Audience Analysis, Critical for Instructional Outcomes

Written by Patti Shank PhD, CPT
It may not reflect all of the chat2lrn moderator opinions.

Audience analysis is part of the need analysis process during instructional design. The purpose of audience analysis is to help us understand who we are dealing with (including the organizational system) and how to serve them most effectively.

What Happens During Audience Analysis?

Some of the things considered during audience analysis:

  • Target audience: Who is the target (primary) audience and any secondary audiences? What are their expectations and needs? What problems are they experiencing? What is their level of experience? How much will they participate? How much time do they have? How will we respond, with instructional and non-instructional interventions?
  • Environment analysis: The entire environment people operate in. Leadership, learning, performance, business, competitive, work, tools, the entire system…
  • Instructional analysis: What tasks are needed to learn? Do people all know the same thing? How quickly does the information change? Is this declarative or procedural information? Is this information that people need to memorize?
  • Technical analysis: Does this involve technology? Hardware/software?  Will it be changing? How does it tie into company infrastructure? Who will deal with the hardware and software? Does the audience have the ability and capacity to deal with the technology and keep up with it? Who will build and maintain it?

Why Should We Perform Audience Analysis?

In “The Science of Training and Development in Organizations: What Matters in Practice,” Eduardo Salas and his fellow authors proclaim that “decisions about what to train, how to train, and how to implement and evaluate training should be informed by the best information science has to offer.”

I write about the critical nature of needs analysis for good training outcomes, according to Salas and fellow authors research in my ATD Science of Learning Blog article, Science of Learning 101: The Latest Research on Needs Analysis and Learning Climate (

Below is Table 2 from the Salas paper (, which shows that needs analysis is the key factor for maximizing training outcomes before training.

Table 2



Below, Table 3 of the paper, the needs analysis items that are most critical are clarified.

Table 3


The very first item, Conduct training needs analysis, includes (emphasis is mine):

Determine what needs to be trained, who needs to be trained, and what type of organizational system you are dealing with.

Wearables and L+D

This post was written by Holly MacDonald of Spark + Co, one of our chat2lrn crew.

The internet of things is coming and in some cases it’s already here. Wearables are everywhere. It behooves us in the training field to track these technology changes and consider how they might influence our own practices. As with many technological advances, the potential for change is huge. Wearables create equal parts of fascination and fear for many people in general. And while it might seem far-fetched or sci-fi, it is not a movement that will go away.

First of all, what is a “wearable”?

According to

The terms “wearable technology“, “wearable devices“, and “wearables” all refer to electronic technologies or computers that are incorporated into items of clothing and accessories which can comfortably be worn on the body.

Wearables can have more than one function:

  • Accessing content
    • Google Glass
    • VR headsets (Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard)
    • Smart Watch
  • Trigger behaviour – these are “haptic touch” type of triggers. Your device or clothing buzzes you. This might remind you of something, or stop /start a behaviour.
    • Smart Watch/jewellry
    • Fitbit
    • Bands
  • Provide feedback
    • Typically a wearable device plus an app – e.g runtracker, biofeedback,

What are the implications for L+D?

  1. Delivering Training

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality devices and software can provide a very robust simulated environment or enriched environment for training. This is used already in medical training, the military and flight training. Eventually, it’ll be a possibility for other industries as well.

Location specific beacons and a wearable (or an app) could serve up context/location specific content for employee training. Imagine a new employee who works in a certain physical section and needs to learn product and process in order to do their job. Training would not have to be linked to a computer, but could be triggered when the learner enters a certain area. This is already widely used in museums and other tourist attractions.

  1. Performance Support

There are lots of ways that we can consider wearables as performance support tools.

Training can be reinforced and performance can be monitored to help our learners adjust and refine their performance. For example, in physical jobs, smart clothing can collect data to help reduce repetitive strain injury. Immediate and specific corrective coaching could help avoid a lifetime of pain.

A new employee could wear a go-pro camera to record their actions the first time they complete a task after training and analyze where they could do things differently. They could even ask a more experienced employee to review with them or coach them.

An employee could set their wearable to nudge them during task completion with reminders or immediate feedback to ensure that they are doing it right. This would be especially useful for job sites that are “field based”.

Knowledge workers might use “mood tracker” and device combinations to monitor their own performance, much like a high performing athlete does. The “Quantified Self” movement could be adapted to learning, where individuals use wearables to provide information and feedback about their learning goals.

Probably the biggest fear for people in L+D is the potential for employers to use the technology to spy, punish or otherwise manipulate workers. This is a valid fear, but still won’t stop the wearable movement from happening, so it’s better to get out in front of it and shape how it might work for good in L+D.

Come and join the chat on Thursday, November 3rd to learn more about wearables, share your experience, or feed your fascination!


For the keeners:

I wrote a number of posts about this earlier this year that go into more detail of the possible ways that wearables could play a role in L+D.

I also encourage you to read Donald Clark’s posts on VR, he always has insightful comments.

Julian Stodd also wrote a couple of posts that are really great and

Producing Videos for Training

Today’s post is written by Andrea May (@andreamay1), #chat2lrn crew member and Vice President of Instructional Design Services at Dashe & Thomson in Minneapolis, MN. Andrea is an instructional designer, project manager, wife, mother, Girl Scout troop leader and theater artist. 

video_IconOver the last decade on the professional front I’ve created my fair share of screen cast
videos with voice over for a variety of eLearning programs and provided script or other input for a handful of live videos. Traditionally, I’ve shied away from live videos unless in was a true necessity because of the rather large costs involved.

In my personal life over the same 10 or 15 years, I’ve seen the video cameras I’ve owned go from a clunky unit that weighed several pounds with fairly low quality, to a smaller, more streamlined unit, to a combination digital still and video camera, to just one of the many things we can do in fairly high quality with the smartphones in our pockets. Not only that, but we can shoot a video on the fly and have it uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo to share with the world in mere seconds.

For some training or eLearning programs, that type of video might be appropriate, but generally I think the preference is for high quality edited video with good lighting and sound, whether that is audio recorded with the video or added later as a voice over. Until the last few years, that often meant hiring specialists to light, shoot and edit the video. Now those lines have blurred. Low cost equipment is now available that can produce high quality results. Editing software is readily available and much more intuitive than it used to be. In short, amateurs with a little money, and some practice and good planning, can produce the videos they need for their training and eLearning programs.

At the eLearning Guild’s DevLearn conference a few weeks ago, I attended a session that opened up even more possibilities in my mind for producing training videos. The session looked at how GoPro cameras could be used to cheaply produce high quality videos for training, particularly in situations where it would be dangerous or otherwise impossible to get a camera crew in to do the shoot.

GoPro on Hard HatFor the last several years, I’ve been working on developing and maintaining both classroom and eLearning programs that train propane industry employees all over the country. I could immediately see a ton of applications for shooting video this way that would have been difficult and/or cost prohibitive before.  These amazing little cameras are cheap, easy to use, produce high quality video, and best of all, hands-free. I can see endless possibilities that I had never really considered before.

What about you? Do you use video in your programs, and if so, how do you produce them? How do you make decisions about when and how to use video? Have you ever used or considered using GoPros for shooting your videos? Join us on October 22nd, 8:00am PDT, 11:00am EDT, 4:00pm BST for a #chat2lrn discussing these and other questions.


The Problem with Millennials

This week’s post is written by Ross Garner (@R0ssGarner). Ross is an Online Instructional Designer at GoodPractice and the most recent addition to the #chat2lrn crew. Unfortunately, he is one of the golden generation: born between 1980 and 2000, he expects to be praised for the slightest effort and loses interest after 140 characters…

Image courtesy Flickr user musyani75.

Image courtesy Flickr user musyani75.

There’s a problem facing today’s organisations: millennials, those self-satisfied young folk born between the 1980s and early 200s.

Walk into any office and you’ll see them sitting there, smugly Snapchatting each other, getting distracted by smartphone notifications and popping out to run personal errands.

They’re narcissistic, pop-culture obsessed zombies: the product of participation medals, child locks and E! online. They think that a tweet is an appropriate medium for corporate communication and they get all of their news from Facebook.

They were told from an early age that they could be whatever they want to be, and they don’t half go on about it.

No job is ever good enough. No sooner have you hired one and spent a fortune on training than they’ve handed in their notice because something better has come along.

They don’t mind working evenings and weekends, but want to take time off whenever they please. They say they value feedback, but are crushed by the slightest criticism. They walk right up to the CEO with their great new business idea and expect it to be implemented immediately.

And don’t worry: they won’t be offended by all this. They won’t even have read this far. After 140 characters they’ll have switched to a new tab without even realising what they’re doing.

Or will they?

When I was at the ATD conference in Orlando earlier this year, almost every session I went to mentioned millennials. “Training needs to move online or millennials won’t engage with it”. “You’d better include badges so that millennials feel like they’ve been rewarded”. “You’d better chunk your training because millennials can’t focus for more than two minutes”.

But what’s the truth here? Do millennials have different expectations to their older colleagues? Do they learn differently? Do they even exist?

Join #chat2lrn to share your views and thoughts on “The Problem with Millennials” Thursday 8 October 8.00 PDT/11.00 EDT/16.00 BST.

Do we take our SMES for granted?

Today’s post comes from Fiona Quigley (@fionaquigs), chat2lrn crew member and Unappreciated SMEDirector of Learning Innovation for Logicearth Learning Services. The chat serves two purposes this week.

First – to introduce you to a brilliant DevLearn 2015 session being run by our very own Andrea May, and her able conspirator, Dawn Mahoney.

Entitled, From SME Smackdown to Nirvana, you can read more about it here.

The session runs on October 1st and if any of you are going to DevLearn this year, I’d urge you to consider going to listen to these two fabulously knowledgeable ladies. Andrea and Dawn aim to try to get us out of the ‘kick the SME’ habit and see how we can really get under the hood of what makes them tick.

The second purpose of this blog post is to consider more fully the purpose, role and usefulness of communicating well with the SME.

So that is today’s question. Is the SME a gift that we undervalue?

A SME, in case you aren’t aware is a Subject Matter Expert. Traditionally, it is the person or persons that eLearning folks use to design eLearning content. If you talk to any instructional designer or indeed eLearning project manager, it won’t be long before they are sharing their ‘SME war stories’. In fact, along with the LMS, put a room full of IDs together, and most of the conversations are likely to include SMEs.

The SME is vital to the success of an eLearning project. It is the SME who sets the tone and depth of the content, as well as (hopefully) helping to provide an insight into the target audience. But it is often east meets west when it comes to ID and SME understanding what each needs from the other.

So this week’s chat, I’d like to focus on the relationship of the SME to the eLearning project, and to also think a little beyond the traditional purpose that most of us attribute to the SME.

What is it all about?

If you think about what we demand or need from a SME, it is a bit of a tall order. First and foremost, the SME has a day job. Secondly, they aren’t likely to know much about eLearning, never mind training. Some SMEs are trainers, and this can often help, but by and large, SMEs are ordinary folks who happen to just know a lot about a particular subject.

When you think about the average eLearning project, it is often very time pressured and has a fairly narrow scope in terms of the knowledge and skills we wish to impart. That means from get go, SMEs have to take on a lot of rules in which to impart that knowledge. And most of us involved in learning know that once you put someone under pressure with lots of rules and caveats, it can stiffle communication.

Often SMEs are thrust into the fray because:

  1. No-one else wants to do it
  2. No-one else has time
  3. They didn’t know enough to say no! (or they had no choice)

Understanding where the SME is coming from is a vital first step in building a good relationship. To this end, working along with Dawn and Andrea, we’ve come up with a magnificent seven SME archetypes:

Magnificent 7 SME Archetypes

What we were aiming to do here is to help people think of the SME as someone that we should at least meet half-way. It is important to spend time understanding the SME’s pressures and how to work with them to make imparting their knowledge and insights as easy as possible. We’d argue that it is up to Instructional Designers, along with Project Managers to manage the eLearning development process in such a way that the SME is setup for success.

Everyone is a SME in this modern age!

At a quick glance, you might think we’ve been a bit harsh with the names of our SME archetypes. But on closer inspection, it is more subtle than that. Who hasn’t felt clueless, or unfocussed or a little bit control freakish from time to time on a project? Remember that feeling, because it will help you to help your SME.

However, in this networked world, we’d argue that getting ahead in the workplace is just as dependant on the knowledge and relationships in your network as it is on your own knowledge. A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewing two SMEs and it struck me that the types of precise, targeted questions that I was asking would actually serve me well in most business conversations. Are the skills I use for helping SMEs to impart their knowledge really just good communication and listening skills, and should I apply/practice them more widely?

So join us for #chat2lrn on Thursday September 24th, 8:00 PDT/11:00 EDT/16:00 BST. Can we leverage good SME communication skills to help all of our business relationships?

Internal vs. External

Today’s post comes to us from #chat2lrn crew members, Meg Bertapelle & Holly MacDonald.

Meg is a Senior Instructional Designer of Clinical and Product Education at Intuitive Surgical, a medical device company which makes the da Vinci Surgical System. You can find her on twitter at @megbertapelle

Holly is the owner and principal consultant of Spark + Co, a boutique training company that provides custom training solutions to organizations for employees or customers. You can find her on twitter at @sparkandco  

Startup Stock Photos

Meg and Holly were chatting about the differences between internal and external L+D work, and captured some of their observations in this blog post.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as an internal L+D expert?

Meg: I would have to say that we run so lean sometimes, that our team isn’t able to really do our best work under the timelines & sheer number and scope of projects assigned to us. Always having to compromise on the best solution to get an OK solution out the door eventually gets exhausting.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as an external L+D expert?

Holly: Typically the biggest challenge is communication. Working with such a range of clients, some of whom are brand new to e-learning, others who are familiar with it means that we are constantly having to check assumptions, confirm things and keep those lines of communication open.

How do you deal with analysis as an internal/external?

Meg: Our fall-back position is always surveys and focus-groups, but sometimes the timeline of a given project just doesn’t allow for those methods, and we have to try to extrapolate information about the need from internal folks that work closely with the true audience. Our company just recently created a data analytics group that will work cross-functionally to gather what data we can directly from our products, and will advise on other ways to incorporate data gathering as learning experiences are designed and revised. I’m very excited about this because we might actually get real (not anecdotal) information about the gaps in our current materials and processes.

Holly:I think it’s easier as an external to do analysis, since you need to get information about the client and the learning need before moving ahead. I think as an external, you get more latitude to do an analysis. That being said, sometimes you find out that the problem is not a training one and those are not conversations the client always wants to have. But, if it won’t fix the problem, then they need to know.

What design challenges do you face as an internal/external

Meg: Usually time is my biggest challenge here. I would LOVE to be able to design tons of scenario-based practice activities; link directly to resources; provide everything our learners need in an easily-accessible, SINGLE place; and provide just-in-time and performance support for a truly flexible and end-to-end solution to all of our challenges. It just ends up being impossible while also keeping up with the project load on our team.

Another big challenge for us is that in order to meet deadlines, especially for product-related training materials, we have to split up design & development work between team members, and then struggle with the lack of consistency in the end result.

Like Holly, we have to adhere somewhat to the company brand guidelines, but thankfully (!!) more of the general feeling rather than the “letter of the law.”

Holly: Either the constraints of the “brand guidelines” where the client’s marketing team has decided to apply branding rules to elearning. This can really mean that you aren’t able to get as creative as you’d like. I usually try to find out if there’s a way to adapt the brand guidelines to elearning. To be honest, if not, then I’d actually consider walking away. If the branding overshadows the need to learn, then it can actually be an indicator of an organization that really doesn’t value learning.

The other common constraint is that the budget is not big enough to get custom design assets, so you head into your digital closet to see what you’ve collected and stockpiled over the years to use on the project. One other aspect that I’ve found challenging is to source great designers who get instructional design and/or elearning. I have found a few who kind of get it, but there is sometimes a tension around which designer knows best.

What implementation challenges exist as an internal/external?

Meg: Managing the different permutations of products released where & when – what system, what software version, where is it cleared, where is it launched, in what language… (did you hear that? it was my head exploding)

Holly: The LMS. That’s the biggest challenge we’ve faced with the implementation. Some clients engage us to work on their launch plan with them, but sometimes we hand it off to the LMS Administrator or IT department and that’s the end of it.

What do wish you could do that you can’t as internal/external?

Meg: I think I would love to be able to say “no” to a project that I just don’t want to do. LOL :) Honestly, since my biggest constraint is usually time, and I imagine that’s not that different in an external role, I’m not sure what else to wish for! Hopefully some of you in the chat will give me some good ideas that I can try to make happen internally ;)

Holly: I have been an internal before and I think the thing I miss the most is the ability to modify the program once it’s launched, or having a more flexible role to extend the program. As an external, you live and die by your scope and once the program is launched, it’s gone. We’re very lucky to have long term relationships with our clients, so we do get to do some of that with them. But, for some it’s a budget decision.

What do you think you could teach internal/external?

Meg: I have a lot of “tribal knowledge” of our business, so I think I could help an external person come up with a solution that would fit our organization, and make a business case for it. Sometimes the things that matter to the organization are not as visible to someone external.

Holly: After doing this for so long with many different clients, I think the thing I’ve really mastered is how to understand a client’s business quickly. I get to use my “ignorance card” constantly and coming at things from the perspective where you know little or nothing means you have a unique point of view. I have one client who often says things like: “I love how you make us think about things in ways we haven’t thought before.” When you are internal, it’s much harder to maintain that perspective. You need to find ways to do that consciously, otherwise you just end up making assumptions.

What about you? What have you found to be the benefits and challenges of being either an internal or external learning expert?

Let’s discuss during #chat2lrn on Sep. 10th, 8:00 PDT/11:00 EDT/16:00 BST

Hope to see you there!

Making Social Learning Happen!

This week’s post comes from #chat2lrn crew member, Judith Christian-Carter. Judith is a Director of Effective Learning Solutions, a UK-based learning services company. You can find her on Twitter @JudithELS

What’s happened to social learning?Social learning handbook

Maybe it’s just me but, after several years of hearing and seeing the term ‘Social Learning’ on an almost daily basis, it now seems to have faded out of frequent use. Forget Bandura’s social learning theory for one moment, as that’s not what we’re talking about here. Neither is the fact that social learning is an inherent human condition. No, what we’re talking about here is the way that learning and working is happening, or should be happening, in organisations.

It was back in 2011 when Jane Hart really pushed the whole idea of Social Learning into the limelight with the publication of the first edition of her extremely well-received Handbook. Back then, Jane, and others, were talking about and demonstrating how the social media tools of the day could, and should, emancipate people to become workplace learners. It was these tools that shaped social learning in the second decade of the 21st Century.

4 years on …

Not only do all these tools still exist but they have also been improved, made more Social mediauser-friendly, grown in number and, even more importantly, are now used by even more people than ever before. Just compare how many people are using tools like Twitter, Facebook, Skype, YouTube and Pinterest today with 4-years ago, and what they are using them for. Are people learning through the use of these tools? You bet they are! Are they using them even more for workplace and social learning, and if not, why not? Well, on that one the jury is out but it’s about to be called back in!

The #chat2lrn jury

Social Learning is not something you just talk about or read about, it’s something you do!” (Jane Hart, 2011). So, as a member of the jury, is social learning happening in your world or not? If it is, what’s making it happen? If it’s not happening, then what will it need to take to make it happen? 

Join the jury and discuss these and other questions on 27th August 2015.