Monday, November 10, 2008

Needs Assessment via Observation

One of the great things about blogging when your employers read it (and support what you are doing) is that they give you ideas for posts.

Before starting our recent staff meeting, the Director looked at me and said

Hey Wendy - why don't you blog about how you determine training needs through your training requests and phone calls.

I hadn't thought about it before.

I get questions concerning how to do the same thing from different corners of the organization. I dig around for resources and find none. If its a simple task, I make a few phone calls, clarify what the right process is, and create a quick reference. Something more complicated, maybe an online tutorial. If its a standard process that affects a lot of people and fits nicely into one of my courses, I incorporate it into the standard introductory classroom course as well. I've done this unconsciously for years. This is the first time I've given any conscious thought to this process.

I'm going to hack out an example in an attempt to describe the way I work.


Recently, I've been getting requests for custom training on our main Enterprise administration system from all corners of the University. In only the past 6 months. It never happened with my predecessor. The only reason we could find for this uptick in requests is turnover among the departmental experts in this product.

I am seeing a trend in the questions asked during the design and delivery of these custom sessions.

- How do I find student demographics?
- How do I find a student's current course schedule?
- How do I find student transcript information?

Understand that my entire audience for the enterprise administration system performs all 3 of these tasks regularly as part of their day to day activities. Every class I've taught since I started my new job (custom and regularly scheduled) has asked some variant of these 3 questions.

The students are obviously not able to get the information we (both the training group and the Enterprise system administrators) assumed they were getting from elsewhere.

Seems to me it's time to revamp the Enterprise administration course.

With demonstration examples covering the basic questions I get, I give the students more context. More context = more comfort with the system walking out of the classroom. More comfort = less time that the student spends staring at his or her computer feeling incompetent, helpless and more than a little angry instead of doing the job.

So my next task, during next year's major end-user upgrade, is to see what ELSE the audience isn't getting from the current training resources.

And I figured all of this out from informally keeping track of trends. No fancy tools needed.

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