Intro | Learner | Modifications | Description | Utilizing | Techiques | Context | Performance | Learning | Applying | Utilizing | Collecting | Summary


Too often, too many assumptions are made about learners and the context. In education, teachers often assume that they already know how students learn, what motivates them to learn, what their attitudes are toward learning and school, etc. These assumptions can be more complicated if learners’ race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and the like deviate from the norm. That is, learners who comprise populations who have been historically marginalized due to their differences. Teachers also often make assumptions about where students are expected to learn and perform. In business and industry, the same assumptions are often made about key learner characteristics and the learning and performance contexts.

The supplemental reading, like the course textbook, is divided into two sections (a) Learner Analysis, and (b) Context Analysis. Both sections review key concepts presented in the course textbook and propose several modifications to the analyses posited by Dick, Carey and Carey (2009) that you are to apply to complete your analysis report.


What is Learner Analysis?

A learner analysis is important to help shape and guide instruction, as well as determine how instruction should be designed. A learner analysis can reveal important variables that may affect the learner and must be addressed during the design and delivery process.

Learner analysis results provide educators with information about key learner characteristics, including prior and prerequisite skills. The information will be used to design appropriate instructional strategies and assessment methods that fit the learner. The learner analysis process involves three main steps:

  • Identifying and describing key characteristics of the learner population.
  • Applying techniques for acquiring additional information about the learner population if necessary.
  • Analyzing learner characteristics and determining implications for instructional design, delivery and evaluation.


Modifications to Learner Analysis

To gain a more accurate picture of students motivation to learn, my colleague, Dr. Hirumi recommends a modification to the Learner Analysis process posited by Dick, Carey and Carey (2009). In particular, he believes learners’ attitudes toward content information and toward the delivery system are motivational states that are better analyzed using Keller’s ARCS model of motivational design, and that learners’ motivation to learn (or general academic motivation) should be considered as more of a motivational trait than a state.

Motivational Traits vs. States

Students’ motivation to learn may be described at two levels (a) traits, and (b) states. Motivational traits (e.g., need for achievement, self-efficacy) help to explain the direction and degree of effort a person exhibits toward a particular goal that transcend situational variables. For instance, you may be one of those students who chooses to begin studying weeks before an exam no matter what course you are taking. Or maybe, you are the type of person who believes that you are in control of your success or failure no matter how good or bad the instructor. These are motivational traits that you may exhibit for most instructional situations. Motivational states, in contrast, help to explain students’ direction and degree of goal directed effort in a particular situation. For example, how motivated are you to complete this course, assignment or activity?

Attitudes as an Indicator of Motivational States

A person’s self-reported attitudes are thought to be indicators of their motivation state (rather than trait). For instance, students’ perceived levels of attention, relevance, confidence and satisfaction (ARCS) are believed to represent their attitudes toward instruction in specific situations (rather than in general).

Dick, Carey & Carey (2009) suggest that instructional designers address ARCS when describing learners’ motivation for instruction. While we do not disagree with this operational definition, it is believed that it covers information already addressed when describing learners’ attitudes toward the content and the delivery system.

To generate a parsimonious view of learners’ motivation, we propose that Keller’s ARCS model for motivational design be used as a framework for organizing learners’ attitudes toward the content and delivery system. Furthermore, rather than describing learners’ motivation for instruction, it is recommended that instructional designers address a relevant motivational trait such as learners’ General Academic Motivation. Figure 3.1 notes (in italic) the components that we recommend modifying.


Learner Characteristics
(Dick, Carey & Carey, 2009)

  • Entry Behaviors
  • Prior Knowledge of Topic
  • Attitudes Toward Content
  • Attitudes Toward Delivery System
  • Motivation for Instruction (ARCS)
  • Educational and Ability Level
  • General Learning Preferences
  • Attitudes Toward Organization
  • General Group Characteristics

Proposed Characteristics
(Hirumi, 2009)

  • Entry Behaviors
  • Prior Knowledge of Topic
  • Attitudes Toward Content (ARCS)
  • Attitudes Toward Delivery System (ARCS)
  • General Academic Motivation
  • Educational and Ability Level
  • General Learning Preferences
  • Attitudes Toward Organization
  • General Group Characteristics

Figure 3.1. Areas of proposed modifications for conducting a learner analysis


Modified Descriptions of Learner Characteristics

The following reviews the modified learner characteristics as recommended in this course, including a sample description of each characteristic. Be sure to apply the modified list of learner characteristics as you complete your learner analysis for this course.

Note: As you read the sample descriptions, you will see that we’ve also added a column labeled “Implications.” We believe it is useful to make the implications of each characteristic, for the design and delivery on your instruction, explicit as you complete your analysis.

Entry Behaviors

Entry Behaviors are specific skills and knowledge that learners must possess prior to instruction to accomplish the specified goal (because they will not necessary be covered in the instruction). These prerequisite skills and knowledge may be related directly to the content or may be associated with the delivery system. The entry behaviors identified during this stage of the systematic design process are (or at least should be) the same as the entry behaviors identified during your subordinate skills analysis (below the dotted line). During your learner analysis, you are determining if learners posses the entry behaviors identified during your subordinate skills analysis and noting implications for instructional design, delivery and/or evaluation. The following are sample descriptions from a learners analysis completed for this course.

Table 3.1 Sample Description of Entry Behaviors

Relative to Course Content. Based on related subordinate skill analyses, there are no formal required entry behaviors related to the course contents. However, target learners would benefit from and should be able to discuss key concepts associate with and distinguish alternative learning theories.

Relative to Delivery System. A relatively small (50%) but increasing percentage of students have taken a totally online or mixed mode course (e.g., correspondence, video, ITV, or Web). All have some experience with using the Internet, with the majority having used email and a web browser. A smaller percentage have used WebCT. A significant number still do not know how to create web pages or sites, but this number seem to be steadily decreasing.

Learners should be provided with access to information related to alternative learning theories (either or both summaries and/or online description).

Learners should have access to online tutorials and information about the use of WebCT. Some method should be applied to assess learners ability to use WebCT (e.g., self-assessment checklist). Instructor should provide practice opportunities and ensure all learners can use WebCT.


Prior Knowledge of Topic

This category includes information that learners already possess on which they can continue to build new knowledge. This is important so that instruction can build and relate to prior knowledge and so time spent instructing students is based on learning new material as opposed to teaching an area with which they are already familiar. It also provides an opportunity to see if learners possess discrepancies or misconceptions about the topic so that they can be clarified during instruction. Unlike entry behaviors, prior knowledge focuses on the instructional topic and describes skills and knowledge relative to the topic in general. Entry behaviors concentrate on those skills and knowledge learners must have prior to instruction to accomplish the goal that may or may not be directly related to the primary instructional topic.

Table 3.2 Sample Description of Learners’ Prior Knowledge of Topic

Few have been exposed to the formal process of instructional systems design (ISD). Two students remembered reading a page or two on ISD during undergraduate school, but for most, systematic design represents a new topic of study. Those who are public school educators (70%) have experience with specific aspects of the design process (e.g., writing objectives, developing lesson plans and assessment instruments) but treat them as separate, distinct tasks, rather than a series of iterative and highly interrelated series of steps. Instruction should refer to situations where learners have experienced objectives, assessments, and training/ instruction as a learner, as well as potentially as an educator or instructional designer. If some learners have prior experience as an instructional designer, they should be asked to discuss their experiences when appropriate.


Attitudes Toward Content Information (ARCS)

Learners’ attitudes toward content information address learners’ feeling about the subject matter and skills to be learned. Included in this area should be learners’ perceived levels of attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction toward the content information to be covered by the course.

Table 3.3 Sample Description of Learners’ Attitudes toward Content Information

Although this is a required course for Instructional Technology majors, the majority of students do not often see the relevance of ISD or systematic design procedures prior to the course, primarily because they feel that they are experienced “educators” and know how to design effective instruction. Students’ perceived level of attention, confidence and satisfaction are unknown and need to be examined. The benefits and relevance of applying systematic design approach should be noted throughout the course. Additional information about students’ perceived levels of attention, confidence and satisfaction toward content information should be gathered either prior to, during or after the course.


Attitudes Towards Potential Delivery System (ARCS)

This area deals with how learners feel about the potential delivery system of the instruction that will be taught. Is there a learning preference among the learners (lecture/discussion, scenarios, groups, etc.)? Included in this area should be learners’ perceived levels of attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction toward the delivery system that will be chosen.

Table 3.4 Sample Description of Learners’ Attitudes toward Delivery System

In general, students are interested in experiencing totally online Web and/or Mixed Mode courses. Most believe both delivery systems are relevant (those who live far from campus see more relevance with totally online, and those who live close to campus, in general, believe Mixed mode are more relevant (than totally online) to their needs and interests, but may not have confidence in their ability to succeed in such environments if they have no experience. The weakest area is perceived satisfaction. Students, in general, tend to feel that distance education courses are not as rich an experience as face-to-face instruction. How-ever, there is only one example of courses that have been delivered primarily through the web and more information needs to be gathered to determine students attention, relevance, confidence and satisfaction relative to the delivery system. Because some learner may not have experience taking an online or mixed mode course, attention needs to paid to learners with little to no experience learning online and/or using WebCT to ensure they have the skills, knowledge and confidence necessary to succeed.

Additional information about students’ perceived levels of attention, relevance, confidence and satisfaction with the delivery system should be gathered either prior to, during or after the course.


General Academic Motivation

This area addresses students’ general academic motivation. In general, are students motivated to learn? What motivates them to study and obtain good grades across settings? What de-motivates them in general?

Table 3.5 Sample Description of Learners’ General Academic Motivation

In terms of academic motivation, most students are highly motivated. Most, if not all expect to get or want to get an “A.” Since most are full-time professionals in other areas and have families, they are all making tremendous sacrifices to attend classes and complete course work. Their level of commitment indicates a high level of academic motivation. A relatively small percentage, however, may be more motivated to complete coursework to obtain a degree, rather than to learn. Some like and prefer working in teams, but a significant number are likely to prefer individual work. The primary concern (and potential cause for decreases in motivation, particular satisfaction) is for equity (everyone contributing to team projects and earning appropriate grades based on effort and quality of work). It is important to ensure that all class assignments and activities (including readings) are viewed as valuable learning experiences. Because most learners are working adults, it particularly important to ensure that scheduled f2f meetings (for mixed mode section of the course) are worth the time and effort. In addition, specific methods for ensuring and measuring individual contributions to the team project must be established. Otherwise, there is no need for additional motivational aids in general.


Educational and Ability Level

Information for this area can be gathered through interviews and observations, records, and test data. Questions that designers want to answer may include information about the capability of learners to master the material that will be presented. How able are students to learn the new material? What educational experiences have they had?

Table 3.6 Sample Description of Learners’ Educational and Ability Level

All of the students hold bachelor’s degrees in various areas. All students have at least a composite 1000 on the Graduate Record Exam or >3.0 GPA in their last 60hrs of undergraduate work. In general, students have received mostly “A’s” and some “B’s” in graduate school. Most students have experience working in teams, but a significant number may not have worked with “clients” and their ability to work with and draw relevant information for clients, SME and target learners may be limited. The greatest differences in ability appear to center on writing and speaking skills, particular with international students. Because written and oral communications are essential skills for educators and instructional designers (and international students), the development of effective writing and speaking skills should be emphasized, with particular attention being placed on monitoring and working with international students if/when necessary. Attention should also be placed on monitoring and developing teamwork skills and communicating effectively with clients.


General Learning Preferences

Data about learners in this area can be gathered through interviews, observations, and attitude data that may be gathered through questionnaires. Questions that can be asked about learners would include what kind of learning mode do the learners prefer? Do they prefer traditional lecture/discussion format. Are learners willing to explore other formats?

Table 3.7 Sample Description of Learners’ General Learning Preferences

Each student may have their own preference for a particular learning style, such as visual, auditory, etc. However, they have learned to adapt to various instructional methods. Most enjoy the chance to learn kinesthetically through technology and most prefer to work on “real-life” or simulated assignments and activities, particularly in class, rather than listening to extensive lectures. Some students prefer to learn totally online, but a significant number also like f2f interactions with the instructor and/or other learner. Some students like to work on group projects, but many are concerned about the logistics of arranging group meetings and about individuals who may not contribute equitably to group projects. Because adult learners prefer to work on authentic tasks, in class and online activities and assignments should focus on “real-life” applications of specified skills and knowledge. Relatively little time should be spent presenting content information during scheduled f2f sessions. Content information presented online should include graphic representations whenever possible/appropriate. A concerted effort must be made to ensure equitable contributions by individuals to group projects, as well as identifying specific techniques for measuring and grading individual effort and work.


Attitudes Toward Organization

Information for this area can be gathered through interviews. This information is vital to consider because learners are more willing to learn a new skill and apply it if they feel positively toward their organization. Questions that should be considered include, how do learners feel about the organization having them learn the new skill? Do they have an overall positive or negative attitude toward the organization?

Table 3.8 Sample Description of Learners’ Attitudes toward Organization

In general, it is believed that students have a positive attitudes toward UCF and toward the Instructional Design & Technology program. Anecdotal reports and informal interviews with students suggest that in general, students are satisfied with the education received at UCF. Some appeared to have had negative experiences with some online courses, noting lack of responsiveness from course instructors. A few also indicate that the f2f sessions scheduled for mixed mode courses were not worth their time, but overall, it appears that students are satisfied with their online and mixed mode course experiences. Since it appears that students, in general, have had positive experiences with online and mixed mode courses and have a positive attitudes toward UCF and the ID&T program, no particular attempts should be made to motivate already motivated learners. However, the instructor should be sure to provide timely feedback and make sure f2f sessions scheduled for mixed mode courses are relevant and worth students’ time and effort.


General Group Characteristics

Includes an overall impression of the target learners. Characteristics about the group can include:

  • Number in audience
  • Subgroups of audience members (rural/urban, grade/educational level, age and gender)
  • Background
  • Culture (social, economic)
  • Educational expectations
  • Sequence of course with other courses
  • Heterogeneity
  • Size
  • Overall impressions

Table 3.9 Sample Description of General Group Characteristics

The majority of learners in the target population are graduate students pursuing master’s degrees in Instructional Technology. For most, this course is their first introduction to basic systematic design concepts and models. It is a required core course for all Instructional Technology majors and should be taken early in their program of study. However, some students, who do not receive appropriate advisement may take this course later in their academic study.

In general, 15-25 students enroll in the course during the fall semester. Their age range between 25-50, they represent a mixture of cultural backgrounds and are pretty evenly split in terms of gender. Most, if not all work full-time in professional jobs (approximately 60% from education and 40% from business & industry) with a small, but significant number in a career transition. Most are married and have families.

Because learners come from business and industry, PK-12 and higher education, it is important to illustrate how systematic design is applied in all settings. Furthermore, with high enrollments, it’s important to consider alternative techniques for reviewing and providing feedback on course assignments. It would be virtually impossible to provide detailed and timely feedback if everyone completed all assignments individually.


Utilizing Information from a Learner Analysis

Once all of this information is gathered, certain implications can be made about the learners. It might help if you ask yourself, “Because I know [Characteristic] about the learners, I will [Implication].” The implication should allow you to focus your instruction to best suit the needs of the learners. For example:

“Because I know that the learners are visual learners, I will design the instruction to include diagrams, pictures, and charts to aid the learning process. ”

“Because I know that learners are not very motivated about the instruction, I will design instruction to assure that all aspects of the ARCS model are covered.”

“Because I know that learners do not have the prior skills and knowledge as expected I will design my instruction so that I teach or review the necessary skills.”

You are encouraged to reflect on the implications of your learner analysis for the design, delivery and evaluation of your instruction. You will be asked to identify and describe implications of key learner characteristics in your analysis report.


Techniques for Acquiring Information

To conduct a complete learner analysis, you must either know or gather information about the target population. This information is not always readily available. Several techniques can be used to assist your search for information about the learner population. These techniques include:

  • Utilizing Pretests
  • Reviewing Portfolios
  • Contacting Experienced Instructors
  • Survey Students
  • In-class Opportunities
  • Out-of-class Opportunities

For this course, you may need to apply one or more of these techniques to gather all the information necessary to complete a thorough learner analysis. If you do not have sufficient time to apply one or more of these techniques and gather all of the necessary information, be sure to note any additional information, the technique you would use to gather the information and provide a short rationale for why you selected that particular technique or techniques.

Utilizing Pretests

A pretest is a criterion-referenced test designed to measure entry behaviors or prerequisite skills needed before instruction can begin, as well as those skills the designer intends to teach. It gives the instructional designer a basis for developing items or skills that need to be taught to ensure successful instruction.

Portfolio assessment is one of the most common formats for performance evaluation. Portfolios contain samples of work that demonstrate student achievement of targeted outcomes, objectives, and proficiencies. Instructors can select samples of work that illustrate student strengths and weaknesses and make instructional design decisions based on these samples. Possible sources for student portfolio examples include the following:

  • Written reports
  • Rough drafts
  • Notes
  • Revisions
  • Descriptions
  • Exam of student knowledge
  • Peer reviews
  • Self-evaluations
  • Anecdotal records
  • Reflective writing
  • Audiotapes
  • Videotapes
  • Diagrams
  • Graphics/charts
  • Artwork
  • Photographs
  • Computer generated files and materials
  • Research papers
  • Projects

Contacting Experienced Instructors

Contact with former teachers can be either written or verbal. It can give valuable insights on study habits, learning styles, attitudes, motivation, etc., of the student population.

Survey Students

A survey is a useful tool for gaining valuable information about the target population. It can be used to obtain general information about the student background, training, prior education, etc., as well as information about current attitudes and preferences. Popular survey formats include questionnaire and checklist.

Create In-Class Opportunities for Getting to Know the Students

Plan flexible learner-centered instruction that allows for student- to- student interaction and student-to-teacher interaction. Small group discussions and open-ended, opinion oriented questioning strategies are ways to help facilitate and stimulate active student participation. It is very important to create a positive learning environment in which the students feel comfortable and at ease.

Encourage Out-Of-Class Contact with Students

Make students aware of hours and times to reach you outside of the classroom. Have an “open door” policy that is available to students who might need extra help. Arrange for class meetings at restaurants, etc., places outside of the classroom, where students can meet in a more informal or fun atmosphere.


What is Context Analysis?

Prior to recent advances in technology, it was relatively easy for educators to keep track of the resources that were available for designing and delivery of instruction. However, with so many new technologies available, it has become more difficult to effectively plan instruction. To achieve this purpose, teachers must know and be concerned with the following: What resources are available for the delivery, design, and evaluation of instruction? Are there any constraints present in the instructional setting? What are the characteristics of the setting in which the new skills and knowledge will be used or applied? The instruction must be designed to provide the learner with necessary skills and knowledge that can be used outside of the classroom (e.g., in a workplace or as a life skill). In other words, the instructor must be able to design and deliver effective instruction so that the transfer of new knowledge to different performance settings can occur successfully. Take, for example, the training of teachers on the use of technology. If teachers do not have ready access to the necessary equipment or do not have the support of their principal, training on the use of computer technology may not result in desired performance outcomes after the teachers have completed their training. All of this information can be acquired through a context analysis. The following techniques and concepts are addressed in this section of Unit 4.

  • Context Analysis of Performance Setting
  • Context Analysis of Learning Environment
  • Considerations for Applying Context Analysis in Educational Settings
  • Collecting Data for Context Analysis
  • Proposed Modifications


Context Analysis of Performance Setting

Seldom is something learned just for the purpose of demonstrating mastery on a test at the end of instruction. Most skills and knowledge are learned with the purpose of application outside of the classroom in work-related areas or as life skills. Therefore, as designers, it is important to understand how new skills and knowledge will be used in real world situations and the environment in which learners will be applying these skills. This knowledge will help guide the instructional designer in creating instruction that will ease the transfer of new skills to various performance settings outside the classroom. To enhance this transfer of knowledge, the following key areas must be addressed.

  • Managerial or Supervisor Support
  • Physical Aspects of the Site
  • Social Aspects of the Site
  • Relevance of Skills to the Workplace

The following summarizes and provides an example of the context analysis of the performance setting completed for this course (including descriptions of implications as required for your context analysis). For more details, refer to Chapter 5 of the Dick, Carey and Carey (2015) course textbook.

Managerial or Supervisor Support

It is important to know the managerial or supervisor support the learner can expect to receive when using new skills. According to Dick, Carey and Carey (2015), one of the strongest predictors of use of new skills in a new setting is the support received by the learner. If new skills are ignored or punished by management than it is more likely that the skills will not be used. On the other hand, if the learner receives praise or recognition for use of new skills, it is more likely those skills will be used.

Table 3.10 Sample Description of Managerial and Supervisor Support


Most students complete course related assignments at home. Those who are married or living with a significant other typically have support from their loved ones (both morally and by taking on additional home responsibilities) but such support is not managerial or supervisory in nature. There has been a few reported cases where there was a distinct lack of support from family members. Most students have full time jobs. In some cases, a student’s immediate supervisor supports their education, if not financially, than morally or by giving time at work to complete school assignments. Some students may be practicing instructional designers working for a training department or for a training development company and may choose to work on design project assigned to them at work for their in-class project. In such cases, some managerial and supervisory support may come from the students’ employer. Since this is a service-learning course, some additional managerial/supervisory support may come from service-learning partner, however, they would be considered “clients,” rather than employers. Overall, there is no direct managerial or supervisory support given directly to learners, except for what is provided by the course instructor.

Since there is no direct managerial or supervisory support given directly to learners, except for what is provided by the course instructor, specific deadlines for posting drafts and submitting final versions of all assignments must be published, along with recommendations for managing group projects. In general, students should be directed to manage and supervise their own team projects, but the instructor will be available to mediate any problems or issues that may occur during the term. In cases where students are practicing instructional designers and are using a work assignment for their course project (and thus, managerial and supervisory support may come directly for their job setting), some consideration and latitude must be given to allow students to follow directives given by their employee (e.g., use certain forms, tools and approaches prescribed by organization during systematic process)


Physical Aspects of the Site

It is important to understand the physical conditions in which these new skills will be applied. By understanding the physical environment, the instructional designer can design appropriate instruction, as well as create an instructional setting to fit the physical context in which the skills will be applied. In other words, the instructional designer can create conditions as similar as possible to those the learner will face in the workplace.

Table 3.11 Sample Description of Physical Aspects of the Performance Setting


Varies greatly by individual. Interviewed students have a study or computer room where they complete most of their school related work. Others have their computer set up their bedroom and/or study in other rooms. Some students have considerable support at work and in such cases, often have direct access to a computer at their desk or in their office. The majority of students complete their readings off-line, printing out relevant course materials. When it’s time to complete assignments, most do so on a desktop computer at home or at work. Some groups choose to meet on campus or at someone’s house to complete course related activities and assignments.

Minimum physical requirements, in terms of necessary hardware, software and internet connections to complete course assignments should be published. Also, recommendations for establishing a good working environment at home should be provided.


Social Aspects of the Site

Social aspects are important to the instructional designer because they must understand the social context in which new skills will be applied. In other words, will learners use these skills alone in the work environment or will they be part of a team? Will they be required to use these skills independently in the field or will they be presenting ideas in staff meetings or supervising employees? Will the learner be the only one who possesses this knowledge in the work place or will others possess the same expertise?

Table 3.12 Sample Description of Social Aspects of the Performance Setting


Varies greatly by individual. Again, most students complete course related assignments at home. As such, most social interactions are non-school/course related. Those who complete assignments at work typically do not interact socially with colleagues on course related activities except in a few isolated cases. Local students taking Web-based courses meet face-to-face to work on group projects, but otherwise, there is limited social interactions centered on course topics unless mediated by technology (e.g., BBS or chat).

Since social interactions are limited to online interactions and some scheduled f2f sessions, the course should give learners an opportunity to interact with other students privately online (e.g., chat room with no log and/or a student discussion/lounge with restricted teacher access on WebCT bulletin board system), as well as in formal, public spaces online..


Relevance of Skills to the Workplace

Finally, the instructional designer must evaluate the relevance of the new skills and knowledge to be learned. The skills and knowledge must be desirable to future employers and must be applicable to current working conditions or “real world” situations. If the skills are not relevant, then the instruction is wasted. For example, training teachers in the instructional uses of computers is irrelevant when teachers have no access to computers in their classrooms.

Table 3.13 Sample Description of Relevance of Skills to the Workplace


Varies by individual. Many students are practicing instructional designers or K-12 educators who use related skills frequently in their work environment. For approximately 10-20% of students, the skills covered in class are not relevant to their workplace but relevant to their future career choices.

Since the skills are fundamental to many learners’ current workplace, they have employ different tools and techniques to achieve similar goals (design training/instruction). Thus, some effort must be place on demonstrating the relative advantage of the tools and techniques covered in the course to promote satisfaction and motivation.


Context Analysis of Learning Environment

The learning environment should be observed from two points of view: how the learning environment actually is and how it actually should be. The designer will be looking at the site where instruction will occur and all of the tools that will be necessary for instruction to occur. There are four primary points to consider:

  • Number and Nature of Sites
  • Site Compatibility with Instructional Needs
  • Site Compatibility with Learner Needs
  • Feasibility for Simulating Workplace

Number and Nature of Sites

To design effective training or instruction, it is important to know the number and the nature of the learning site(s). When conducting a context analysis of the learning environment, instructional designers should take into account the number of sites, as well as the nature of the facilities, equipment, resources, and potential constraints that may affect learning and performance.

Table 3.14 Sample Description of Number and Nature of Sites

Number. This course will be provided in both totally online and in mixed mode. Therefore, the number of sites will depend on the number of learners enrolled in the class. An orientation for both online and mixed mode learners will be held on UCF’s main campus, as well as subsequent scheduled f2f sessions for mixed mode learners.

Facilities. Home facilities will differ depending on the students who enroll in the course. It is assumed that the majority of students who enroll will interact with course materials online either from home or work. Some may choose to access course materials from workstations available on campus. For the on-site f2f sessions, instruction will occur in one of the computer labs located on the UCF campus.

Equipment. At home, the equipment available to students when taking the course on-line will differ depending on the equipment available to them at home or at work. The only required equipment will be a computer with either modem or direct access to the Internet. Students will also require an email account that is provided by UCF if they do not have one already. In terms of software, students will require an email application, an Internet browser, a word processor and some type of graphics application. If students choose to come to campus to access course materials, the computers in the open labs all have direct connections to the Internet and are equipped with all of the necessary software. Both Windows based PCs and Macintosh computers are available in the open labs, but most are PCs.

Resources. UCF will provide an Instructor for the course. Otherwise, no other human resources are available for instructional delivery unless over 30 students enroll at any given time. Then, the University will provide a teaching assistant to help manage the course and provide feedback to students on course assignments. UCF will pay for any mailings or facsimiles required by the instructor. Students will be responsible for purchasing the course textbook, either from the University bookstore or from a bookstore of their choice.

Constraints. The speed in which students can access course materials on-line will vary depending on the speed of their modem and/or connection. Also, access speed will depend on the amount of traffic and the number of people accessing course materials at any given point in time. Also, students access to hardware and software will vary. It is unclear whether all students will have the hardware and software necessary to access the instruction on-line or to complete course assignments. In addition, studentsÂ’ ability to upload/post information, download information and participate in on-line interactions (e.g., listservs, chat and/or discussion forums) will vary.

Since the number and nature of the home learning environment may differ, minimum requirements for hardware, software and Internet connectivity must be published.

Since the number and nature of the home learning environment may differ, instruction should be provide on how to set up a home environment conducive to learning.


Site Compatibility with Instructional Needs

In addition to general information about the number and nature of the learning environment(s), it is important to determine if the site(s) are compatible to various instructional needs. For instance, are the sites conducive to different instructional strategies and delivery approaches? Are the sites available during the required time periods? Are there sufficient personnel for course delivery? Particular attention must be placed on not just describing the instructional need, but going one step further and assessing the site(s) compatible to the needs.

Table 3.15 Sample Description of Site Compatibility with Instructional Needs

Instructional Strategies. A variety of instructional strategies may be employed, including self-instructional print, on-line interactions with the WWW, and synchronous and asynchronous discussions. During in-person sessions, additional instructional strategies may be employed, including classroom presentations and face-to-face discussions. The great challenge may be facilitating group projects and service-learning with students taking the course at a distance. It may be difficult to facilitate teamwork and service-learning totally online and may require some distance student to travel if a suitable meeting place and/or service-learning organization is not available near their homes.

Delivery Approaches. Approximately half the students are registered to take the course totally online and the other half in mixed mode. While the learner may choose to print out materials, it is assumed that all learners who choose to take the course on-line will have a computer that is accessible and compatible with the delivery approach.

Time. Initial projections on learning time for the instructional goal is set at 90hrs – 120hrs. Three hours is set for the on-site orientation, with the option of attending additional face-to-face meetings. In addition, there may be some time required for synchronous communications throughout the semester (as often as once per week).

Personnel. Except for the personnel available to help design and produce course materials, the instructor will be the only one available during course delivery. This is compatible with how the course is to be designed.

Since the course is being offered totally online, some instruction may have to be necessary on how to set up an appropriate learning environment at home.

Since the course is being offered totally online and includes group projects and service-learning activities, attention must be place on helping students facilitate virtual teamwork and online or phone conferences.

Since all course materials, other than the textbook, will be delivered or made accessible online, effort must be placed on ensuring the student who takes the course has the required hardware and software.

Since a significant number of students may take the course totally online, the course/instructor should offer specific times/dates when students may interact with the instructor online in synchronous fashion (e.g., using chat).

Since there is only one instructor for the course that may include over 60 students, particularly attention must be made on how assignments are to be completed, submitted and reviewed.


Site Compatibility with Learner Needs

In addition to determining if the learning environment is compatible with instructional needs, it is just as important to determine if the site is compatible with learner needs. Specific areas of learner needs that should be addressed include, but are not limited to location, conveniences, space and equipment. Again, particular attention must be placed on not just describing learner needs, but going one step further and assessing the site(s) compatible to those needs.

Table 3.16 Sample Description of Site Compatibility with Learner Needs

Location. It is assumed that most learners will access on-line course materials from home or their workplace. Otherwise, for on-site face-to-face meetings, the University of Central Florida main campus is located in Orlando, approximately 15 min. East of downtown Orlando. While the face-to-face sessions may not be compatible with learner needs, on-line access will serve those who can not make it to campus.

Conveniences. Varies depending on students. A cafeteria is available on campus, and there are a number of hotels and restaurants in the Orlando area, close to campus. Other conveniences will depend on home and/or work conditions.

Space. The Instructional Technology Center, as well as the computer labs in the Delta Building are available for the on-site orientation. In addition, the University’s open labs are available to students. Otherwise, space will vary depending on each students’ home and work conditions. Effort should be placed on making sure that studentsÂ’ make sufficient/ compatible space at home or work for completing the on-line course.

Equipment. Up to 32 computers are available in the Instructional Technology Center or in the computer labs at UHCL. There are over 80 computers available in the open lab. The availability of equipment at home or at work will vary by student. To make the course compatible to learners, it is important to design the course for equipment that may be found typically in the home or work environment.

Since learners have the option of taking the course in totally online Web and in Mixed Mode, the “site,” whether it be at home or school, is compatible to learner needs.

The site for the scheduled f2f session are also compatible to learner needs in terms of location, conveniences, space and equipment.


Feasibility for Simulating Workplace

The designer should observe the learning site to determine if it’s feasible to simulate potential work environments. For training, an attempt should be made to keep both learning and performance sites as similar as possible, especially if certain factors are necessary for performance. Simulating potential work environments may be difficult, but still feasible in PK-12 or higher education learning sites. Key characteristics to consider include supervisory characteristics, physical characteristics, and social characteristics.

Table 3.17 Sample Description of Feasibility for Simulating Workplace

Supervisory Characteristics. Supervisory characteristics may only be simulated if students are practicing instructional designers and use work assignments for to meet course requirements. The Service-Learning activities simulate the client-provider relationships.

Physical Characteristics. Depending on the availability of equipment at home or at work, the physical characteristics of the workplace may be simulated. Physical characteristics may be simulated during the on-site orientation and for additional on-site meetings.

Social Characteristics. If students access and complete course assignments from their workplace, the social characteristics may be simulated to some extent. Otherwise, it can not be simulated. Social characteristics may be simulated during the on-site orientation and for additional on-site meetings.

Since the service-learning activities simulate the client-provider relationships, it is much more feasible to simulate the workplace. Interactions with a SME, supervisor/managers and target learners during the analysis, design and development phases are possible.

However, since learners are not working with a team of course developers (e.g., programmers, graphic artists, videographers), it’s not feasible to simulate the workplace completely and effort must be placed to inform learners what it’s like to work with a development team.


Applying Context Analysis Across Settings

The distinction made between the performance and learning context may become somewhat obscure across settings. In PK-12 and higher education, students may often be asked to learn and perform in the same context (e.g., in class). In distance education and training, students may also be asked to perform and learn in the same context (at home or at work). Furthermore, the concept of the “workplace” may not seem relevant when analyzing the context, particularly for PK-12 students. However, they may also be asked to learn skills and gain knowledge in areas that are important somewhere other than the classroom. Whatever the case, it is important for designers to think critically about the distinction between performance and learning setting when conducting context analysis.

Do students learn and perform in different settings or the same setting? In either case, it is believed that an analysis of factors associated with both performance and learning context is important and should be completed. However, the description of factors, particularly managerial support and relevance to workplace may differ considerably depending on what you consider the performance context. Be sure you note what the performance and learning setting actually is when reporting your context analysis.


Utilizing Information from Context Analysis

Similar to learner analysis results, the results of a context analysis may have a number of implications for the design of instruction. You are expected to reflect on and discuss the implications of your context analysis for the design, delivery and/or evaluation of your instruction in your Analysis Report.


Collecting Additional Context Analysis Data

Data collection techniques for the analysis of both learning and performance contexts are very similar. It is particularly important that an instructional designer visit the setting in which the skills that will be learned will ultimately be implemented. Visits to the performance setting will allow for first hand data gathering from potential learners and supervisors that could positively influence the methods used for instructing learners. Data gathering, which could occur through interviews and observations, should be planned well in advance and occur on more than one occasion. The main purpose at this stage is to identify the availability and limitations of the performance or learning environment. Detailed description of specific data gathering tools and techniques are provided under Learner Analysis as well as in Chapter 5 of the course textbook.



Unit 3 summarized key concepts associated with both learner and context analyses as described by Dick, Carey and Carey (2015). Key learner characteristics and factors associated with both the performance and learning context were reviewed and several modifications to learner analysis process, as well as considerations for applying context analysis across setting were discussed. Techniques for gathering learner and context data were also described for situations where relevant data may not be readily accessible. As noted by Dick, Carey and Carey, the collection of data at this stage of the systematic design process also provides a good opportunity to verify and revise your goal and subordinate skills analysis. The results of goal, subordinate skills, learner and context analyses should then be compiled into one analysis report that may then be used by design and development team members during the design phase of the systematic process which begins with generating, clustering and sequencing performance objectives.


Last Updated 08/19/22


Instructional System Design Copyright © by Atsusi Hirumi. All Rights Reserved.

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