Needs Analysis: The Foundation for Learning Program Development

February 01, 2017

United Educators (UE) has a history of developing resources aimed at helping administrators better understand, and mitigate, the myriad risks that occur in the educational setting. Instead of focusing on what administrators need to know about risk, UE's blended learning programs take aim at what individuals at our member institutions need to do to prevent incidents or respond to risk.

To effectively train students, staff, and faculty, UE's learning programs are narrowly focused on the most important behaviors contributing to a particular risk management issue. Once a focus is selected, our research team conducts an in-depth needs analysis to identify the behaviors that most often lead to problems at school or on campus. Based on feedback from members, education trends, and claims analysis, we identify the people, processes, and key issues that contribute to the risk management concern. This research allows UE to develop resources that target specific audiences and behavior changes that are needed to lower risk and claims.

Risk management researchers at UE use a variety of methods to gather information:

  • Analysis of UE claims data and member technical requests
  • Surveys or interviews of members
  • Member focus groups
  • Consultation with outside experts
  • Review of external sources on the topic

Upon gathering information from multiple sources, the needs analysis concludes with a summary of research findings, including concrete learning goals and suggestions on ways to change the behaviors that contribute most to increased risk. At this point, extensive consultation takes place among UE researchers and instructional design professionals to decide on the blend of learning resources that will most effectively reach specific audiences that need training and target the behaviors they need to change to lower risk. Blended learning programs can include online courses, assessment tools, job aids, and other resources.

Needs Analysis in Action

How does this work in practice? Let's look at UE's recent learning program on workplace harassment as an example. Researchers analyzed more than 500 harassment claims brought against UE members. The process yielded some surprising findings:

  • Less than 25% of our harassment claims involved sexual harassment
  • A disproportionate number of claims involved maintenance workers or security personnel
  • The most expensive claims involved supervisors as harassers, often deans and department chairs

Most courses on the workplace harassment focus primarily on sexual harassment. As a result of our needs analysis, UE's course devoted significant attention to sexual harassment, but it also included substantial content on growing problem areas such as harassment based on race, disability, and national origin. The realistic scenarios throughout the course include administrators and supervisors engaging in harassment or making key decisions about how to respond to claims of harassment.

Education-specific Resources

Our rigorous needs analysis process and extensive claims and other risk information sets UE apart from training courses developed by other organizations. We know that the problems and issues are different at every institution, so we offer a range of learning options to find the best fit for you. By offering these research-based training programs, we hope to document and measure behavior changes that will reduce risk and claims over the long term.