident that the technology-enabled learning material would be a grand success. But, he was disappointed when his boss told him that the e-learning module received poor response.

Several online course designers face a similar predicament. Why do many WBT materials that are highly interactive and incorporate other best practices of e-learning design fail to deliver desired results? Well, the answer is – they do not address learners’ needs.

How Can This Problem be Overcome?

A thorough understanding of learners’ needs is the solution. This can be achieved through comprehensive analysis of the learners’ requirements. This will help you know whether learners are experienced professionals or novices. You will have a clear idea of the knowledge and skills they need to acquire, and this will enable you frame proper learning objectives. Learner analysis will also shed light on computer literacy levels of your target audience, which will help you choose interactivities of right complexity for online course. Analysis of target learners also helps in knowing the environment in which they work, which goes a long way in designing an e-learning course that improves their productivity.

What Does It Take to Analyze Needs of Learners?

The following key aspects need to be focused upon to conduct a good learner analysis.

1. Determine the Purpose of the Online Course

You can get information about the purpose of developing the online course by asking the following questions.

  • Who is the audience for the e-learning course?
  • What are the challenges faced by the audience?
  • How is the web-based course expected to resolve them?

2. Build a Demographic Profile of Learners

You can build a demographic profile of learners by posing the following questions.

  • What is the average age of the learners?
  • Does the target audience primarily comprise men, women, or a fair mix of both genders?
  • What is their educational qualification – high school diploma, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or PhD?
  • What is their socio-cultural background?

3. Gather Information about Their Work and Experience

You can obtain information about the work and experience of the learners by asking the following questions.

  • What is the learners’ level of work experience – fresh graduates from school, junior to mid-level staff members, or senior employees?
  • Are they blue-collared employees or white-collared staff?
  • What is their knowledge of subject-matter that is to be presented in the online course?
  • How will they use the given information and skills in their job?
  • What is the work setting in which they use this training?
  • What is the level of their motivation?

4. Know Their Technical Preferences 

You can get an understanding about the technical preferences of learners by asking the following questions.

  • How comfortable are the learners using computers?
  • What are the devices and applications used by them?
  • Do learners have any resources to assist them?

5. Find Out What They Expect

This information can be obtained by posing the following questions.

  • What is the tone expected by the learners – informal, formal or professional?
  • What is the terminology to be used in the course?
  • How much time can the learners spend on the e-learning course?
  • Does the audience include people with special needs?

Conducting a proper learner needs analysis helps understand the requirements of learners effectively. By asking the above-mentioned questions, you can comprehend the needs of your learners and design a web-based course that meets their expectations. In my next post, we will look at the best practices of visual design for online training.

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