How to do a Training Task Analysis

A task analysis is a process of documenting a task, step-by-step. The ability to do a task analysis is a crucial skill for instructional designers and training developers. After all, training, at its core, is teaching people how to do tasks. To train a learner to complete a specific task, you must first define how the task is done: this is the task analysis. 

Even a seemingly straightforward task, such as making a pot of coffee, can have many steps and decision points.

  1. Fill the reservoir with water
  2. Insert a coffee filter 
  3. Add ground coffee to the removable filter basket
  4. Close the lid
  5. Place the glass decanter on the burner
  6. Press the “On” switch 

There could be even more steps in the process if you were to include how to grind the coffee beans and measure the correct amount. Or, if you were using a fancy coffee-maker with many buttons, bells, and whistles. Needless to say, even the most basic of tasks has more to it than we often realize. 

Task analysis involves working with a Subject Matter Expert to specify the task, its sub-tasks, and the steps within it. Let’s take a closer look at how this is done with an example. Let’s say you’re an Instructional Designer working for a retail business that has several stores. You’ve been asked to build training for new hires on how to do the following task: “Close the store”.  

Step 1: Identify the task 

The first step to the task analysis is to identify the specific task that will be analyzed. A task is defined as “a piece of work to be done”. In this case, closing the store for the day is the task in question. Remember: tasks should always start with an action verb!

Step 2: Identify the sub-tasks 

Once you’ve identified the high-level task, you can start to look at the sub-tasks that are included within it. Sub-tasks are the smaller processes that are included within the larger task, and each sub-task should also start with an action verb. Let’s take a look at some of the sub-tasks involved in closing the store: 

  1. Clean the store
  2. Restock the shelves
  3. Close the register
  4. Lock up the store 

The number of sub-tasks to include will vary depending on the task, as well as how granular and specific you want the training to be. Work with a Subject Matter Expert to identify the sub-tasks to include.

Step 3: Identify the steps 

This is where you get into the details and specifics of how to carry out the sub-tasks identified above. Steps, just like tasks and sub-tasks, should always start with an action verb. Let’s break down our sub-tasks into steps:

Close the store

  1. Clean the store 
    • Mop the floors 
    • Wipe down the countertops
  2. Restock the shelves
    • Re-stock items that are low
    • Face items on shelves
  3. Close the register
    • Shut down the Point of Sale (POS) system
    • Put away the POS equipment
  4. Lock up the store
    • Turn off the lights
    • Lock the front and back doors
    • Activate the alarm system 

One of the challenges of being an instructional designer is deciding how prescriptive you want to be with the steps, and how much detail you want to include. This will largely depend on the specifics of the project and your audience, so don’t forget to complete a thorough audience analysis (read more: 20 Questions to Include in an Audience Analysis). 

Completing a task analysis is a straightforward activity that involves breaking a process down into its step-by-step activities. The ability to complete a task analysis will go a long way in helping you build meaningful and relevant training.

Performance Factors: What Are They and Why Do They Matter in Training?

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If you work in training, you’ve likely witnessed the following situation before: management spots a performance problem so they immediately request training to fix it. Training requests can sometimes be a knee-jerk reaction to a performance issue, and the problem there is that training won’t fix any and all performance problems.

If a performance problem in a call center is caused by a slow or faulty computer system, will training employees fix the problem? No. Training can only fix performance problems that are caused by a lack of knowledge and skills, which is what training provides.

If a workplace problem is caused by a performance factor other than a lack of knowledge and skills, training is unlikely to resolve that problem. That’s why it’s critical for instructional designers to follow-up on training requests and gain a deeper understanding of the training needs, why the request is being made, and the specific performance problem at hand. As you gather this information, the goal is to identify which performance factor is causing the performance issue.

Key factors that affect how employees perform:

  • Knowledge and skills
  • Incentives and motivation
  • Mental and physical abilities
  • Tools and equipment
  • Standard and processes
  • Feedback and measurement

Every time you identify or suspect a performance problem, run through a list of the following questions while considering the problematic task and the employees who perform it. Any questions you answer “no” to might indicate that that performance factor is contributing to the problem.

Knowledge & Skills

  • Do employees have the knowledge to perform the task?
  • Do employees have the skills to perform the task?
  • Have the employees been trained on how to perform the task?
  • Do the employees perform the task regularly?

Incentives & Motivation

  • Are employees motivated to perform the task?
  • Are incentives in place for employees that perform the task?

Mental & Physical Capacity 

  • Do employees have the mental capacity to perform the task?
  • Do employees have the physical capacity to perform the task?

Tools & Equipment

  • Do employees have the necessary tools and equipment to perform the task?
  • Do employees have access to the appropriate technology to perform the task?

Processes & Standards

  • Do employees have a clear and defined process in place they can follow to complete the task?
  • Do employees know the standards to which the task needs to be completed?

Feedback & Recognition

  • Do employees receive feedback or recognition on how they are completing the task?

Remember: training can only resolve performance problems that are caused by a lack of knowledge and skills. Many unnecessary training programs are created that don’t fix the underlying business problem. As an instructional designer, it’s crucial that that you analyze a performance problem and understand its root issue before you start designing a training solution. This will help you, and your clients, ensure the training you’re creating is valuable and provides a positive Return on Investment.

Have you ever had to build training that was unnecessary? Have you ever identified the performance factors affecting a workplace problem? Let me know in the comments, and follow me on Twitter for more e-learning and training content.

How to Organize, Analyze, and Prioritize Tasks for E-Learning

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The One Thing You Need To Do To Organize Training Content: Task Analysis

Are you dealing with a huge pile of raw materials that need to be converted into an e-learning course or training programme? If so, you’re likely wondering how best to organize the content and filter out the need-to-know from the nice-to-know. If this sounds familiar to you, you need to acquaint yourself with the process of task analysis. Discover how a proper task analysis can organize your content so it focuses on what learners need to know on-the-job.

Read full article.

How to do a Task Analysis Like a Pro

As I explain in this article, task analysis is one of the cornerstones of instructional design. Why is task analysis so important? The purpose of training is to teach learners how TO DO something; they should walk away from the training with new knowledge and skills they can apply on-the-job. When you focus on tasks, you’re more likely to accomplish this goal, as you’re focusing on the actual processes the learners will do on the job.  A task analysis is the process of systematically breaking down a task into a documented step-by-step process. This article explains how to first identify tasks, then break them down into sub-tasks, and finally, parse them into steps. It also contains some helpful task analysis dos and don’ts.

Read full article.

Instructional Designers: Remember These Factors When Prioritizing Tasks

Once you’ve completed your task analysis, you’re going to need to organize and prioritize all the tasks you’ve analyzed. How should you order your tasks? This depends on a variety of factors: task importance, task frequency, task difficulty, and learner experience. Learn about these four factors and what you need to know to ensure your content focuses on the right tasks.

Read full article.

Have you ever done a task analysis before? If so, how did it go? Do you have any tips or tricks to share with others? If so, please leave me a comment below, I love to hear feedback.

 

Post-Course Evaluations and E-Learning Analysis

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Post-Course Evaluations: What E-Learning Designers Need to Know

If you’ve been in the training industry for awhile you may have heard that post-course evaluations are sometimes referred to as “smile sheets”. This is because as long as the evaluations receive mostly positive ratings, or “smiley faces”, we tend to classify the training as a success. However, the post-course evaluations are almost never a true reflection of how successful the training/e-learning actually really was and what it’s impact is on the bottom line. This article looks at some of the difficult questions you need to ask to help truly measure the success of your e-learning with your post-course evaluations.

Full article: Post-Course Evaluations: What E-Learning Designers Need to Know

Post-Course Evaluations for E-Learning: 60+ Questions to Include

If you have developed a post-course evaluation before you know that it can sometimes be a challenge to come up with meaningful questions for your learners. To help you out with that, I’ve put together this comprehensive list of over 60 questions that can be included in a post-course evaluation. Of course it’s important to refer to the previous article, and keep in mind that these evaluations don’t mean the training had a successful impact on the business. You can select the questions that apply to your specific project from this detailed list.

Full article: Post-Course Evaluations for E-Learning: 60+ Questions to Include

The Top 3 Types of E-Learning Analysis

Here is a look at three of the most common types of analysis carried out by e-learning developers and instructional designers. These are the needs analysis, audience analysis, and task analysis. The needs analysis is done up-front to determine is the training is actually necessary or not. An audience analysis is then developed to identify the learners, their demographics and their specific needs.  Finally, a task analysis breaks down the specific tasks that the learners need to apply in order to improve their knowledge and skills on the job. Having a solid grasp on these three types of e-learning analysis will go a long way in ensuring your projects are successful!

Full article: The Top 3 Types of E-Learning Analysis

Needs Analysis – When Is E-Learning The Solution?

Have you ever been asked to complete a training needs analysis to identify if an e-learning or training project is really necessary? If so, you’ll know that doing this can be a tricky endeavour, and it can be hard to differentiate between the training that is wanted and the training that is really needed. If this is a task that you’ve been faced with before, you might be interested in reading about a simple process you can follow to identify if training is really needed. It is a straightforward approach that involves comparing your employees current and expected performance, to identify if there is a performance gap that can be solved with a training solution.

Full article: Needs Analysis – When Is E-Learning The Solution?

Infographic: The Presentation, Application, Feedback (PAF) Model

This colourful infographic illustrates the Presentation, Application, and Feedback (PAF) Model for training and instructional design. It’s important to keep the PAF Model in mind when developing training to ensure we’re not overloading our learners with too much presentation of content. It’s crucial to include lots of opportunities for application of knowledge and to then provide the appropriate feedback.

Instructional Design Infographic

Infographic: Gagné’s 9 Events of Instruction

This simple infographic explains Robert Gagné’s 9 Events of Instructions, which is an important instructional design model.

Gagne Nine Events of Instruction

The Ultimate E-Learning Design and Development Checklist

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I have compiled several e-learning, instructional design, and web design checklists to create the ultimate e-learning design and development checklist. This list is thorough and covers a broad range of items. Keep in mind not every item will apply to every project.

INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN

  • Training needs analysis is complete
  • Project constraints have been identified
  • Project plan is complete
  • Audience analysis is complete
  • Task analysis is complete
  • Various instructional methods are used
  • Objectives are clearly stated
  • Objectives include measurable criteria
  • Instructional content relates directly to learning objectives
  • Course objectives are met
  • Content is segmented in small chunks
  • Information is grouped logically
  • Major headings are clear and descriptive
  • One-third of the content is presentation
  • Two-thirds of the content is application and feedback
  • There is a summary for every piece of  content
  • Glossary is used to define key concepts  and terms

ASSESSMENTS & TESTS

  • All assessments are relevant and complete
  • Assessments are challenging and realistic
  • Various quiz methods and types are used
  • Assessments are used throughout
  • Final assessment at the end
  • Pass and fail marks are appropriate
  • Feedback is provided for questions   answered
  • Feedback is adequate
  • Feedback presented within reasonable time
  • Post course assessment/evaluation is included
  • New content is not presented in assessments or in assessment feedback

GENERAL DESIGN

  • Total design is uniform in appearance
  • Branding guidelines have been   followed
  • Use of logos is appropriate
  • Colors used are consistent and suitable
  • High visibility and contrast
  • Navigation is consistent throughout
  • There is a generous amount of white space
  • Graphics and icons are used to signify important concepts
  • Patterns and textured backgrounds do not interfere with legibility

FONTS

  • Maximum of three fonts used throughout
  • Decorative fonts are only used for headings
  • Body text uses sans serif fonts
  • Appropriate line spacing is used
  • Paragraph length is appropriate
  • Font sizes are appropriate and easily readable
  • Font colors visible against background color
  • Styles and colors are consistent throughout
  • Emphasis (bold, italics) is used sparingly
  • Body text is left justified

TESTING

  • E-learning has been tested in multiple browsers
  • E-learning has been tested on multiple devices
  • E-learning has been tested in the Learning Management System (LMS)
  • E-learning has been tested in various resolutions
  • All links and buttons have been tested
  • Accessibility features have been tested
  • Course has been tested with a screen reader
  • All audio has been tested
  • All videos have been tested
TECHNICAL

  • Project load time is reasonable
  • Shortcut keys have been defined
  • FAQ document has been created
  • Hardware requirements have been   identified
  • Software requirements have been   identified
  • Dimensions are optimized for target audience
  • Pages can be printed
  • Total time to complete has been timed
  • Contact information available for   questions or problems

ACCESSIBILITY

  • Course can be navigated with keyboard
  • All ALT tags are used
  • Text is provided for non-text   elements
  • Videos have script or dialogue
  • Captions provided for audio
  • No flashes faster than 3 times per second
  • No colors used to convey information
  • Use text with appropriate contrast ratio
  • No fine motor skills required
  • No timed activities
  • No use of hover states to display important information

NAVIGATION

  • Main navigation is easily identifiable
  • All navigation is correct sequence
  • Hyperlinks are clearly identified
  • All hyperlinks work
  • Minimum use of external links
  • Backward links to navigate to previous   screens
  • Number of navigation icons is reasonable
  • Table of contents used to lay out the   content
  • E-learning has guided tour and/or map for   further explanations

VIDEOS & ANIMATION

  • Use of animation and videos is appropriate
  • Files are compressed/optimized
  • Videos and animations are consistent in quality, size and type
  • Videos are legally   owned

AUDIO & NARRATION

  • Narration is not exact text on the screen
  • Narration is clear and concise
  • Audio quality is high (not fuzzy or   scrambled)
  • Narrator sounds confident and knowledgeable
  • Audio synced to the content
  • Audio can be paused
  • Volume can be muted
  • Volume can be controlled by user

TEXT CONTENT

  • Language is clear and concise
  • Spelling has been checked
  • Grammar has been checked
  • Language is culturally appropriate
  • Humor is used with care
  • Tone is consistent and appropriate
  • Text is gender neutral
  • Content is not plagiarized
  • Date formats, measurements, are consistent
  • SME has verified text content
  • Facts, statistics, data are accurate
  • Facts, statistics, data sources are   identified
  • Correct capitalization applies to units and acronyms
  • Correct capitalization is used
  • Punctuation is appropriate
  • Complex sentences are avoided
  • Content has been localized for all required languages

GRAPHICS

  • Images are meaningful and have a purpose
  • Images use appropriate file type
  • Photos are consistent in quality and style
  • Images are legally owned
  • System screen captures are up-to-date
  • Screen captures do not contain personal information

Since you’ve made it all the way to the end of the checklist, maybe you should subscribe to my blog!

20+ Questions To Include in an Audience Analysis

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An audience analysis is a task that instructional designers and training developers perform in the initial phases of planning a training project. Completing an audience analysis is critical because in order to communicate information effectively, you need to understand who your learners are. Depending on the project, you might have more than once audience.

To complete your audience analysis, you will need to interview and observe the employees and management to gather information about your learners. Once you have identified your specific audiences, you can tailor your courses so they are pertinent to the different background, education levels, etc.

Here’s an example of how audiences can vary widely, even within one organization:

You are developing software training for a large organization with a manufacturing facility.

Some of your learners are engineers who work in software development. They are technically savvy, work at a computer all day and are already familiar with the software you are training them on.

Meanwhile, your second audience is the workers from manufacturing facility. They work with machinery all day and barely use the computer. This will be their first time ever seeing this software.

You can already see that, even though these two audiences may need to be trained on the same software, very different approaches will be required for different audiences.

Here’s a list of 20 audience analysis questions to get you started.

General

  • Who is your primary audience?
  • Are there potential secondary audiences?

Demographics

  • What is the average age of the learner?
  • Are the learners mostly men, women, or an equal mix?
  • What is the educational background (high school diploma, PhD)?
  • What is their cultural background, race, ethnicity?

Knowledge & Experience

  • What is their level of work experience?
  • What is the reading level of the audience?
  • How much do they already know about the subject at hand?
  • What tone or attitude is appropriate for your audience?
  • How motivated are the learners?

 Technical

  • What hardware and software do the the learners have?
  • How technically savvy are the learners?
  • What resources do the learners have at their disposal?

Expectations

  • What level of participation can you expect?
  • What kind of syntax or writing style are your learners comfortable with?
  • Why are the learners taking the training?
  • What will the audience expect to learn?
  • What amount of time do learners have available to devote to training?
  • Do any of the learners have special needs or accessibility requirements?

If you know of any other audience analysis questions that I’ve missed, please leave a comment.

Infographic: The ADDIE Model

I have created a graphical representation of the ADDIE model. ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation & Evaluation) is the methodology used by the majority of instructional designers for training development. There may be some debate as to whether certain tasks belong in the design or development phase. Also, certain tasks may have been omitted due to space constraints. I tried to focus on the most important aspects of each phase.

20 Tips For Working With Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

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Working with subject matter experts (SMEs) is an important part of being an instructional designer. A SME is someone who is an expert in their domain, role, or job; you’ll likely have to work with one at some point in your training career.

You’ll meet with your SME to identify learning objectives, gather source content, and more. Some SMEs are friendly, knowledgeable, and keen to participate; they are more than willing to spend time with you and help you out. In other instances, you might be confronted with a know-it-all SME that you don’t really enjoy working with. Regardless of personality, it’s important to have a good relationship with your SMEs, because they are critical to the success of your instructional design projects.

Here are 20 tips to follow to build a strong relationship with your SMEs and get the most out of your time with them.

Introduce Yourself

It’s always polite to introduce yourself to your SME. This can be done in an email, a phone call or a face-to-face visit, depending on the project. You want to let your SME know who you are, what your role is, and that you look forward to working with them. Building a good relationship with your SME will go a long way in helping you get the time and information you need from them.

Get Management Buy-In

Management’s level of buy-in is a crucial factor. If possible, you want to get management to commit the SME to a certain amount of hours working on the training project. This will help reduce the SME’s stress when they have to be away from their regular duties that still need to get done.

Respect Their Profession

Whether it’s a secretary, a data entry clerk, a doctor, or a line cook, it is important to be respectful of what someone does for a living. Every job deserves respect. and there are subject matter experts in every industry and every domain.

Do Your Homework

Gather as much information about the subject as you can prior to meeting with your SME. Going into the meeting with a baseline of knowledge demonstrates that you are interested in learning and value their time.

Be Friendly

This is a straight-forward tip, but don’t underestimate how critical the SME is to the overall success of your project. If you are friendly and conversational with them, they’ll be more willing to give you the time of the day.

Use Plain Language

When you meet with your SMEs, avoid using complicated training terminology or learning jargon. Don’t toss around terms like ADDIE model, Blooms Taxonomy, or Kirkpatrick Levels of Evaluation. These words most likely means nothing to your subject matter expert.

Don’t Waste Time

Ensure the time you spend with a SME is valuable and well-spent. Be on time for meetings and be considerate of their other work obligations such as meetings and other deadlines they may have. If you know Monday is the busiest day of the week for your SME, be considerate and book meetings on other days if possible.

Schedule Short Meetings

This is especially important when the SME is helping out in a project but still needs to complete all their regular duties. It’s considerate to check with them before scheduling a meeting that will be more than an hour long.

Plan Your Meetings

Before going into a meeting with a SME, have a plan for what you want to cover and how you want to use this valuable time. Make sure to prioritize what’s most important and cover that material first.

Ask The Right Questions

Write out a list of relevant and thoughtful questions that you want to cover with your SME ahead of time. If more questions come up as they are talking or explaining, write them down so you don’t forget.

Provide Questions Beforehand

In addition to writing out a list of questions in advance, consider providing the questions to your SME a few days prior to your meeting. This gives them time to think about what you want to cover and may allow them to prepare some of their answers ahead of time.

Identify Realistic Scenarios

Using scenarios in e-learning is a great way to bring your content to life and create meaningful engagement for your learners. Ask your SMEs questions like “In what type of situation will learners use this information?” Try to have your SME provide you with a variety of scenario examples that are relevant to the subject matter. These will help to provide background information and additional context for learners.

Ask for Demonstrations

Often it’s helpful to see how something is done rather than just hearing it described step-by-step. This is particularly true when it comes to software or application training, it’s critical for the SME to walk you through the steps. This ensures the process is accurate, and it might lead to questions that you need to ask them.

Keep It Simple

SMEs will sometimes go off into deep explanations, or use big words, that aren’t really required. Keep them on track and stick to only what is relevant to your learners.

Show Examples

Show your SME some examples of e-learning courses that are similar in terms of content and engagement as to what you’re trying to achieve. Whether you need to create a step-by-step job-aid document or an interactive e-learning module with scenarios, this helps ensure you and your SME are on the same page about what the end result will look like.

Record Meetings

You can use a small recorder that you can buy for cheap to record in person meetings in a meeting room. If you’re doing anything on a computer with your SME, such as walking through the steps of a process in an application, make sure to use a screen recording tool to capture everything on video.

Keep Management Involved

CC them on any appropriate communications with SMEs and keep an accurate record of tasks completed by SMEs.

Define Tasks Clearly

If there are specific action items for the SME to complete, spell it out for them clearly in an email, with a clear timeline. You should also include anyone who needs to be CC’d on the email such as a project manager or a project stakeholder.

Share Deadlines

Keep the SMEs in the loop about timelines and deadlines, so they have clear knowledge of when things are due.

Give Credit When It’s Due

When a SME has been really helpful, has devoted a lot of time, or has provided you with really helpful information, send them (and the project manager) an email to recognize and thank them.

Hopefully following these tips will help you build a solid relationship with your SMEs. This will go a long way in ensuring you have a smooth project and get what you need, when you need it. Follow me on Twitter for more training tips and tricks.