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.