Understanding the target audience is one of the cardinal rules of effective eLearning development. Knowing your learners helps you to shape your message in a way that's most likely to resonate with them. Also, having a thorough knowledge of your audience before you prepare your course, will help you to choose the appropriate informational material, figure out the most effective instructional strategy, design an audience-sensitive message, select the right media to transmit the message, and create a learning environment where learners feel supported.
You have to focus on many factors when you analyze your audience: demographics, psychology (mental makeup, likes and dislikes, and belief systems), previous knowledge of the topic you are about to teach, technical skills, among many others. For each of these factors, there are some questions to answer, which will help you, think about your audience. The questions will help you get into the thinking groove and guide you through the process, so you can arrive at the answers that reflect your audience’s mindset and behavior.
Start by identifying the data collection methods you will employ to acquire the information. Go over this post to learn about the different ways to research your target audience.
Here’s the information that you need to collect about your audience:
These are the general characteristics of your learners, like:
- Primary language
- Formal education background
- Current role in the organization
Your eLearning course will probably be taken by a group of learners. They may share some similarities, but there may also be diversities. You have to consider these differences before you design the training.
At least, find out the following pieces of information:
- The size of the learner group
- The career level of the learners: Are they novices, executives, experts, or technicians?
- The geographical location of the learners
- The nature of the job—whether the learners hold desk jobs or do their jobs involve intense physical labor outdoors
The context will help you delve deeper into your audience’s particular workplace situation. This covers physical, psychological, professional, and aspirational factors that define your audience. Find out the following bits of information about your audience to make your eLearning course more relevant and accessible:
- What does a typical day in office look like for the learner?
- How much time can they devote to learning?
- What are their professional goals?
- What job-related problems do the learners face? What are their frustrations, challenges and pain points?
- What’s stopping them from achieving these goals? Lack of knowledge? Unproductive habits?
- Where will your learners apply the knowledge that they glean from the course?
Understanding your audience’s context is about developing empathy. Empathy is THE starting point for developing a great eLearning design. Here’s a post on the methods you can employ to learn more about your audience’s situation.
The answers to the following questions will help you find out what your audience wants and expects from your eLearning course:
- Why are the learners taking this training?
- What are they looking for in the eLearning course?
- Is the course mandatory or voluntary?
- If there was no obligation, will the audience still take the course?
- How do they expect this course to resolve their workplace concerns?
- How do they expect this course to help them achieve their professional goals?
- What do they expect they will be able to do at the end of a course?
This refers to the skills that the audience must possess to be able to take the course and master the content. Possessing these skills ensures the learning objectives can be met successfully. However, these skills may not be directly related to the training goals. For instance, before you roll out a simulations-based training program, you have to learn if your audience has the skills to use a computer for such purposes or understand complex commands that may be flashed on the screen.
You need to know what your audience already knows about the subject matter. This information will help you establish realistic training goals. Here’s what you need to know:
- Do they have previous knowledge on the topic? If not, what prerequisite knowledge will be required?
- What SPECIFIC skills do your learners already possess?
- What do they need to know?
- What do your learners DO NOT know on the subject?
- Are the learners aware of their knowledge gap?
Attitudes Towards Training
The attitude your audience harbors towards the training program determines how receptive they will be to the knowledge you impart. The following information will help you figure out how persuasive a tone you have to adopt during the course to warm the audience to your message:
- How passionate is your audience about the topic you are about to teach?
- What do they think about the topic your course covers?
- What questions do they have? List the questions your audience has, and that the course should answer.
- Do they believe that taking this course will help them advance in the workplace?
- What information (numbers, case studies, or analogies) do you have to provide to build a convincing “what’s-in-it-for-me” factor?
Knowing about individual learning preferences helps you design instructional matter that doesn’t offend learner sensibilities and create a training environment where everyone is comfortable. For instance, you have found out if learners are comfortable doing role-playing exercises before you design an ILT. Or you have to find out how they prefer to consume information to help you decide if you want to create a podcast or a PDF manual for them.
- What do they want to learn?
- What do they not want to learn about?
- Where do they like to learn?
- What media type do they prefer? Do they want a video tutorial or do they prefer a summarized infographic?
- How do they want to be engaged with and talked to?
- What motivates them to learn?
Technical Skills and Accessibility
To determine the technical framework of your course, you have to find out about the technology that is available to your learners. Find the answers to the following questions to ensure you can deliver a glitch-free learning experience:
- Are your learners tech-savvy? If most of them are tech savvy, then you can use more technical language in your course for instance.
- Where will they take your course? In their office using the equipment in the training room or computer laboratory? At home using their hand-held mobile devices?
- What is the technical configuration of these devices?
- What additional software is likely to be installed on these devices?
- What network bandwidth will be available to the learners?
Deep audience analysis should be the first step of the eLearning design process. Knowing what your audience wants from your eLearning course, how and where they want your course to be delivered, and how they would prefer to interact with your message will save you much rework and spare you the frustration of witnessing audience apathy.
Additional read: 6 Compelling Reasons Why You Should Know Your Learners Better