Training and development

10 Questions You MUST Ask Before Designing Learning Programs

World-class learning programs don’t happen by accident.

Regardless of the format/duration of your learning program, this article highlights 10 questions you must ask yourself before you begin the design phase.  Answering these questions in advance will save you time in the end and lead to much better results for your learners and your organization.

These questions fall into 3 primary categories (learning objectives, learner background, and learning resources). If you are familiar with ADDIE (analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation), a framework used by instructional designers and training developers, these 10 questions are part of the “analysis” phase:

Category A: Learning objectives:

1. What organizational challenges or objectives will this learning program address? 

2. What will have to happen for the program to be viewed as a success (both for learners and for the organization)? 

3. What’s in it for learners to participate in this program? 

4. What follow-up will occur after this program to continue the development of your learners? 

5. How many learners will be going through this program, and will participants be “prisoners,” “vacationers,” “explorers,” or “customers?” In other words, are participants being forced to attend (prisoners), rewarded with time away from work/school for attending (vacationers), attending voluntarily for their own benefit (explorers), or are they actually paying to attend the program (customers)?  Note: Credit goes to Hank Boyle for the prisoner-vacationer-explorer analogy.  I added “customers” to reference people who pay to go through a learning program. Keep in mind that initial motivation for attending/participating in your program generally increases as you move from prisoner to vacationer to explorer to customer.

Category B: Learner background:

6. What do the learners already know, and what do they need to learn? (You don’t want the material to be redundant, too easy, or too hard. The purpose of learning is to fill in gaps in order to improve performance.)

7. What is the background of the learners (i.e. ages, abilities, educational levels, experience levels, etc.), and is there anything unique about your learners (positive, negative, or humorous)?  (This information helps you tailor your program accordingly.) 

8. What conscious or subconscious objections might learners have about this learning program or about the presenter(s)? (During the implementation of your learning program, your learners need to be open-minded and ready for learning.  This is especially important with “learning prisoners.” By identifying potential objections in advance and by overcoming them early in the implementation of your program, your learners will be much more engaged.  In Telling Aint Training, the authors refer to this as “removing the lid.”

Category C: Learning Resources

9. What resources (i.e. time, money, knowledge, technology, staff, etc.) are currently available (or needed) for designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating your program?  (While you may determine that you need additional resources once you start designing your program, it’s wise to try to identify existing/missing resources in advance, during the analysis phase.) 

10. What do you already know, and what else do you need to learn in order to execute this project? 

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