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Novices: The Missing Link

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Novices: The Missing Link

A Learning Needs Analysis Tip

When performing our initial learning needs analysis, if the opportunity allows, I highly recommend setting aside some time to speak with a novice because their perspective of the workplace can be very different from that of a SME.

While chatting with novices, I try to build a complete profile of the prospective learner.  Afterward, I can usually give the main character in the learning module a name and begin to conceptualize their background story.

However, gathering accurate information starts with gaining access to the right novice. Therefore, I request a novice who is generally representative of the target learner population in terms of educational background and prior work experience, as well as diversity characteristics such as gender, age, and ethnicity. The resulting learning curriculum needs to resonate with and produce the desired performance change within this distinct population.

I like to form my own impression of their work environment, so whenever feasible, I will visit onsite.  Since I often conduct interviews remotely, I  use video conferencing as much as possible.

If I can see their surroundings, I take note of how busy it is.  I note how close they are to the physical resources that support their role. I also note any unconscious skills they utilize to be productive within that particular setting.

When I cannot see the workplace, I listen carefully. Background noises (or lack thereof) can also provide valuable insights into the workplace culture and social interactions.

During our chat, I ask them to describe the typical skill sets a novice would be expected to have in that specific role.   I use open-ended questions to encourage a natural flow and gain added insights such as whether they are comfortable using technical jargon or corporate acronyms or if they have access to formal or informal support structures. They frequently also describe internal online resources or social networking tools of which I might have been previously unaware.

This conversation can be very fruitful in terms of generating content for a more immersive learning experience. Most importantly, though, it helps me to establish a more realistic baseline for the minimum level of knowledge and support a learner would be expected to have as they embark upon their learning journey.

I like to think that while interviewing SMEs provides a roadmap of the destination, interviewing the novice informs the distance learners have to travel to get there. 

In my opinion, these are both significant yet separate contributions to the design of a more robust and relevant learning curriculum. 

What do you think?