When developing e-learning courses, analysis is an important piece of the puzzle. Often, you need to complete a wide variety of analyses before even starting your project. While there are many different types of analysis, this article will cover the three primary ones.

1. Needs Analysis

I tend to think of this as the most important type of analysis. It informs everything you do course design-wise—from content development to delivery. Here, you gain an understanding of the training gap—if there is one—and how to create material that will help bridge that gap. During a needs analysis, you compare employees’ actual performance (how they’re doing now) to their expected performance (how they should be doing.) If these two things don’t align or there’s a “gap,” then you have identified an area your training can improve upon!

While this is a great way to identify what training to create, if a course is legally mandated you won’t need to do a traditional needs assessment. If training is required by law, then the government has already identified the training you need to create! That being said, even if training is mandatory, it can still be helpful to look at ways you can improve it, or evaluate if yours is meeting government standards. In this case, you won’t do a needs assessment to identify what training to develop. Instead, you’ll do one to evaluate if—and how—you can improve the training.  

Sometimes, in doing a needs analysis, you’ll find that training isn’t the right solution to the problem. This happens when another factor causes a problem, such as corporate culture or employees not having the right technology to do their job. If that’s the case, training won’t solve the problem.

To learn more about creating a needs analysis, check out this article: Needs Analysis - When Is E-Learning the Solution?

2. Audience analysis

An audience analysis involves studying your learners and identifying their traits and demographics. This helps you create training that’s relevant and meaningful to them. An audience analysis is typically done after a needs analysis but before you start content development. This is a key step that will influence your entire course development and project success—so don’t skip it! 

An audience analysis uncovers who your learners are, their level of experience, education, and much more. Depending on where you work, you might be able to get these details by surveying your audience directly. Or, you might need to partner with HR and the manager who initiated the project. 

An audience analysis is critical because it provides descriptive information that guides your course design and content development. For example, maybe your audience analysis showed that half your learners are software engineers, while the other half are line workers who aren’t tech-savvy and don’t use computers in their daily life. After uncovering this, you’d likely choose to create two courses, with each tailored to the learners’ technical abilities. 

This is just one example of why an audience analysis is important, but there are many more. To dig a bit deeper, read this article: How to Do an E-Learning Audience Analysis. 

3. Task analysis

Most of the time when designing on-the-job training, the goal is not only to educate your learner, but improve their job performance. For this reason, it’s beneficial to break the training down by task and outline the best way for learners to perform it. 

But before you can do that, you need to identify the specific tasks that will help improve employee performance. Although this might seem obvious, you’ll often find it is not. That’s where a task analysis comes in.

A task analysis allows you to break one macro task—for example sending an email—into a bunch of micro tasks or steps. This allows the learner to easily follow the training and accomplish the task efficiently. Some tasks are straightforward and follow one set of steps in sequential order. Others are complex and require the learner to make various decisions. 

Whether simple or complex, the task analysis identifies the physical and mental steps learners go through. For more details, check out the article How to Do a Task Analysis Like a Pro.


Ideally, you’ll have all the time in the world to complete these three different types of analysis. And doing so will increase the likelihood that your course will be effective. 

However, if you find you’re tight on time or don’t have the resources to do all three, don’t panic! In the real world, people often get by with just a needs assessment. But if you decide to go that route, be sure to include learner demographic information in it! 

Do you think there’s another analysis type that’s critical to the success of a project? Or do you have personal experiences with any of these types you’d like to share? If so, tell us below!

And if you’re searching for more helpful resources on the planning stage of your e-learning project, look no further! Here are some great ones to check out:

Follow us on Twitter and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning. If you have any questions, please share them in the comments.

jasmine armstrong

I think you also need to complete a resource analysis. What technicial software do you have available to you? Would the learning outcome best suit e-learning produced in Captivate, Articulate etc? Should the learning program have video/audio and does the target audience have the capability to view the products you are developing in? Are you using responsive software packages that can be viewed on any screen? Technology and licensing arrangements can be a big pull to design a certain way or market your product using certain programs. Considering how you are going to engage the learner after the elearning program is complete can be further complimented with technology you have available (would this be best on blog sites, callabourtation or sharepoint sites, resouces on your company webpa... Expand