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  • 标题:Taking time to conduct a needs analysis in creating an online course.
  • 作者:Barger, Bonita
  • 期刊名称:Academy of Educational Leadership Journal
  • 印刷版ISSN:1095-6328
  • 出版年度:2005
  • 期号:January
  • 语种:English
  • 出版社:The DreamCatchers Group, LLC
  • 摘要:How do you design an online International Management course that simulates the issues global managers face in managing and motivating virtual teams? How do you incorporate stakeholder feedback (i.e. students, faculty, university administrators, etc.) to ensure that you produce a quality product? This paper presents the theoretical underpinning and practical issues of "taking time" to conduct a needs analysis to design an online technology mediated learning (TML) environment for an undergraduate International Management course. Various models are reviewed, and an overall model design for creating an online course is presented with a brief sample of a needs analysis; also discussed are the choices made during the process.
  • 关键词:Business education;Computer assisted instruction;Computer-assisted instruction;Curriculum development;Curriculum planning

Taking time to conduct a needs analysis in creating an online course.


Barger, Bonita


ABSTRACT

How do you design an online International Management course that simulates the issues global managers face in managing and motivating virtual teams? How do you incorporate stakeholder feedback (i.e. students, faculty, university administrators, etc.) to ensure that you produce a quality product? This paper presents the theoretical underpinning and practical issues of "taking time" to conduct a needs analysis to design an online technology mediated learning (TML) environment for an undergraduate International Management course. Various models are reviewed, and an overall model design for creating an online course is presented with a brief sample of a needs analysis; also discussed are the choices made during the process.

INTRODUCTION

Business faculty today face increased momentum to teach online using technology mediated learning (TML) programs such as WebCT, Blackboard, Elluminate, and Virtual Classroom. While recent publications--such as Digital Technology in Teaching International Business: Is a Tradeoff Between Richness and Reach Required? Wymbs, C. & Kijne, H., (2003)--attest to some of the issues that exist, empirical evidences are mixed as to the positives (Parker & Gemino, 2001) and negatives (Arbaugh, 2000) of these programs to outperform traditional teaching. Nevertheless, more than their counterparts in other colleges, Business School faculty are encouraged to create e-commerce courses and teach online using TML programs.

Approaching the task of creating an online International Management course draws into question not the content which is readily available online through various textbook authors websites, but rather a whole series of questions. How does one simulate the issues of constant assessment and appraisal that occurs in working across borders without face to face contact? How can students, many of whom have not traveled outside of the United States, understand the issues created in managing virtual relationships? How can one create curiosity? This paper presents a model I used, focusing on the application of a needs analysis to gather key stakeholder input in the design of an International Management online course. In addition, I describe the choices I made in my role as needs analyst? (See Table B)

THE MODEL AND MODELS CONSIDERED

Upon review of course design literature on International Management courses, it was obvious that there was a knowledge void. Thus, a model was constructed that integrated three models and formed the foundation of the course design. Nadler (1989) stated that "developing a model is not a unique experience reserved for the privileged few. All of us are constantly "designing models" as we try to make sense of the everyday world around us. Without those models, it is doubtful if we could solve the problems that are a constant part of daily life" (p. 4). The model presented here was adapted from L. Nadler (1989), Chalofsky and Reinhart (1988), and Brinkerhoff (1991), and laid the foundation for a process to design the online course.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

THE NEED FOR NEEDS ANALYSIS

The design model highlights the macro and micro levels of planning, managing, and evaluating for effectiveness. The first step requires an organizational needs analysis. With the demand to create an online course by the next semester, and the literature stating that it can take up to 1,000 hours to create online courses with accompanying CD's, the last action faculty consider is conducting an organizational needs assessment. There just is not time to ask questions such as, "Does the administration want or need an online International Management course?" or "What are the students needs as they relate to working virtually with complex subject matter?" The tendency, then, is to respond with, "I don't have time for a needs analysis. Just take the WEBCT/Blackboard training and create the course." Or the response is something like: "Why should I do a needs analysis? A needs analysis, while it works in theory, takes too much time in actual practice. A needs analysis is for training programs. Will it add value in designing an online course?" In reality, the resistance is strong to "cut to the chase and produce the product without prior analysis." Slowing down the process becomes an obstacle versus value added.

Ensuring that the right programs, services, and outcomes are offered at the right time for the best value is a key role of any business professional. The creation of cost-effective, value-adding services and programs involves planning to meet the business needs. Needs analysis serves as the cornerstone of effective planning and is one of the foremost activities to accomplish this (Tracey, 1992). Evaluating needs and goal setting establish evaluation criteria (Brinkerhoff, 1991). A needs analysis begins to lay the groundwork for student and administration commitment, sponsorship, and ownership of course or program.

Although needs analysis is perceived as an important activity in planning, ownership, and the criteria for goal setting and evaluation, less than half of Human Resource Development (HRD) programs are preceded by an analysis (Meigs-Burkhart, 1986, in Brinkerhoff, 1991). Brinkerhoff (1991) contended that the HRD practitioner does not conduct regular systematic needs analysis because of time and resource limitations, and he called for "at least some evaluation prior to all HRD efforts" (p. 54). This fact was evident, for there was a knowledge void from a review of the literature in design creation of online courses in International Management.

A study of HRD in Fortune 500 companies revealed that when a needs analysis was used, informal discussions (63%) and observation (53%) were the methods of choice (Ralphs & Stephan, 1986). The authors argued that "with all the emphasis on more 'scientific' needs analysis methods, one would have expected to see other methods rate higher than the informal methods" (Ralphs & Stephan, 1986, p. 74). They addressed the informal and infrequent use of needs analysis and conjectured:
 It is our experience that the need for training in many
 organizations is so strong-and in some cases so obvious--that often
 there is no justification for a more formal needs analysis method.
 In addition, even when a more formal needs analysis is used,
 seasoned training professionals realize that the informal
 discussion is often needed to gain the necessary commitment from
 the clients to accomplish a project or program. (p. 74)


THE ROLE OF NEEDS ANALYST

The role of needs analyst is defined as the "identification of ideal and actual performance and performance conditions and determinant causes of discrepancies" (Rothwell & Sredl, 1992, p. 130).

This description of the role of needs analyst is one of four needs assessment methods presented by Tracey (1992). It is defined as a discrepancy need, the difference between "an ideal, normative, or expected level of performance and an actual level of performance" (Tracey, 1992, p. 71). The definition was reported by Brinkerhoff from the work of Daniel Stufflebeam of Western Michigan University at Kalamazoo in 1977 (in Tracey, 1992).

ONLINE BUSINESS COURSE-A NEEDS ANALYSIS

Education expects prophets, educators that can prepare students for the world in 20-30 years. Industry expects profits. It wants organizations that can produce quality results that add to the bottom line in the next quarter. In order to achieve these results, however, a needs analysis is requisite. The literature shows that less than half of the Human Resource Development programs are preceded by a needs analysis; a knowledge void also existed for online creation of International Management courses. Nevertheless, time, effort, and resources were used to conduct an analysis of student needs before creating an online course.

NEEDS ANALYSIS MEASUREMENT TOOL: A METHOD FOCUSING ON HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Multiple methods exist that can be used to gather data for analysis. The selection or creation of the right analysis tool that will provide valid and reliable data is one of the basic challenges posed for educators and business professionals working in the role of needs analyst. The Human Resource Management Practice Orientations (HRMPO) was chosen as the measurement tool. The orientation instrument was adapted from Schuler (1987) and Cyr (1994). The HRMPO is a method of measuring discrepancy between the desired and the current state of human resource practices using a semantic differential scale (L. Nadler, 1989). The survey is intended to supplement individual interviews and serve as a visual vehicle for needs analysis. The data received is a static snapshot in time, while the instrument is multidimensional. HRMPO serves as a data collection method and also a needs analysis tool that can be used by management for business planning in the future.

The following considerations were reviewed and discussed in the selection and adaptation of HRMPO for an analysis of stakeholders (past, current, and future students):

(a) Is it easy to use for the university administrators, current, and future students?

(b) How much time and knowledge are required to accurately complete it?

(c) Are the concepts and language familiar to the stakeholders?

(d) Are the data trackable over time?

(e) Does it allow for creating ownership of findings and implementation action?

IMPLEMENTATION FORMAT, BRIEF SAMPLE OF THE SURVEY, CHOICES MADE

Students who had completed the on-ground International Management course were asked to assist in designing an online version. The instrument took about five minutes to deliver. A sample size of 80 students from three on-ground courses over three semesters was used. In addition, students were asked to provide written feedback during the final course evaluations on how to deliver the content, group process dynamics, and interactions online. The written suggestions were incorporated into the online component.

A brief sample of the survey and simulated findings can be found in Table A below. The X's represent Current State of Affairs and O's represent Desired State of Affairs. The amoebae-like structures provided a visual summary. Table B highlights choices I made supported by the literature.

SUMMARY

When creating an online course for the first--or even second--time, pressures exist. There are pressures to create and produce, learn the technology, review the literature, and meet with publishers to determine what electronically exists to support the course. These pressures take priority over asking students what they would like to see if they were taking the course online. But taking the time to do so added value to the overall design. In addition, the needs analysis instrument became a discussion trigger on course improvement with students. They appreciated the opportunity to have input and to have their thoughts heard.

REFERENCES

Arbaugh, J.B. (2000). Virtual classroom characteristics and student satisfaction with Internet-based MBA courses. Journal of Management Education, 24, 32-54.

Borg, W. R. & Gall, M. D. (1989). Educational Research (5th ed.). New York: Longman.

Brinkerhoff, R. O. (1991). Achieving results from training: How to evaluate human resource development to strengthen programs and increase impact. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Chalofsky, N. E. & Reinhart, C. (1988, August). Your new role in organizational drama: Measuring effectiveness. Training and Development Journal, 42(8),30-37.

Cyr, D. J. (1994). International joint ventures: The strategic human resource management dimension (joint ventures). Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Nadler, L. (1989). Designing training programs: The critical events model. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Parker, D. & Gemino, A. (2001). Inside online learning: comparing conceptual and technique learning performance in place-based and ALM formats. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 5, 64-74.

Ralphs, L.T. & Stephan, E. (1986, October). HRD in the Fortune 500. Training and Development Journal, 69-76.

Rothwell, W. & Sredl, H (1992). The ASTD reference guide to professional human resource development roles and competencies, (2nd ed.) Amherst, MA: HRD Press.

Schuler, R. S. (1987). Human resource management practice and choices. In R. S. Schuler & S. A. Youngblood (Eds.), Readings in personnel and human resource management (3rd ed.; p 211). St. Paul, MN: West.

Schuler, R. S. (1992, Summer). Strategic human resource management: Linking the people with strategic needs of the business. Organizational Dynamics, 18-32.

Tracey, W. R. (1992). Designing training development systems. (3rd ed.). New York: AMACOM.

Wymbs, C. & Kijne, H., (2003) Digital Technology in Teaching International Business: Is a Tradeoff Between Richness and Reach Required? Journal of Teaching in International Business, 14(2/3).

Bonita Barger, Tennessee Technological University
Table A: Brief Survey Sample

PLANNING

How important is planning (creating a project management plan)
when applied to

 strong moderate slight both

Onground Classes X
Online Classes

 slight moderate strong

Onground Classes O
Online Classes

ASSESSMENT

How important is peer assessment when applied to Assessment

 strong moderate slight both

Onground Classes X
Online Classes

 slight moderate strong

Onground Classes O
Online Classes

How important is self assessment when applied to

 strong moderate slight both

On ground Classes X O
Online Classes

 slight moderate strong

On ground Classes
Online Classes

How important is instructor assessment when applied to

 strong moderate slight both

On-ground classes X
Online Classes

 slight moderate strong

On-ground classes O
Online Classes

COMMUNICATION

How important is instructor communication when applied to

 strong moderate slight both

Onground Classes X O
Online Classes

 slight moderate strong

Onground Classes
Online Classes

Note: X = Current State; O = Desired state. Adapted from
Schuler (1987) and Cyr (1994).

Table B: Choices, Principles/Theories, and Theorists/Mentors
for the Role of Needs Analyst

Choice made Principles/theory Theorist/mentor

Chose to do a needs Completed a needs L. Nadler,
analysis analysis based on 1989
 information from
 administrators

Chose to identify gaps Identified ideal and Rothwell & Sredl,
in ideal and actual actual performance, 1992
states performance conditions
 and recommendations.

Chose to adapt an Adapted the instrument Cyr, 1994
existing instrument from work by Schuler
from prior research on and Cyr outlining HRM
joint ventures and and HRD indicators.
applied it to the
creation of an online Strove to include Schuler,
class strategic human 1992, p. 365
 resource management as
 "all those activities
 affecting the behavior
 of individuals in their
 efforts to formulate
 and implement the
 strategic needs of the
 company" such as
 competencies and the
 role of the HRM/HRD
 functions.

Chose to use semantic Used a semantic L. Nadler,
differential scales in differential scale much 1989, p. 67
the adaptation and like a Likert scale. It
creation of the needs is "usually presented
analysis instrument with words that are
 diametrically opposed,
 with a line between
 them".

Chose to give needs For surveys to be Borg & Gall,
analysis survey to valid, the sample must 1989
three on ground classes be large enough to
with a response rate of generalize to the
80 students. larger population. In
 addition, the return
 rate must be adequate.

Chose to follow Created consent forms Borg & Gall,
extensive ethical outlining the project, 1989
standards in confidentiality, and
implementation of the how the information was
needs analysis to be used.
implementation.
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