Learning Needs Analysis

Learning needs analyses are undertaken in industry and business to determine the gap between the existing skills, knowledge and abilities of staff and those that are needed for the organisation to function at the desired level. Once this gap is determined, decisions can be taken as to the type of training required (if this is the preferred action) and the form of delivery.

Likewise, in an educational setting, a learning needs analysis helps students identify where they are in terms of their knowledge, skills and competencies, versus where they wish to be – what are their learning goals?

Adults learn better when they can see a reason or relevance as to why they are following a programme of study. By conducting a learning needs analysis with prospective students, the learning provider can identify what programmes are needed. Including learners from the outset will help ensure that course content, schedules, etc., are in line with the needs of the student. By assisting the learner to identify the gaps in his/her own learning, the provider will be better able to support the student.

Why conduct a learning needs analysis?

A learning needs analysis will help:

    * Identify what skills and knowledge the learners already have
    *Highlight skills/knowledge/competencies that need developing
    * Identify clearly what students wish to achieve
    *Outline and define expectations and goals
    *Establish need and demand for the course you have in mind
    *Determine what can realistically be achieved given the available resources
    *Identify any obstacles or difficulties which may arise
    *Increase the sense of ownership and involvement of the students
    *Provide information about your student group – know your audience
    *Achieve a correct fit between the provider and student, i.e., the course matches student needs and expectations
    *Identify the content that best suits students needs
    *Determine what is the most appropriate delivery format – class based, online or a mix of these and other formats
    *Determine what skill set and knowledge base is required of the tutor
    *Develop a budget and cost benefit analysis
    *Establish when is the most suitable time to deliver the programme and over what time frame
    *Ascertain the most suitable evaluation mechanisms
    *Outline what results can be expected and if/how these can be measured

Ideally, a learning needs analysis is conducted with a group of students before a course takes place. The consultation determines what type of course is needed. However, in many cases it may not be possible to conduct a learning needs analysis as a prescribed curriculum may be in place, or funding may be secured for running a predetermined programme. In such instances, providers may not have the luxury of developing the content with the students, or of changing elements of the course design. Instead they may need to persuade learners why a particular course is of value. Tutors should still consult the group to determine what their expectations are and to consider the most suitable methodologies to adopt.