Television networks constantly monitor their audience ratings. They will often brag about the “golden minute”, those magical sixty seconds when unprecedented numbers of people are watching a certain channel. They usually happen during great sporting events like The Super Bowl or The Olympic Games when national teams get into the finals.

There are numerous specialists working on the publicity, teasers, polls – of course, that costs a lot of money. Getting large numbers of people to watch the same thing when there are so many options out there is a complicated task.

Engagement is key for e-learning

When we are talking about e-learning courses, the budget is obviously not that big and the goal is to engage people for a lot longer than one glorious minute. To make matters even more complicated, the main goal is to educate, not entertain. So in order to keep people not only clicking but also reading and retaining the information it is important to find out who they are, what they need to learn and how they would rather do it.

Engagement is key when learning is concerned and in order for your learners to get on board with the course and stick to it until those pesky learning goals are met, you need to design it in such a way to fit them.

Of course, just how not everybody is a Super Bowl fan, it is impossible to create a course that will appeal equally to each and every individual enrolled in it. However, in order to reach (and hold) as many learners as possible, you need to find a common denominator and adapt the content and delivery methods.

Know your learners: audience assessment for e-learning

This is where a thorough audience assessment comes in. In order to do it right, you should start with basic questions concerning the age and educational background of your audience, the expectations they have regarding learning and how technical they are.

Gathering this information from the potential learners will give you quite a lot of data you need to start the analysis. It will provide you with a glimpse of how they do their jobs, what their roles are within the organization, and how they feel about their current position.

However, you should go beyond simply asking the learners. Ideally, your learners’ answers should not be the only source of information for your analysis. If you have the time and opportunity, it’s great to observe them as they perform their jobs and get feedback from the team leaders.

You should also look into what has previously been done in terms of learning and development. Of course, if time and resources are limited you can go with an online survey. Here’s what you should find out:

Demographics

To cover this section you should ask questions concerning:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Preferred languages
  • Position within the company
  • Education level

Group dynamics

No e-learning course is ever designed for a single person. In order for the initial investment to pay off, it should be suitable for a large number of learners. A group always exhibits some similarities but also some notable differences that you need to have in mind. To learn about these characteristics you should ask about:

  • The size of the target group
  • The development level of the learners
  • The nature of their daily work

Prior knowledge

It’s important to know what your audience already knows about the subject matter. This way you will be able to set realistic training objectives. Here’s what you should know:

  • Do they have any previous knowledge on the subject?
  • What particular skills and competencies do your learners already have?
  • What do they need to learn?
  • Are they aware of the knowledge gap?

Attitudes regarding training

Engagement is key to information retention. It’s important to see how the learners feel about learning in general and the subject in question in particular. The following information will help you figure out how much effort you should put into getting your audience on board:

  • How passionate is your audience about the topic?
  • What do they think about the subject matter of your course?
  • Do they feel that completing the course will aid their advancement within the company?

Learning preferences

Having a good idea about how the audience likes to learn will help you design appropriate materials for optimal information retention. The questions to ask are:

  • What do they want to learn?
  • What don’t they want to learn?
  • Where do they like learning to take place?
  • What media type do they prefer? Would they rather have video tutorials, summarized infographics or extensive PDF files?
  • What tone do they prefer?
  • What drives them to learn?

Technical skills and accessibility

To figure out the technical side of your course, you have to find out about the technology that is available to your learners. Get the answers to the following questions to ensure you can deliver a smooth learning experience:

  • What technical skills do your learners possess? If most of them are tech-savvy, then you have (almost) no worries about using the latest technology.
  • Where and on what kind of devices will they be taking the course? What is the technical configuration of these devices?
  • What additional software is likely to be present on their devices?
  • How good is the internet connection available to them?

Conclusion

A thorough audience analysis ought to be the first step of your e-learning design process. Knowing exactly what your audience expects from your course, how and where they prefer your course to be delivered, and how they would rather interact with the information will ensure the success of your course.

Author: Raluca C

Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.