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Three MUST Ask Questions During Learner Analysis

By Steve Lee, Strategic Relationship Manager

Steve Lee

There are lots of questions asked during learner analysis, but do you ask these three?

     1.  Will they believe you?
     2.  Will they try it? 
     3.  Will they stick with it?

Think about the questions you usually ask when conducting a learner analysis for your training solutions. I’m sure you ask things like:

  • What do they know?

  • What do they need to know?

  • What motivates them?

  • What kinds of mistakes are they making and why?

These are all valid and necessary questions. However, even after finding the answers to all of these questions (and more) and using our best attempts to design and deliver effective training, a student enters the workplace and either:

  1. Remembers everything from training, never makes a mistake, and every situation turns out perfectly. This NEVER happens!

  2. Remembers some or all of the information from training and then, even with their best efforts, something goes wrong. This happens EVERY day! 

In the immortal words of Sylvester Stallone in Rocky VI:

But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.

So if winning is being successful on the job, can your employees take the “hit” of a lost sale, an upset customer, making a mistake, etc. even after doing everything as they were taught? 

Let's review those three learner analysis questions again:

  1. Will they believe you? Not all bad behavior on the job is caused by a lack of knowledge. In fact many times learners just feel that they know better. Just because the information exists as text on the screen or as an audio/video clip, and even though you have created an engaging way to help your learners understand and retain the knowledge, will learners trust the information?  What are you doing as an instructional designer to convince your learners that the information will be useful and valuable “on the job”?


  2.  Will they try it?  Even if your learners know what they should do, will they try it on the job?  Will they find it too hard to use best practices?  Do they feel that common sense would be a better approach?  Are their co-workers finding limited success using methods that are not aligned with the training?

  3.  Will they stick with it?  When adversity happens on the job and the best practices don’t provide the desired outcome, will your learners lose trust?


The way to address of all of these questions: practice, practice, practice! 

At Allen Interactions, we often use Practice to Mastery, a technique in which we allow learners to make mistakes and go down the wrong path, but at all times providing access to coaching and feedback. This technique allows the students to reach a “destination” that is not optimal and in the process actually experience the consequences of their actions, both short-term and long-term. If the student does not reach the optimal destination or makes mistakes or requires coaching, then they must start again until they master the situation. No learner (unless they have already completely mastered the content) should ever be able to complete this type of activity on the first try. In fact, the goal would be to create distractors that seem to be better options that the correct answer for the layman. This approach will get your learners to believe you.

Allow your learners to experience authentic situations.

Long-term feedback is the key to having your learners try it on the job. In a training solution to help sell mobile phones, a learner might do the right steps to get a simulated customer to buy a phone, but if it is the no_pain_no_gain-1wrong phone for the customer's needs the training can show lost sales over time due to reduced satisfaction and word of mouth. Long-term feedback can also be related to finding the perfect balance between sometimes opposing forces. Sometimes the most expensive phone will gain more short term “dollars” but lose long term loyalty. By allowing your learners to experience these outcomes they will be prepared and willing to put into practice on the job just like they did in training.

But how do you get the student to “stick with it” when things go wrong? The Kobayashi Maru: A no-win situation. The student is judged on their approach and perhaps even their rationale for their choices and not the outcome. By experiencing authentic situations where all the best practices in the world still don’t result in a desired outcome, and being provided feedback on how successful the learner was by following best practices, they will gain the experience and confidence to stick with it on the job.

Basically what I am saying is we all need to SELL IT to the student with authentic, meaningful practice. We shouldn’t try to make the learning too easy, especially when the job can be quite challenging. No pain no gain, right? This approach has worked for us and we believe it will work for you as well.


CLICK TO TWEET:  3 MUST ask questions during #learner #analysis. No pain, no gain!   @customelearning #aiblog



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About Author

Steve Lee
Steve Lee

Steve Lee co-founded Allen Interactions with Dr. Michael Allen in 1993. With 25+ years of industry experience, Lee brings incredible talent and skills to the team with prior experience developing multiple large-scale military aviation e-Learning projects. He served as a college professor for 10 years, teaching and developing curriculum in hardware, gaming, networking (Cisco/A+, Network+, Security+) and information security. During that time, Lee also developed the Information Security Certificate Programs for the State of Colorado. Lee holds many positions within the Allen team including, but not limited to, Chief Delivery Officer, Strategic Relationship Manager, and Studio Executive.

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