Audience Analysis and Mobile Learning

If you’ve studied instructional design at all, you’re familiar with the term Audience Analysis. It’s a formal step in the “A” part of ADDIE. Things to consider in your Audience Analysis include:

  • Basic demographics of your learner
  • Their cognitive characteristics such as education level, reading level, etc…
  • Job roles, work responsibilities, etc….
  • Ability to attend training or access online training
  • Size of the audience
  • Pre-requisite knowledge of the audience

With the launch of mobile learning – learning on mobile hand-held devices – there are new questions we need ask about our audience:

  • When and where do they need training or support?
  • When, where, and how often do they use their hand-held devices?

With this new technology we have a whole new paradigm in how we deliver learning – again. When I say again – I mean that this is not the first time we’ve had a big shift in how we think about delivery. Let me refresh the memories of folks my age and give a lesson to the under 40 crowd in the history of learning

History of Learning Delivery Crib Notes: 

1970’s Learning: 

Everyone came to a training class. It didn’t matter where you were located, the company either flew you to the class or sent field trainers out to you.  All company training was in the classroom or through booklets.

The location paradigm:  The learner traveled to the learning.

Late 1980’s Learning: 

CBT was born. (For you Millennials – that’s a little like eLearning but it was contained on something called a floppy disk that was inserted into the computer.) Each CBT cost about a million dollars (I may be exaggerating here) to program, but we could send the training to the learner for once.

The location paradigm: The learning was sent to the learner. (Wow!) Do you see the big shift? We could now send learning out to the workers on computer disks.  This changed our analysis process quite a bit.

The late 1990’s Learning: 
Learning was available on the internet! That meant, for the first time, learners could sit at a computer and “pull” learning to themselves. They didn’t have to passively wait for a class to be offered or a disk to be mailed to them. They could seek out what they needed and take a class.

The location paradigm: The learner could bring learning to their desktop at will. Again – notice the change. The learner is determining what they want to learn and when, based on what was being offered over the internet or intranet.  Once again – a big change in how we analyzed the need for curriculum offerings as well as the medium.

2000’s Learning: 

The learning is now available on mobile devices like smart phones and tablets. These devices can go anywhere with the learner. Anywhere! And learners can reach the internet anywhere using these devices. The learner can almost find anything they want to know, almost anywhere. They can watch a YouTube tutorial while waiting for a plane. They can look up terms on Wikipedia.

The location paradigm: Learning follows the learner – anywhere. Notice the shift again? First, learners had to travel to the learning, then learners could have training sent to them via disk, then the learner could “pull” learning to their computer, and now learning can follow the learner to the gym.

What does this mean for our design with regard to the audience?

  1. An obvious question is which of our learners have devices and which ones do they have.  The question of who doesn’t have a smartphone yet is becoming irrelevant quickly.
  2. Next we should look at where the learner is when they check their phone / tablet. Is it at the breakfast table before work? Is it on the treadmill? Is it at night watching TV with their family? How do the learners use their mobile devices on a daily basis?
  3. We also need to consider where the learning is needed. We have to stop thinking in terms of providing learning to a learner sitting at a desk. We can provide learning next to the cash register, beside the restaurant grill, to a sales rep in their car before going on a call, or on a device sitting table next to the large machinery that needs repairing.

We can now provide just in time learning when and where it is needed. The possibilities are amazing. I can’t wait to see what is next!

2 Responses to “Audience Analysis and Mobile Learning”
  1. Great blog! I recently met with the director of the Augmented Reality Project (ARGON) at Georgia Tech. I think this will be an area of real use in the mobile learning space. And there is an App for that 🙂

  2. Glen Hasling says:

    Another historical note and word of caution. When we saw these historical paradigm shifts, we saw training shift delivery channels for the sake of the delivery channels (e.g., creating eLearning because we could vs. whether it was the correct delivery mechanism to meet the learning/business objectives). Regardless of the delivery channel (ILT, CBT, WBT, Mobile, etc.), the analysis and design need to be instructionally sound. The universal “garbage in, garbage out” phenomenon will continue via these new delivery mechanisms if learning organizations don’t employ analytical and design rigor. That being said, mobile does take JIT training to the next level.

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