The Importance of Needs Analysis in eLearning Development

Designing Digitally


Think of any training project you have been involved in. Now, ask yourself, was it successful? Better yet, do you know what success for that particular training project should look like?

If you answered no to either of those questions, or you answered yes by looking at how many people participated or received a passing grade, then you should take a closer look at needs analysis.

Learning takes many different forms. The one most of us are familiar with is the passing on, or creation of, knowledge. This is the basis for traditional academic learning. However, most training, or at least successful training, isn’t simply academic in nature. We train because we are looking to do more than affect cognitive abilities. We train because we also want to affect behavior. This means that just measuring participation or passing won’t tell us if we were successful. Instead, we need to measure behavior, but not just any behavior. We need to make sure we are training to, and taking measurements of, the right behavior. This is where Needs Analysis helps out.

What It Is

In short, Needs Analysis is used to identify the gap between a desired behavior and the actual behavior, then map out how to remove the gap.

Lots of different experts have come up with lots of different ways to perform a Needs Analysis, some even have helpful fill in the blank worksheets. But all of these variations have a few key points in common. The first is to start with a clear understanding of the problem or behavior you want to effect. Then, work out what is affecting it.

How It Works

Say you’re looking to reduce the number of back strain injuries at your warehouse facility. You have the behavior you want to affect, but to be successful, you still need to know why the injuries are happening. It could be that your employees don’t know proper lifting procedures. It could be that they do know but because of time or other pressures, they aren’t following procedures. It’s also possible that ignoring procedures has become a modeled behavior from more senior employees. Knowing which is your root cause helps ensure you can deliver the appropriate training, and deliver it to the appropriate audience. In a nut shell, you need to first define the problem and discover its cause, before you can build the right solution. What you need is Needs Analysis.

Needs Analysis will help you take the gap between your employees’ current performance and your ideal goal for their performance and mold it into training that addresses and overcomes that gap. Perhaps your research reveals that the increase in back injuries is due to time constraints or pressures rather than lack of knowledge. You now know you need to create training focusing on ways your employees can manage their time on the job more efficiently. If you’d created your training without Needs Analysis, you might have assumed lack of knowledge was the reason for their injuries, and the training you developed from this would be less effective for them and more costly to you.

Needs Analysis will fully equip you to create successful training for your staff. You’ll have a larger, fuller picture of your target audience and the steps you need to take to elicit improved behavior from them. You’re much more likely to get the results you’re looking for if you give it a chance to work for you.