Determining the learning needs of your audience
When people come to a platform to learn, they’re not all in the same boat – they have unique learning styles, different reasons for engaging in the material, and varying backgrounds and abilities that will impact their educational journey.
With this in mind, it’s crucial to consider the learning needs of your target audience when developing an e-learning resource. That way, the final product caters to their circumstances and meets them where they are in terms of their knowledge and needs, and is equipped with all the tools they need to reach the educational finish line.
Types of learning needs
In a nutshell, learning needs are what participants require to effectively engage with a resource. Below are the different learning needs you need to consider when building an e-learning resource.
Language, literacy and numeracy competency
Not everyone is able to read, write, and crunch numbers at the same level. You’ll have to consider where your target learners are at when it comes to language, literacy and numeracy, as this will impact the content you put out. For example, if English is your learners’ second language and they don’t read and write in the language very much, you’re probably better off creating videos that use simple, everyday language, rather than written content riddled with technical words they’ve probably never heard of. Knowing where your intended learners are at will help you create an e-learning resource with material they’ll actually be able to absorb.
Digital competence is the set of skills, knowledge and attitude that enables the confident, creative and critical use of technologies and systems. Every learner will have a different level of digital competence; for example, some will be tech whizzes who can make their way around any device and application, while others may have never touched a computer before.
All in all, you’ll need to consider your target audience’s digital competence when building an e-learning resource, to ensure they can actually use it and don’t run into technical hurdles that prevent them from achieving their educational goals. In the case of learners who aren’t all technology experts, you’d have to craft a stripped-backed interface, without all the bells and whistles, to keep things super straightforward.
Culture is another factor that comes into play in relation to learning needs, as the culture each learner comes from may impact their learning experience. When building out an e-learning resource, it’s your job to consider if there are any cultural needs and observances you need to integrate to be both inclusive and culturally appropriate.
Educational background and experience
Not everyone has the same education behind them, which is something else to consider when building out an e-learning resource. If you’re developing an e-learning resource as part of a recognised qualification, you may find it easier to structure as there’s more of an even playing field when it comes to the learners’ educational background. Workplace skills learning, on the other hand, may have learners from a variety of educational levels, which means you either need to strike a balance and create content that caters to them all or create specific resources for smaller learner subgroups.
Social and lifestyle differences
Just as everyone is unique, so are their lifestyles. Each person in a learning group has different commitments, jobs, income, access to resources, free time, relationships, etc., which can all impact how they learn. You’ll need to consider the types of people who are likely to use the e-learning resource, so it aligns with their social and lifestyle circumstances and so that they can access it easily.
The target audience of your e-learning resource will have unique learner personalities, preferences and habits. Be sure to take these into account when creating the e-learning resource, so you’re providing content that makes it easy for them to learn and retain the information.
Previous and current work experience
Last but not least, you’ll need to understand the intended learning group’s work experience so you can design and develop an e-learning resource that’s appropriate and applicable to them. This means all skills, knowledge and workplace history need to be factored into the current learning brief.
Learning characteristics are another thing to consider in the realm of learning needs, as they’ll directly affect how each learner responds to the learning. This table spotlights some examples of learner characteristics, and how they might affect your e-learning resource.
|Learner characteristic||How it affects your e-learning resource|
|Level and breadth of experience||Lots of experience||The pace of activities may be faster|
|Narrow breadth||Detailed explanations and step-by-step processes may be required|
|Special needs, physical or psychological age||Advanced development||Learners will require stimulating activities to keep them engaged|
|Poor vision||Large print tasks, with an emphasis on verbal learning|
|Motivation for learning||High motivation||Provide plenty of room for discussion and a range of activities to keep the learners occupied|
|Low motivation||Short bursts of highly personal relevant activities to capture and retain the learner’s attention|
|Learning style and preferences||Visual||Provide relevant images and videos|
|Kinaesthetic||Focus on tasks that have a physical component|
|Aural (auditory-musical)||Integrate audio content such as voice notes, podcasts, interviews, radio segments etc.|
|Social (interpersonal)||Run group activities and provide learners with opportunities to engage with each other|
|Solitary (intrapersonal)||Give learners more free reign over how they complete the course and room to conduct independent work|
|Verbal (linguistic)||Provide a blend of oral and written tasks|
|Logical (mathematical)||Integrate puzzles and games that need to be solved|
|Socio-economic background||Low-income background||Provide all resources that are required (e.g. access to computers, internet, working headphones and microphone)|
|Always on-the-go||Consider delivery over mobile phones|
The influence of any particular characteristic on a learner’s training experience will depend on how the training occurs. If the learner feels comfortable and supported, then it will have a lesser effect than if the learner is placed in an unfamiliar environment where they have little idea of what’s going on.
Take an online classroom, for example. When students aren’t familiar with computers, have never interacted online, and don’t know the other students, they’ll often feel uncomfortable turning on their camera and taking part in conversations. Once they’re confident using video conferencing technology, and have formed relationships with others, it’s often a lot easier for them to interact and engage in the training.
Another example would be where a student with low computer literacy is required to sign onto a Learning Management System (LMS) and complete e-learning modules. This can be scary and frustrating without somebody to help and support them, but with someone to guide them along the way, it can be exciting and empowering instead.
Prior to designing your e-learning resource, it’s crucial to conduct a thorough analysis of the learners that make up your target audience, including their needs and characteristics, so you can create a resource that suits them. Make sure you understand how they best learn and how much support (in addition to the e-learning resource) they’ll need to successfully reach the finish line. This will not only give the learners the best chance at success but also keep the development of the resource on the right track.