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Design successful training by examining your target group

The idea of considering the target group when designing any kind of learning is, of course, nothing new. Most of us do. However; in my experience, it often starts and ends with the number of people attending. Here are 7 aspects of the target group I consider when designing for learning.

Kim Blomqvist

Ready to design training? Examine the following 7 points regarding your target group

When designing learning, the target group is one of the key aspects to consider as your understanding of the participants can really make or break the learner experience and thus the training. When I design training that I will myself facilitate or even when I work with clients on their L&D design, I look at the following 7 main points when mapping the target group:

1. How many they are

We are talking about the size of the group; this becomes particularly important depending on the nature of the training – if it is hybrid or purely digital, and if it requires a lot of feedback and guidance, or even if they are to collaborate with each other. All these are areas are affected by the size of a group.

2. Who they are

In this case meaning what positions/role they hold; with this knowledge, you are able to work with expectation management more easily, both from your own and the participating group's perspective.

3. What their attitude and comfortability with digital learning is

This is extremely important to consider, as it will let you know what you need to build into the learning journey outside of the actual content of the training. No matter how good of a content you have, if your participants feel insecure about the environment or have preconceived notions about it, this will become an obstacle in the learning process.

4. How much time they will have for the training

Do they even know? Are they themselves in charge of it? How much time do they want to spend? Time is always a key factor for a participant in any learning situation and, as such, you need to consider it in relation to your target group. Do design with respect for the time invested by those participating.

"Knowing your participants' pre-knowledge gives you the insight to the level you need to create your content on, plus the number of levels you need to offer it on..."

5. The topic of the training: Is it close to what they work with on a daily basis?

It might seem obvious that a certain skill or product training, for example, would be closely tied to the participants daily work but that is not necessarily the case. Therefore, ensure that you have a good understanding of this before you include references, examples, and activities in your training that relates to the learners' daily work situation. This will fall flat should you have misjudged. Key to training transfer is the correlation between the new knowledge/skills learned and the usage of this on a day-to-day basis.

6. What pre-knowledge the participants might have of the topic area being handled in the training

Basically, what level are they at in relation to the topic(s) covered? We have all been in training at one time or another where we either feel in over our heads or are bored because the content has been too difficult or too easy for us. Knowing your participants' pre-knowledge gives you the insight to the level you need to create your content on, plus the number of levels you need to offer it on, as there may very well be widespread within the group of what they already know and don't know of the topic area. Meeting learners at their level is, as commonly known, essential for motivation and engagement.

7. How well the participants know each other

This last but certainly not least factor is one that I rarely hear being mentioned or considered, particularly not when designing digital or hybrid learning; yet it is such an important element when designing for collaboration and sociocultural learning that, of course, is to be desired in any type of learning situation.

A final aspect that I have encountered, although not as common to enclose it in the above list, is the mismatch of what type of training has been requested by the participants, and what it is you have been asked/hired to design for and, in some cases, also deliver.

There are many ways in which you can gather this information about your target group, and which method you use largely depends on the situation. I always find surveys/questionnaires useful and with carefully crafted questions, you can get answers to the above mentioned. Some of these things, you might already have the inside knowledge of. No matter the method you choose to use to gain that crucial understanding of your participants, the important thing is that you take the time to gather it and use it appropriately.

Curious for more information on how you can design great learning experiences? Check out the White Paper by Anna Åkerfeldt on Design for Digital Learning Experiences below.

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Kim Blomqvist är erfaren L&D strateg och designer av pedagogiska lärandeprocesser.

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