How to do a thorough need analysis in e-learning

If you want to design and develop great e-learning, first step is figuring out what your clients wants and needs.

Big companies with highly developed processes and human resource strategies usually know what they want – which level of e-learning, who are their  learners, what technologies are they using, which topics they want to cover and in a what way. That makes our job as learning architects easier, but less challenging and creative because you get all the specifications which set the direction of each course.

However, when you work with small or medium companies, need analysis looks quite different. I’m glad to say that many companies are becoming aware of benefits of e-learning, but they are not sure what kind of solutions they really need. Is it a e-learning course? Is it just a new website? What knowledge they what to transfer? How to structure it? Many of them are not familiar with levels of e-learning, let alone it’s possibilities.

Role of learning architect becomes crucial in this moment . It takes experience, knowledge and support to help your clients in clearly defining their needs. Here are a few advices on how to empower your client:

1.Active listening and asking right questions

Seems so easy but it’s a special skill. Even if you have an idea or a perception how a course should look like, your client probably has a different point of view. Listen to them carefully and „listen“ between the lines 🙂 They probably don’t know the terminology but it is our role to explain it so that the client knows what are they getting. Asking the right questions is super hard. Try making a list of all the questions you need to ask and add more questions with every new project. It will be easier for you to have a starting point and for a client to have a structured need analysis.


2. Make it simple

You start working with a client and listen to their problem. All of a sudden, you want to build a new Coursera with hours of e-learning courses using virtual reality tools that can run on browsers and mobile platforms which haven’t been invented yet 🙂 Usually, the client wants a simple solution – simple design, simple courses which allow personalisation, maybe a simple LMS. Start from there, even if it looks too simple. Allow your client to be a part of designing and storyboarding, include them in the process as much as possible to get the most effective feedback and use them as a source of new ideas.

3. Explain what you are doing

Some people want a solution delivered to them without being a part of creation, but most people like to be included. Explain your clients what will you be doing, how your design process looks like, what tools are you using etc. They will learn something new and will be able to use e-learning in a best possible way, while your company will be more cooperative and transparent. It’ll might take some time, but it will be worth it if you develop a long-term and open relationship with your client.

Invest more time, if neccessary, engage more people and plan your project on a bigger scale, but don’t spend hours working on a e-learning course just to get one big „This is not what we had in mind“ from a client. Although each company has different experiences with projects, these 3 advices can help you in setting up a thorough preparation phase.

Good luck, project managers!

Good luck, learning architects!

May the Force be with you.


Maja Katinić

Learning Architect