Understand Your Target Audience to Achieve an Effective Instructional Design

Understand Your Target Audience to Achieve an Effective Instructional Design

When an organization needs training solutions, the instructional designer should understand the needs—both individual and business—that are prompting this educational initiative in addition to what the necessary or desired results are. Once this first, critical step has been taken, the instructional design models and the learning theories come into play to provide a systematic approach (or plan) for developing a training program that will be an effective solution for these needs.

The ADDIE model is the most recognized, and it’s the one that is used most often in instructional design as a tool to organize content production for a course. Its initials, ADDIE, form an acronym for the five stages of the development process: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation.

In the first step—the analysis—it is fundamental to include the analysis of the participant or learner, that is, to identify who the people are who will be receiving the content, their demographic characteristics, previous knowledge of the topic, and, especially, their needs.

Each of these areas will help to shape our design decisions and have an influence on the instructional strategies and methodologies that we may decide to implement in the instructional design work.

Asking the right questions to learn more details about the participants will allow us to achieve an effective training solution for our clients.

From the point when we first make contact with the client, it’s a good idea to design a questionnaire that gives us as much information as possible about the target audience. That way, we can design a customized and relevant learning experience that meets the outlined objectives, especially so the knowledge can be efficiently put into practice in their work.

Some of the questions to consider could be:

Demographic data:
  • What is the age, gender, educational level, profession, and current job position of the course participants?
Group composition:
  • What is the size of the group?
  • Are they based in different geographical locations?
  • What level do they hold at the company? Directive, executive, managerial, technical, etc.?
Work context:
  • What is a typical work day like? What are their job responsibilities?
  • How much time do they have available for this training?
  • When will they take the course? Will it be at work or in their free time?
  • Will the training be individual, group, or a combination of both?
  • Why should they take this course?
  • Is it optional or required? If it weren’t required, would they still take it?
  • How much do they need this knowledge or competency? How will it be useful in their work?
  • What problems do they hope this course will help to solve?
Previous knowledge and technological skills:
  • Do they have previous knowledge of this topic?
  • What specific abilities do the participants already have?
  • What concepts or competencies should they still learn or develop?
  • How will the course be taught? Will company computers be used, or will participants need to use their own devices?
  • How comfortable do participants feel using technology?

The answers to these questions, and perhaps to a few others that will come up during the process, will help us create design solutions that ensure information retention with the proper level of interactivity according to the participants’ characteristics and with ample motivation, so they enjoy the process. If, in addition to all this, they gain a skill that could help them improve their work, contribute solutions to daily problems on the job, work more effectively as a team, etc., we’ll know that the training solution we’ve offered truly meets the learning objectives and doesn’t just stop there, but rather that it can become an improvement tool for our collaborators.

Identifying the target audience with sufficient depth is not a simple task, but if we know how to ask the right questions, we will be able to design more competitive training solutions and learning experiences, and we will be capable of offering the necessary content, knowing whom we are presenting it to and what goals they will achieve.

Do you know some other useful strategies for identifying your target audience? Share them in the comments!

About the author:

Cristina González
is an IDESSA consultant. She has worked in the eLearning industry for over 15 years, gaining experience as an online tutor and instructional designer. She specializes in storyboard development for the online courses of educational institutions and companies.