Training Educators to Design and Develop ODL Materials/Needs Analysis

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Module 2: Needs Analysis

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“If you don’t know where you want to get to…it doesn’t matter which way you go!” — Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Whether you are starting a new business or launching a new product, conducting a needs analysis is the first step in determining if there is a need or audience for your idea, product or service. Knowing the market's needs and how it is currently serviced provides you with key information that is essential in developing your product/service and marketing plan. Too often, businesses/institutions spend thousands of dollars launching a "new" idea with a limited market because of competition.
This section will seek to introduce participants to the importance of conducting a needs analysis and the steps involved in conducting a needs analysis, prior to developing material for Open and Distance Learning.

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Module Objectives

At the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. outline the importance of conducting a needs analysis
  2. differentiate between the different types of needs analysis
  3. explain the steps involved in conducting a needs analysis
  4. use selected techniques to conduct a needs analysis for an institution planning to develop ODL materials.


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What is a Needs Analysis
  • the process of comparing a desired goal state with existing conditions
  • a technique for understanding a performance problem before trying to solve it. Rosett [1982]
  • process of collecting information about a proposed online learning program before defining its goals and designing it. A needs analysis addresses the following issues: restating the request, stating the business need, identifying the performance gap, conducting a task analysis, describing the learners, describing the learning environment, and identifying the project constraints.

  • Needs analysis: a process for identifying the learning and training needs of a particular group or population. [COL Glossary of ODL Terms]

Types of Needs Analysis

There are several types of needs assessment available for use. These include:

Context Analysis

This is an analysis of the institution's needs or reasons the training is desired. The important question being answered by this analysis are who decided that the training should be conducted, why a training program is being recommended as the solution to the institutions problem and what is the history of the institution in relation to the intended type of training.

User Analysis

This is an analysis dealing with the potential participants and instructions involved in the process. The important questions being answered by this type of analysis are:
  • who will receive the training
  • their level of existing knowledge on the subject matter
  • what is their learning style
  • who will conduct the training

Work Analysis

This is an analysis of the tasks being performed. It is an analysis of the job and the requirements for performing the job. It is also known as a task analysis or job analysis. This helps in human resource circles to determine training needs.

Content Analysis

This kind of analysis seeks to determine the level of knowledge or information that may be required.

Training Suitability Analysis

This is an analysis of whether training is the desired solution.

Cost benefit Analysis

This is a financial analysis of the return on investment of training. Effective training results in a return of value to the organization that is greater than the initial investment to produce or administer the training.

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Your task is to design a course of on-line training for a group of 30 teachers in both urban and rural primary schools in your country.Select the type of needs analysis you would conduct and justify your choice.

Steps in Performing a Needs Analysis

Start Climbing!
Step 1 - Perform a "Gap" Analysis

The first step will require that you identify the problem. In identifying the problem, you will need to reflect on the following:

  1. the training needs of your community/country/region
  2. the demand for this kind of learning facility
  3. the readiness of your institution to offer ODL
    • material
    • facilities and equipment
    • staff
  1. the readiness of the community/country/region
  2. the number of institutions already offering ODL and their current offerings
Step 2 - Identify Priorities and Importance

At this stage, you will need to do the following:

  1. prepare a list of needs for training and development [career and country development]. These would have been identified from step 1.
  2. examine the list in view of their importance to the institutional goals, realities and constraints.
  3. determine if the project is worth addressing in view of:
    • cost effectiveness [how does the cost of the problem compare to the cost of implementing the solution]
    • legal mandates [are there laws requiring a mandate
    • executive pressure [does top management, including Ministries of Education [policy makers] and the institution's Boards of Management require a solution and how supportive are they of the intended solution]
    • population [will persons be available for use in the project and will persons be available for training to ensure sustainability of project]
    • customers [what influence is generated by customer specifications and expectations]
Step 3 - Outline the logistics/methodology for conducting the needs analysis

At this stage, you will need to:

  • identify the Population: persons/organizations/institutions to be involved in the analysis
  • identify the sample population - it will be difficult to get every possible person/institution or organization involved in a survey, hence it will be very important to determine, how the actual persons to be involved will be chosen. You will therefore have to employ a method of sampling.

If you survey every person or a whole set of units in a population you are taking a census. However, this method is often impracticable; as it’s often very costly in terms of time and money. For example, a survey that asks complicated questions may need to use trained interviewers to ensure questions are understood. This may be too expensive if every person in the population is to be included.

Sometimes taking a census can be impossible. For example, a car manufacturer might want to test the strength of cars being produced. Obviously, each car could not be crash tested to determine its strength! To overcome these problems, samples are taken from populations, and estimates made about the total population based on information derived from the sample. A sample must be large enough to give a good representation of the population, but small enough to be manageable. In this section the two major types of sampling, random and non-random, will be examined.







[- Australian Bureau of Statistics]

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Outline a simple needs analysis you would want to undertake in which a stratified random sampling procedure would be more appropriate than a simple random sampling procedure.Explain your reasoning and share it with other colleagues for feedback.

  • almost in conjunction with selecting sample, you will also need to determine how you will gather your information.

Methods of Data gathering

  1. observations
  2. survey
  3. questionnaires
  4. interviews
  5. checklists
  6. tests
  7. rating scales
  • Once you have decided on the method of gathering the data, you will then need to develop the data gathering instrument.
  • The data collecting step is a critical component of the needs analysis process.In conducting a needs analysis several data collection methods/techniques can be utilized.One such technique is

using the Observational Schedule. Read more on Observational Schedule at Observation Schedule

  • Questionnaires are also very important data gathering tools that can be used in conducting a needs analysis.However most problems with questionnaire analysis can be traced back to the design phase of the project.Well defined goals or objectives are the best way to assure a good questionnaire design.When goals of a study can be expressed in a few clear and concise sentences ,the design of the questionnaire becomes considerably easier.
  • As an on-line learner you will have to develop or sharpen your skills in designing questionnaires if you hope to be able to conduct and make effective use of the results of needs assessment.
  • To learn more about the general considerations in questionnaire design click on this link:Things to Consider when preparing a Questionnaire

Icon present.gifTips: on writing a good questionnaire Tips For Developing An Effective Questionnaire Tips for Developing an Effective Questionnaire

  • Interviews are particularly useful for getting the story behind a participant`s experiences.The interviewer can pursue in-depth information around a topic.Interviews can be useful as follow-up to certain respondents to questionnaires,e.g to further investigate their responses.Usually open-ended questions are asked during interviews.
  • One thing to consider before you start to design your interview questions and process is to clearly articulate to yourself what problem or need is to be addressed using the information to be gathered by the interview. This will definitely help you to keep a clear focus on the intent of each question.

To fully understand more about interviews click on this link Interviews

Checklists and Rating Scales

Two other commonly used instruments that can be used in data collecting when conducting a needs analysis are checklists and rating scales.Both instruments have their own unique strengths and weaknesses and as a researcher you will have to familiarise yourself with these strengths and weaknesses and know when the use of one is more applicable over the other. Read more about rating scales by clicking on this link :[scales.htm] Read the article : How to Write a Checklist by Robert F Abbott.To read this article click on the link.[[

As you continue to develop your expertise at designing and conducting needs analysis you will realise that many other instruments/tools for data collecting will make themselves available to you.One thing you need to always bare in mind is that the type of information /data you seek to find will determine the instrument you will use.

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You would like to find out if your teachers have the required hardware and IT skills to fully benefit from the outline courses you have designed.Construct a simple instrument that can help you to gather this data.

Step 4 - Analysis and Interpretation of Data

When data has been collected, in and by itself it is of no use. In order for it become usable, it must be analyzed carefully. Once you have collected the data, you now need to analyze the data, then interpret the data, so that conclusions can be drawn for a final report to be submitted.

Data analysis is the act of transforming data with the aim of extracting useful information and facilitating conclusions. Depending on the type of data and the question, this might include application of statistical methods, curve fitting, selecting or discarding certain subsets based on specific criteria, or other techniques. [Wikipedia]

Step 5 - Presentation of Data

Once the data has been analyzed, it can then be presented so that anyone can look at it and understand what it means. In other words it is presenting information in such a way that anyone, who is not necessaritly an expert in the field will be able to understand it. It is most common to present data using charts and tables. These allow for easy presentation and do not require any high level of understanding in statistics.

For more information click on [Data Presentations]

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Use the instrument constructed in the previous activity and pilot it with a minimum of five teachers .Upload a short presentation and analysis of your findings for comments from your colleagues.

Step 6 - Conclusions and Recommendations

Once the data has been analyzed and presented in acceptable forms [tables, charts etc.], then the assessor [person[s] conducting the needs analysis], must now prepare a report to include conclusions drawn from the research and the recommendations. This is a critical part of the process as this presents the way forward.

End of Module Activity

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Your school board of management is considering the introduction of instructing students using ODL. You have been asked to conduct a needs analysis, and to submit a comprehensive report to the Board on this new thinking. The board is funding the analysis exercise. You need to prepare a proposal detailing how the needs analysis will be conducted. This proposal must include, but is not limited to: people to be contacted, the method of contacting them; rationale for contacting them, costs involved etc. Once you have completed this proposal, you are required to present it in power point. You have one hour for the presentation.

The presentation must be uploaded onto your user page in the wiki, along with your report in word format