Training Needs Analysis For eLearning: 2 Sets Of Questions To Ask The Client 

Training Needs Analysis For eLearning: 2 Sets Of Questions To Ask The Client 
Summary: Now it’s time to meet the client for the very first time as an eLearning Project Manager in order to discuss in detail their training needs and the overall requirements of the eLearning course to be developed. This step is not about selling; the client has already agreed to work with your company, and most probably, has already signed a contract, too. In this article, I will examine what happens in this very first meeting with the client, how the eLearning Project Manager identifies what to be included in the eLearning course to be produced by using the right set of questions for training needs analysis for eLearning, and how this meeting proceeds by setting priorities and documenting what to be delivered .

2 Sets Of Questions To Perform Training Needs Analysis For eLearning

Meeting the client is the very first action an eLearning Project Manager should take in order to initiate the eLearning project. The purpose of this meeting is to identify, define, and document all client training requirements related to the specific eLearning course(s) to be developed, in a measurable and testable way. The more specific the initial documentation of these requirements is, the less the misunderstanding from both sides and the easier it will be for the eLearning Project Manager to deal with the eLearning project in terms of cost management and delivery dates.

The fact that the client has opted to assign the development of the eLearning course to your company, is indicative that the client, most probably, does not want to dedicate too much time or human resources. In any case, though, there will always be a person in charge of the eLearning project to communicate with; this person will be accountable to evaluate and approve all eLearning deliverables. Getting this person involved in ALL stages of the process is key, as you proceed throughout the eLearning design and development phases. This minimizes the amount of revisions needed, that is the most time-consuming part of the process. Depending on the size of the company, this person may be from the IT, HR or Training Department, even the owner of the company or a Subject Matter Expert. As soon as it’s  clear who to be contacted on behalf of the client, it is important for the eLearning Project Manager to know how they prefer to be contacted, as well as, when they will be available, as their contribution and feedback will be required at various stages of the eLearning project.

Asking the right questions is of utmost importance for the success of this very first meeting with the client. In this article, I will present 2 sets of questions dealing with different aspects to be taken into account during your first meetings with the client, in order to identify the requirements of the eLearning Project by conducting a successful training needs analysis.

Question Set 1: Training Needs Analysis For eLearning

  1. Behavioral / Performance Requirements.
    What behavioral changes are expected upon employee´s completion of the eLearning course? How these behavioral changes will be measured based on performance requirements. Is the eLearning course(s) they have in mind what they really need? Unless, the client has identified the training needs of their company internally, a training needs analysis is possible to be assigned to the eLearning company that has undertaken the eLearning project, too. This stage involves requirements gathering from various sources, such as through questionnaires distributed to company’s employees, personal interviews with the department managers or even direct observation of employees during work time. This last one is also especially valuable as a source of information, even if the eLearning course the client has demanded is well specified, as it can give the eLearning Project Manager to get a thorough overview of the course-related operations within the company, and the real challenges in terms of the learning gap the eLearning course is supposed to fulfill. This will also provide the eLearning Project Manager with ideas for potential real-world scenarios to be included in the eLearning course in order for the latter to be as “close” to the real needs of the company as possible.
  2. Technical Infrastructure of the company.
    Another aspect to be identified during this phase is the technical feasibility of the eLearning project from the client’s side. Does the client have the technical infrastructure for the realization of eLearning course to be developed? Do they already have an eLearning platform or LMS? Are they interested in developing and hosting one, or they will opt for a cloud-based LMS solution? Explain the benefits and weaknesses of each option, in order to facilitate their decision-making process. Although one would say that all these questions are not directly related to the eLearning course, giving the client the big picture is an important milestone to set for building trust. All these are decisions to be taken from the client’s side, and there is no use of having an eLearning course without any Learning Management System to upload it.
  3. Technical Requirements of the eLearning Course.
    It is also important to find out information such as the type of device employees will access the eLearning content from, the software employees have installed into their computers, etc. Does the company follow a Bring Your Own Device Policy (BYOD)? In this case, it would be difficult for the client to guarantee that all employees have the required software, or software version, installed. In addition, if employees are accessing eLearning from mobile devices, there may be certain problems regarding Flash file compatibility for those using iOS and Android devices.
  4. Organizational Requirements.
    Regarding the LMS, training needs analysis for eLearning also involves finding out additional information, such as how internal communication takes place among departments, who will need to see the eLearning reports, what type of system permissions are needed to be assigned to whom, etc.
  5. Functional Requirements.
    What is the estimated number of learners per eLearning course? How much control they will be given to leaners? Will the design be linear? Open? Adaptive? What type of “Help” options will be given? Will it be an online tutorial, an FAQ, or a downloadable /online manual? These are just some of the extra practical considerations that would provide the eLearning Project Manager with additional information, in order not only to offer added value to the eLearning deliverables, but also to calculate the cost of the eLearning project.

Question Set 2: Criteria For Setting Priorities In Terms of eLearning Deliverables

Once the client’s training requirements have been gathered, the next step is to start setting priorities, in order to group these requirements together. Identify the required skills to be developed per department and brainstorm with the client about the content of possible eLearning course(s) that would meet these needs. Finally, when there is an agreement of what would be needed, it’s time to prioritize the eLearning courses to be developed based on the following criteria:

  1. Urgency.
    How urgent is it for the employees of the company to acquire these particular skills identified? Does it have a direct effect on their current performance?
  2. Number of employees who need this particular set of skills.
    Although you may find it obvious that the more the employees, the higher the need for the specific eLearning course, this may not always be the case. You still have to specify this point with the client, as they are the ones who know better the priorities of their company. For instance, they may decide an eLearning course addressing to managers to take priority over a massive eLearning course addressing to employees. In any case, do not take anything for granted. You need to ask the client.
  3. eLearning budget.
    When the client’s eLearning budget is limited, the eLearning course(s) to be developed should get prioritized in order of importance. Budget allocation is also another issue to be discussed with the client. Does the client prefer to allocate eLearning budget to acquiring more eLearning courses that meet the minimum requirements, or to fewer eLearning courses of higher quality? From personal experience I can tell that most companies opt for quantity over quality, having in mind that once the eLearning course is created, they will sooner or later have the opportunity to improve it by enriching the eLearning content with more graphics and interactivity. An exception seems to be clients who are developing these eLearning courses, not for internal use, but rather for reselling purposes to their own clients.

Once the client’s requirements have been gathered and analyzed and the client along with the eLearning Project Manager have concluded to the eLearning course(s) to be developed, they proceed to the respective documentation of these requirements and the eLearning Design Document is prepared. The Design document is actually what goes to the Instructional Designer(s) to start working on specific course outlines to be sent to client for revision / approval. Once approved, instructional designers may proceed to storyboard development. Training Needs Analysis for eLearning during the first meeting with the client is actually what initiates the eLearning design and development process.

Concluding, we can say that performing Training Needs Analysis for eLearning also has 3 additional benefits for the eLearning Project Manager: First, it shows the client in a measurable way that the problem is real. Second, it helps him propose an eLearning solution that has been specifically designed and targeted to meet the client’s real needs. Third, it shows the client the added value of the proposed solution.

Well begun is half done. During this very first meeting with the client, trust is built between the two parties, and building trust with the client at the beginning will make your life easier later on, as both parties know exactly what to expect in terms of the eLearning course(s) to be developed as far as content and quality are concerned. This to the client’s mind can only have one meaning: that the eLearning end-product to acquire worth every penny he pays.

Want to learn more about how to track the progress of your eLearning course as an eLearning Manager? Read the article Top 6 Skills Of An Outstanding eLearning Project Manager to discover the top qualities an outstanding eLearning Project Manager should have in order to manage the eLearning team and be able to provide excellent eLearning deliverables to the client.