What is Content Analysis in Instructional Design?

It can be nerve wracking to publish a new eLearning course or launch a new series of instructor-led trainings. How can you be sure your learners will like it? More importantly, how can you be sure they will learn effectively as a result?

While there are several tasks that fall under the analysis conducted as part of instructional design, content analysis is key to ensuring that your course follows a logical sequence of learning for a specific audience. 

Conducting content analysis prior to course design means ensuring that you’re developing the best and most effective content for the topic and the learners.

What is content analysis?

Sometimes called instructional analysis, content analysis in instructional design is a set of activities that help designers to understand what domain the learning objective falls into and how content should be constructed and sequenced accordingly.

During your content analysis, you will:

  • Define the knowledge and skills your learners will need to solve a problem or support business performance
  • Work with subject matter experts to define each steps required to solve that problem so you can identify the skills/knowledge that are needed in the course
  • Begin to formulate an idea of the type of content that will be most impactful at each intersection of the course

Within this process, you will carry out two subcategories of content analysis:

  • Content Domain Analysis
  • Content Level Analysis

Content Domain Analysis

The content domain analysis is what will allow you to define learning objectives for your course and topics. An example of a  useful model to define the domain include Bloom’s Taxonomy. You will need to understand whether the course needs to address a need at the cognitive, physical, or emotional level of the learner.

From there, you will create your learning objective which will inform much of your content design decisions later on.

Ensure your content analysis is timely and on track with this free template:
eLearning Project Plan Template

Content Level Analysis

Content level analysis means determining the sequencing of your content in order to achieve the learning objectives defined during your content domain analysis.

During the content level analysis, you decide to discard more complex content than is required for the learning objective. You’ll also be determining if there are any dependencies between different topics or previous learning experiences. 

At the end of the content level analysis, you’ll know exactly what content will be included in your course and the sequence in which it should appear. 

Why should you conduct a content analysis for your instructional design project?

Without a content analysis, it’s easy to end up with an overload of information from your SMEs and a lot of loose ends in terms of how all your topics will tie together in the end course. The content analysis gives your design efforts clear direction and, therefore, a more effective course for your learners.

If you incorporate a more iterative design process into the mix, it’s a good idea to perform a thorough content analysis at the beginning and ongoing assessments of your content throughout the project. 

Steps for an Effective Instructional Design Content Analysis

Here are some tips and steps to performing an effective content analysis for instructional design purposes:

Define the Scope

Lack of scope means risking that you end up with a swathe of information and quickly realizing that you should have narrowed down the topic.

As part of the scope of the course, ask yourself (and your SMEs)

  • What do these learners already know?
  • How in-depth does the content need to be in relation to the learning objective?
  • What kind of assessment will be most effective to ensure the learners have met the goal?

Define Dependencies

This will take some close work with your subject matter experts. But it’s essential that you understand dependencies between topics so that your course makes sense.

For example, you can’t lead the course with topic B and topic C if you need topic A to be able to understand the other two topics. Defining dependencies means your course will follow an A,B,C route for your learners without frustrating them.

Begin to Storyboard from the Beginning

Even if it’s a rough sketch on a piece of paper, storyboarding will help you to maintain a constant overview of the shape of your course. It’s also much easier to collaborate with SMEs at this point. So make sure everyone is satisfied with a rough storyboard before your get into the weeds of content design.

Leverage SMEs and Learners

Since you are likely unfamiliar with the subject and information you are building into a course, it’s essential that you leverage SMEs and test groups of learners to find out if your structure and sequencing makes sense.

Try running focus groups with learners or interviews with multiple SMEs to make sure your content analysis is hitting the mark.

How well do you really know instructional design? Test your knowledge with this quiz:
Back to Basics: Instructional Design Fundamentals

You might also like

Article Details

Collaborate & Grow:
Discover the

What is Content Analysis in Instructional Design?