ITDE 8001 Assignment 1.2: Needs Assessment

Needs Assessment Proposal

Sheila Ellenberger

As senior officers in institutions are faced with problems that reflect a failure to achieve certain organizational goals or take advantage of opportunities, often the problems are presented to trainers within the organization. Prior to investing resources into a training program, training designers are asked to identify instructional goals. In order to state an instructional goal, designers move through a formal process of needs assessment that identifies discrepancies between current outcomes and desired outcomes. The difference between the optimal outcome and the actual situation is referred to as a gap, or need. The instructional goals are ideally derived through the needs assessment process and solutions to the problem are expressed in a refined, systematic statement. The statement focuses on what learners will be able to do when they complete the training. (Dick and Carey, 1996).
 

At times the needs assessment process is neglected and uninformed decisions steer the training plan which oftentimes is unnecessary. But in other situations a needs assessment model is employed prior to ascribing to the final plan. An example of this situation is emerging at my home institution. The Vice President for Academic Affairs articulated a problem to the Library Director. Faculty and students of the college are experiencing frustrations as they attempt to access library materials through the recently implemented online catalog and interlibrary loan system. The collection of materials at the home library, as well as vast collections located throughout the state in other academic libraries, and a plethora of research databases are now readily available and easily accessible to faculty and student library users. Unfortunately timely training to inform users on how-to-use the web-based environment did not occur. Consequently users are not skilled at accessing the library materials they need in order to complete assignments and conduct research.
 

The cause of the problem stems from the timeline of the catalog implementation. To prepare the home library's collections of books, audiovisuals and journals for online readiness consumed a tremendous amount of staff time. Online availability of materials occurred concurrently with the opening of the fall semester, thus not allowing adequate time for training sessions to be designed and offered to faculty and students.
 

During the first year of online web access to the newly expanded library system, information was gathered by librarians in several ways. Informal interviews with academic department chairpersons were frequently conducted. Students were often asked if the library is currently meeting their needs and how their research could be made easier and more efficient. Notes of conversations were documented as well as any action(s) taken. Sleeth (http://www.nnlm.nlm.nih.gov/ner/nesl/9410/tol.html) recommends this identical step as part of her needs assessment tool. Rossett's model (Dick and Carey, 1996) also includes identification of the problem by requesting learners to state their feelings and by asking learners to pinpoint causes.
 

After studying the actual situation, library trainers are now able to determine how much instruction is needed to bring the skill level of users to where it ought to be. By determining how library patrons feel about their research skills or lack thereof provides library staff with information for designing training to achieve an optimal situation. Design of the training will address the learner's needs now that those needs have been identified. The instructional goal is stated as:

References
Dick, W. & Carey, L. (1996). The systematic design of instruction. (4th ed.). New York, NY. HarperCollins College Publishers.
 

National Institute of Health. Needs assessment tools.(Sleeth, P.). Retrieved October 5, 1999 from the World Wide Web: http://www.nnlm.nlm.nih.gov/ner/nesl/9410/tol.html