Instructional design/Learner analysis

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Consider This...[edit]

Frog Dissection

Scenario One: J.B. is designing and teaching a freshman biology course for a state college. Weeks are spent designing what J.B. considers the ideal hybrid biology course. On the first day of class, J.B. jumps right in with an easy interactive online frog dissection to get them warmed up, including a questionnaire about what the students are seeing. Quickly into the project, students begin to complain. J.B. discovers half the students have never done a dissection in real life before, much less used this online tool. For most students, this is their first hybrid class. Most are unfamiliar with frog anatomy, making answering the questions impossible. So many students need help that J.B. is unable to get to them all before class is over. Only two students have made it through more than 50% of the questions before the end of class. Furthermore, J.B. receives several complaints from students and parents when they discover how much the extra equipment, lab coat, and textbooks will cost. Nearly half the students drop the class in the first week.

Scenario Two: D.W. designs and teaches another section of freshman biology at the same state college. Prior to designing the hybrid course, D.W. pulls the transcripts for the students in the class and reviews the purpose statements they turned in with their enrollment applications. D.W. can see that most of the students are not majoring in science and are taking the course only to fulfill their science requirement. D.W. also notices that many of the students are relying on financial aid packages to attend school. Therefore, an effort is made to limit costs by relying on free online resources and designing the class in such a way that the only equipment the student will need is a computer. D.W. selects resources written for those new to biology and sends out a letter to enrolled students prior to class with a summary of the topics that will be covered and informs them that all readings and other lecture materials will be provided online for free. The class is designed with beginners in mind. On the first day of class, D.W. explains the syllabus and presents students with a non-graded pre-test to gauge their current knowledge about the topics being covered in the class. The rest of the class is spent orienting students to the LMS for the online portions of the course. Adjustments to the lesson plans are made according to the results of the pre-test.

If you have designed instruction in the past, did you conduct a learner analysis? How did conducting an analysis, or failing to do so, affect the teachers and the students in the above scenarios?

Lesson Goal[edit]

Instructional designers in higher education settings will use learner analysis to gather information about learners' personal and educational experience, motivations, attitudes, and the skills and experience with which they enter the learning experience. This will result in instruction that is tailored to individual learner needs and increases mastery of learning objectives.

Audience[edit]

This lesson is directed toward instructional designers of online or hybrid courses in higher education settings.

Key Learning Objectives[edit]

Participants will meet the following objectives after completion of this module:

  • Using the Learner Analysis Worksheet, the instructional designer will identify at least two design implications associated with each set of learner character groups.
  • Given a sample design scenario, the instructional designer will align which learner profile best matches the design choices.

Learning Experience[edit]

This lesson chunks content into progressive steps based on the concepts and procedures required to conduct a learner analysis. Below are the main components that comprise the lesson.

"What, when, why" lays a foundation for the lesson. You will be introduced to four characteristic groups that comprise a learner analysis (Demographics, Cognitive and Prior Knowledge, Physiological and Affective/ Social). You will also be shown two types of learner analysis worksheets that you can download and use in the final task of this lesson. You will explore:

  • What is a learner analysis
  • When you need a learner analysis
  • Why conducting a learner analysis is important
  • The steps involved in the process of conducting a learner analysis
  • Introduction to Learner Analysis Worksheet
  • Recommended Readings


"Introduction to Learner Analysis - Demographics" page focuses on conducting a learner analysis. You will be guided through pages that address each of the four characteristic groups: Demographics, Cognitive, Physiological, and Affective. Each page covers the what should be considered, sources for gathering data and design implications for the four groups. At the end of each of these pages, you will test your knowledge by completing a short quiz to assesses your comprehension. You will receive immediate feedback on quiz performance.

"Analyzing Student Records" is your final challenge! You are provided with a scenario and sample learner information. Using the Learner Analysis Worksheet, you will record learner data and possible implications. A final quiz will allow you to test your understanding and meet the learning objectives for the lesson.

"Lesson Summary" of main components of performing a learner analysis is given at the end of the lesson, in addition to a short discussion on how you are now better prepared to develop stronger designs based on your new knowledge.

Lesson Navigation[edit]

Navigating throughout this lesson can be done three ways.

  1. At the end of every page there is a link that says "Move to page..." . This takes you to the next page in the lesson.
  2. There is a menu of all topics covered in the lesson centered at the very bottom of each page which allows you to move forward or backward between topic areas.
  3. As you progress to each new page, there will be a breadcrumb menu at the top of the page (just below the lesson title) allowing you to navigate backwards in the lesson.


Move to Page 2: Learner Analysis - What, when and why?
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