Although you may not have heard of the phrase “Task Analysis” you’ve probably done an informal one when trying to remember the steps to complete a task you don’t do that often. A task analysis is done when you want to analyze a task in order to document, step by step, how that task is completed. E-learning course developers do this for the simple reason that they are creating training, and training teaches the learner how to DO something. Task analysis is ALL about the doing.
If you want to put together a training course in Camtasia and/or PowerPoint, creating a task analysis goes along with creating an outline of what you want to teach and it can help you be much more organized when you begin to create the storyboards.
Breaking down a task might seem like a very straightforward and simple thing to do, but even some of the easiest tasks we do are quite complex, and there are more steps involved than we realize when we break them down. For example, sending an email. Easy task, right? Maybe a three-step process? Well, when you break it down, the task analysis for writing an email might look like this:
Example Task Analysis: How to Send an Email
- Click New Email button
- Click inside the “to:” field
- Type recipient’s email address
- Click inside the subject field
- Type the subject of the email
- Click inside the body field
- Type email, including a greeting and closing sentence.
- Add signature
- Double-check email for correct spelling and grammar
- Click Send button
And the process could become even more granular if you explain how to add multiple recipients, how to insert an attachment, etc. Additionally, this doesn’t include brainstorming the right subject line and then writing an appropriate message that best conveys the intended thoughts. As you can see, even the most average task has a lot behind it..
I always find it best to illustrate these types of processes with an example. With that in mind, let’s say you want to put together a course about “How to Remodel Your Home”. How would you get started?
Step 1: Identify the Task to Analyze
The first step is to identify the task that you’re going to analyze. Tasks are basically the duties carried out to complete the goal. Re-modelling a home has a lot of parts to it, so you need to be able to break them down into broad activities (aka tasks!) and focus on them one at a time.
One of the tasks to remodel a home is to renovate the kitchen. Remember, your tasks should describe what a person does during the job and must start with an action verb.
So, in our example, your first task to analyze is “Renovate the kitchen”
Step 2: Break Down the Task into Subtasks
Once you’ve identified your task, you need to identify the subtasks, the smaller “chunks” of the larger task. These should also be brief and start with an action verb.
In our example, you want to find out the subtasks of “Renovating a Kitchen”. You can find out this information either through research, discussion and/or observation with an expert (who might be yourself). Let’s say you discover that the subtasks for renovating a kitchen are
- Demo the existing kitchen
- Paint kitchen walls and ceiling
- Install new flooring
- Install new cabinets
- Install new countertops and backsplash
Step 3: Identify Steps in Subtasks
We’ve identified our task and we’ve broken it down into subtasks. Our final step is to identify and list the steps for each subtask. This is done by breaking down all of the subtasks into the specific actions that are carried out, step by step, in chronological order. The key here is to use the Goldilocks approach to detail: not too much and not too little. Just the right amount so learners can follow the instructions easily. Again, as with tasks and subtasks, your steps should always start with an action verb. Here’s an example:
For the first task of “Demoing the existing kitchen” the steps would be
- Remove cabinet doors
- Remove doorway and window trim
- Remove appliances and lighting fixtures
- Remove sheets of paneling or wallpaper from the walls.
- Remove drywall if new electrical or plumbing is needed
- Bring old appliances to recycling
- Bring old cabinets and everything else to the dump.
And we could certainly go into further details, for each one of these steps, if we wanted to.
Now, you can take the task analysis and easily turn it into an outline for your course. Once you see how much you have to teach to meet the goals of your course you may decide to break it down into more than one course, which you can sell separately. It’s up to you to decide how big your training course is going to be and how much you want to cover
The task analysis also helps determine the length of your modules, lessons and topics and how you will group things together which is a major part of e-learning design.
I highly recommend you spend time upfront doing a thorough task analysis and outline for all your video training prior to starting any development work so you don’t inadvertently bite off a little more than you can chew.