Designing an eLearning course without knowing your target audience is like inviting everyone you know to come over for Thanksgiving dinner.  You might not have enough food; you might cook dishes that your guests can’t eat; and you might not have silverware to accommodate everyone.

In the same way, designing an eLearning course without knowing the audience can be disastrous. What if you create a scenario and exercise-based course, but your learners want quick hit, on demand learning? Or what if you include a plethora of audio, only to find out the audience is learning within a factory (and they don’t have access to headphones?)

To avoid these faux pas, you must answer these 10 questions about your eLearning audience before you start developing your eLearning course. It will save you significant headaches.

1. Where is the audience at skill-wise?

It’s important to understand how much of a knowledge base your eLearning audience has about the subject matter. This helps you jump right into the material they need to know, while skipping over common knowledge. Instead, offer an optional quick refresher for these concepts (which can be skipped by people who already know this info) and go over key terms you’ll be using later.

 2. Does the audience feel comfortable with the eLearning format?

If your eLearning audience doesn’t understand how to navigate or use the tools within your course, you’ll need a quick tutorial at the beginning that helps ensure they get the most out of the material and feel confident enough to use its different features.

Frustrated learners won’t be focused on the reason they’re really there (to learn the material), but rather they will be busy cursing your course.

3. How much time will the audience need for the course?

Find out how much time is allotted for the course. If your material is longer than users have available, the learners will be forced to rush through it in order to meet their time restrictions. Work with your client to find the most essential points that need to be taught so you can fine-tune the content.

Using a strategy like chunking is one way to ensure your learners are only getting small, digestible pieces of learning at a time. This is helpful as it makes it easier to stop and start the training without losing one’s place (in the event the training is picked back up during a short time frame each day.)

 4. What’s the environment they’ll be learning from?

Noise and distractions from the environment can have serious effects on your course. Make sure the material works within the environment your audience is learning from. If it’s a loud place, use less audio.

Again, use chunking to break information down into smaller pieces. This will allow learners to tune out distractions and push through shorter, more compact pieces of material.

5. What are the common obstacles they face while learning?

If you find out that in the past, trainees have struggled with a certain topical region of the material, brainstorm some new ways this can be taught that are different from the traditional format.

Sometimes this involves breaking the material into more basic pieces, or showing it from another perspective (like from the customer’s viewpoint rather than the provider’s.) Be creative and ask the learners for their feedback—after all, they know best!

 6. Do they have the proper access to tools necessary for the course?

Your audience needs to have the right tools to make your eLearning course effective. For example: If there’s a hard copy workbook section of your blended learning course, make sure pens are supplied. Without the right tools, your coursework can be useless.

7. How can they ask questions?

Is there a way for the users to troubleshoot within your course and a point person to ask questions to? Make sure both are addressed to ensure your audience doesn’t get lost in the mix. Their questions are part of the learning experience.

This can sometimes be a simulation built right into the course itself. Otherwise, maybe there is an accompanying discussion forum where users share ideas. Just because eLearning is self-paced does not mean it has to eliminate peer interaction.

8. What is the common age range for your audience?

Knowing the demographic for your course will help you use more relevant examples and references within the course. Your sweet Howdy Doody reference might not work with an audience more familiar with Justin Bieber.

 9. What are their preferred learning styles?

Poll the users and see how they learn best—is it visually, by audio, or via reading? Taking their preferences into consideration means the content is more likely to stick.

Usually you’ll want to combine styles to maximize your success, but if you have a captive audience and the material can support skewing somewhat to a particular style, that can add some benefit.

 10. What hasn’t worked for this audience in the past?

As they say, “past performance is the best indicator of future performance.” This goes for your learners as well as for you as the designer. Make sure you identify the common stumbling blocks that have come up with training for this subject in the past and do something different.

Learning from your past experiences is the best way for you to make a course that’s highly effective for your users.

10 Questions, 1 Amazing Result

If you can get answers to these 10 questions, you’ll notice a huge improvement in learner satisfaction and information retention. Taking the time to address these pre-development will create a course that really works for the ones who will be using it.

Want to start a project together? Let’s answer these questions.