Training Needs Assessment & Requirements Gathering

I should have written this this prior to the Storyboarding post as I received a few direct emails asking me to elaborate a bit on my methods for conducting a training needs assessment.  Let me first start by telling you that you shouldn’t be too surprised to find out that your clients don’t know what they need or that they may have some far out goal that goes beyond the scope of the training they are asking for.  It’s your job to put your project management hat on and help your client define their goal.

Additionally, just because they think they need or just want a training module developed doesn’t mean that they actually need one.  This is where you have to get some nerve and be willing to tell your clients that that training may not be what they need.

I remember my first project as an instructional designer, I was scared witless.  The client was very strong-head and wanted what they wanted – “self-paced elearning“.  I spent weeks developing training that they eventually decided they didn’t need.  I should have had the guts to suggest that maybe self-paced training wasn’t what they needed and given them other options.

I’m a fast learner, so I made sure I wouldn’t go through the same scenario again.  I developed a Training Needs Assessment Worksheet (TrainNeedAssessWksht <—download a copy), that I use whenever I receive a training request.  I address each request in the same manner, by picking up the phone and calling the person to chat about the request.  You’d be amazed at the amount of information you can get from a simple phone call.  There will be situations where you will discover that they really don’t need a training module, what they need is something else, like new software. This one call could save you tons of time.

There may also be situations where it is cheaper to have you build an elearning module than it is to purchase a ready-to-use module from a larger company.  With the way budgets are today, this may become a very familiar scenario to you, if it hasn’t already. You need to be able to Assess the Need and then Gather the Requirements.

Again, don’t be too surprised if you find that your client doesn’t really know what they need, when gathering requirements.  I use another form just to make sure I get enough information to get start (Requirements Doc<–download a copy).  I also use an iterative process.

When you use an iterative process, you build a segment go back to the client to show them what you have. You’ll then get feedback and more requirements that you can then incorporate.  The point is to build your module in chunks and give the clients small pieces.  In this way your client is aware of your progress, you can overcome stumbling blocks, get clarification and know whether you are on or off track. Clients like this because they are not sitting wondering what is going on with their request and you are able to create elearning that is in alignment with the client’s business goal and meeting their requirements. You can say it makes for an elearning Utopia.

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