Training needs analysis

A training needs analysis helps gain a better understanding of the problem that the training course is aiming to solve. It ultimately answers the why, who, what, and when. First, the HFE and the ID establish the targeted audience. Establishing and analyzing the audience pinpoints key demographics, previous background knowledge, availability to learn, and possible challenges. This will in turn help identify the appropriate information needed for the course and how to best present it to the audience.

Once the target audience is identified, the HFE leads a user engagement to gain a better sense of the learners’ problems with the current training tool, or the lack thereof. User engagement options include user interviews, usability tests, and meeting with SMEs. The recommended option that yields the most insight is a combination of usability tests and user interviews. Observing users and asking questions give a better understanding on how learners get through their current training, how often they refer back to it, and if there are certain sections that are hard to comprehend.

Task analysis

Once the why, who, what, and when of the course are answered, specific course tasks and processes are identified and broken down into steps. The task analysis determines what is taught and helps provide an overall outline of the course. The HFE, ID, and Ux designer assess provided artifacts, including current training methods, system overview documents, and business processes. Tasks are then identified to meet course objectives.

Tasks are categorized as either procedural or principle-based. Procedural tasks are tasks performed in an ordered sequence while principle-based tasks require learners to apply judgment and decisions in different scenarios. Once categorized, each task is further broken down by steps (for procedural tasks) or into guidelines (for principle-based tasks), making sure that knowledge and skills needed for each are also identified.

With the list of tasks, the instructional designer now creates a course plan. A course plan includes the different topics of the course and the lessons associated with each. First, a course sequence is chosen. Given the nature of the course, the recommended course sequence is a mix of the prerequisite method and zoom principle. The prerequisite method uses a learning objectives hierarchy, where the knowledge and skills that are a prerequisite for the learning objectives are taught first. The zoom principle gives a general overview before diving into the course specific topics. Next, learning objectives are defined for each topic and lesson. Learning objectives, which have an expected level of understanding of the content, define the knowledge and skills gained by the time the lesson is complete. The course plan is a model for the design and development phases and helps the ID remember the main takeaways for each lesson.

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