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Needs Analysis for eLearning Programs

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Are you thinking about a new eLearning program or do you want to turn your present in-person program into an eLearning program? Before beginning anything, it’s important to perform a needs analysis to ensure eLearning it is the right solution for the problem you are trying to solve.

Basic Questions for Needs Analysis

Whether you are thinking about an eLearning solution or not, before starting you need to determine if you are working on a training problem. To answer this, you need to do a needs analysis.  When doing a needs analysis, there are three basic questions you should ask:

1. What are people currently doing?

Training is used to help change three things, a learner’s knowledge, skills or behaviors. For a needs analysis you are primarily looking at behaviors. So, the first thing you need to ask is “What are people doing right now?

2. What do you want your people to be doing?

Next, you need to determine the desired level of knowledge, skills or behaviors.  What behaviors are you looking for?

To figure this out you need to act like a detective. Ask the stakeholder who approached you with the problem. Also, ask other stakeholders and SMEs what they see as the desired level of performance.

3. Why aren’t people doing what we want them to do?

Answering this question is how you earn your consulting fee or paycheck. It’s also how you earn respect for learning and development from the people you are working with.

What you want to do is determine the cause of the performance gap.        Is this a lack of knowledge or skill or is there some other issue that is causing the performance gap?

When Can Training Fill the Performance Gap?

After you get the answers to your questions, you need to decide if training can fix the performance gap.

Things That Can Be Fixed By Training

You can quickly determine if training can fix the problem by asking the following two questions:

  1. Do the employees lack the knowledge needed to perform a task?
  2. Do the employees lack the skills needed to perform the task?

If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then training is your solution. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Things That Cannot Be Fixed By Training


If the employees do not lack the knowledge or skill to close the gap, then you need to ask other questions. Some of the questions you would ask are:

Do the employees lack the motivation to perform the task?  

Is there a specific issue causing the performance gap?

Is this a systems problem?

Is there an incentive problem?

Is There an Alternative to an eLearning Training Program?

Always keep in mind that learning is a process of experiences that happens over time. Often the best learning happens on the job under knowledgeable and caring supervisors.  So during your needs analysis ask, “Does this have to be an ELearning experience or are there other, better alternatives?”

How Can You Maximize eLearning?

The best use of eLearning is when a learner lacks knowledge. In this case, an ELearning course can give the foundational knowledge.

After completing the eLearning, a hands-on follow up course can be used for skill building on the job or in the classroom. As the learners practice and progress, feedback and coaching are delivered immediately, reinforcing knowledge and improving performance.

Here’s what’s key. The only way to determine if eLearning is the answer to your problem is to do a thorough needs analysis. This will lead you to the right solution.