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Before starting development on a new eLearning project, it’s important to make sure you’ve collected and analyzed all the information used to justify the creation of an eLearning course in the first place. One of the ways you do this is by conducting a needs analysis to determine the root cause behind the gap in performance and whether or not eLearning (or any learning intervention) is the right solution. Another method of analyzing the learning need is by conducting a task analysis.

A task analysis is a process of analyzing a specific task to determine how it’s completed, step-by-step.

A task analysis is a process of analyzing a specific task to determine how it’s completed, step-by-step. While this might seem pretty straightforward, a task analysis can get pretty detailed. When done correctly, a thorough task analysis will be broken down into procedures, primary tasks, and subtasks.

But, why should you consider conducting an eLearning task analysis in the first place? Well, the results of a task analysis can be used to determine many different variables about your project. First, a task analysis can help you ensure your learning and performance objectives align with the actual tasks your learners need to perform. And second, a task analysis can help you determine the total scope and complexity of what you need to teach your learners. This information can help you decide whether or not additional learning interventions are required to accomplish the desired learning goal.

Here are three simple steps for conducting a task analysis.

Step One: Identify the Primary Procedure

The first step for conducting a task analysis is to determine the primary procedure.

The first step for conducting a task analysis is to identify the primary procedure your learners are expected to perform. When identifying the primary procedure, you want to avoid being too broad, which could result in performing a task analysis on something that should actually be separated out into multiple procedures.

For example, if you were conducting a task analysis on a financial auditor, performing an analysis on their responsibility of “auditing financial records” would likely be too complex. The reality is that this responsibility is comprised of multiple, individual procedures (i.e., completing the daily finance audit, organizing and sending audit results to the audit committee, submitting the monthly tax report to the Internal Revenue Service, etc.).

In this case, we’ll look at the procedure of “completing the daily finance audit.”

Step Two: List the Main Tasks

The second step for conducting a task analysis is to list the main tasks.

The second step in conducting a task analysis is to identify and list the main tasks for completing the primary procedure. Similar to identifying the primary procedure, you don’t want to be too broad or too specific.

When listing the main tasks, and the subtasks, use action verbs to describe each task. For example, for our procedure of “completing the daily finance audit,” it might look something like this:

  1. Download the daily finance report.
  2. Review the daily finance report for inaccuracies.
  3. Report inaccuracies to the corporate finance auditor.

Step Three: List the Subtasks

The third step for conducting a task analysis is to list the subtasks

The third and final step for conducting a task analysis is to break the main tasks into subtasks. The subtasks are where you start getting granular with the level details of each task.

Using the first main task from our example of “completing the daily finance audit;” here’s what the final task analysis might look like, broken down into subtasks:

  1. Download the daily finance report:
    a. Login to the finance operating mainframe.
    b. Click the Run Daily Report button.
    c. Click the Download Daily Report button.

The Bottom Line

Once you’ve successfully completed your task analysis, you should have a holistic, step-by-step outline of what’s involved in completing an identified procedure, which you can use in designing your learning intervention. What other tips can you share about conducting a task analysis? Share them by commenting below!

Tim Slade

Tim Slade

Hi, I’m Tim Slade, and I’m a speaker, author, and founder of The eLearning Designer's Academy. Having spent the last decade working to help others elevate their eLearning and visual communications content, I have been recognized and awarded within the eLearning industry multiple times for my creative and innovative design aesthetics. I’m also a regular speaker at international eLearning conferences, a LinkedIn Learning instructor, and author of The eLearning Designer’s Handbook.

2 Comments

  • Philip Deer says:

    This is such a great tip! Thanks, TIm.

    Here’s something I like to do. Once I know what learners will need to be able to do when they have completed the course/training, I work backward. I ask; What do they need to know or practice in order for that to be realized? Then, I take those pieces and ask the same about each of those pieces. Keep in mind your target audience’s prior knowledge, experience, and familiarity with the topic or tasks. Keep working backward and chunking things down until you get to the point where the next thing they need to know or practice is something they already know or do. Then, you’ve discovered the all the things in between that need to be included in the training to fill in the missing gaps/pieces so they can get to the goal of the proposed training.

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