Utilising business analysis concepts in an e-learning industry can help shape the market and provide a wealth of knowledge on potential areas that were never considered previously, says Learning Technologist Vijay Nair MBCS.

In this article we look into various business analysis concepts that can be applied in the learning technologies industry and demonstrate its use with the help of examples.

This article includes certain terms such as CATWOE, RASCI, mind maps, etc. that are not explained further as they are out of the scope of this article. A simple Google search would help provide further explanation for these terms.

Recently I was requested to put together a business case report of proposing several learning technologies to deliver a diverse range of online courses and packages. The business case report that I had put together utilised the following business analysis concept in the order as shown below:

  • Feasibility study. Analysing the current system, its features and drawbacks.
  • Swot analysis. This analysis was used to understand the strengths, weakness, opportunities and tactics of implementing the proposed solutions.
  • Most analysis. Used to understand the mission, objectives, strategies and tactics that can be applied when you implement the solution.
  • A gap analysis was performed to predict the path required to get from where we are to where we want to be. This involved listing down the technologies we were using to deliver the services and what was required to deliver the potential solutions, which included resources (man power, budgets, location, etc.).
  • Moscow analysis was performed to understand the must, should, could and won't when defining the scope of a solution to be implemented.
  • A resource audit was completed to understand what we had in-place to deliver the solution followed by an appraisal section from investors.
  • Cost-benefit analysis was performed to weight the cost over the benefits of the solutions proposed. This included options for how to deliver the solutions.
  • Risk management was put together to understand the risk in the project delivery.

Another example business case report within e-learning sector, was when I put together a proposal for investing on a learning management system to host e-learning courses built in house. This used a similar format to the above areas with emphasis on cost, benefit, optional analysis, and revenue models.

In an environment where products developed are innovative in nature, we perform competitor analysis and profiling. Performing this stage can help understand the competition for the products or services to be delivered by performing analysis of the competitive products and comparing it with the services offered. This step is useful when you want to predict the success rate of the product to be developed for the market.

Using competitor profiling methods you are able to understand the value of the learning technology and e-learning products or services in the market by evaluating similar products. One of the methods to help understand the potential growth of the new products in the market is by using the Boston box to predict the market growth rate versus its market share.

We also perform Ansoff matrix of these products to get a view of its market penetration, market development, product development and diversification. It is also important to consider the cost-benefit analysis when introducing new solutions to the market and have some optional analysis and revenue models in place. This helps to understand the intermediate, medium and long term business value of these products.

If there are third party investors involved in the delivery of these products, then you will need to do the above analysis to convince the investors of how you are planning on bringing in ROI of the new services introduced.

Business analyst and project managers work hand in hand when delivering innovative products to the market. They use multiple frameworks and models and design the e-learning products or services to fit in the market.

A business analysis can help the project manager understand the potential and risk of investing in a solution or change in the business or process. Business analysts are involved throughout the life cycle of the project as they constantly look into improving the service even before it goes live by using predictive analysis techniques along with UML diagrams, wire-frames among other methods.

Requirements engineering

The requirements engineering process is a series of methods to analyse the requirements of the client or stakeholder. In e-learning this is used to understand the requirements using models and frameworks. This includes asking a combination of open ended, fact finding and closed questions to your stakeholder to get the right information about the e-learning products to be developed and documenting it.

We also use UML diagrams like use-case diagrams, context diagrams and entity diagrams as well as mind maps to picture the requirements and design potential solutions. We also use stakeholder analysis models (RASCI matrix, CATWOE) to identify the important stakeholders and eliminate those that do not serve the project.

As part of the stakeholder analysis, understanding your target audience is also important when considering delivering an innovative e-learning product. Some methods include: using focus groups, workshops, surveys, understanding competitors, demographics, physiography profiling (personality, lifestyles etc.), behavioural patterns among others.

Using learning log, BDD and gherkin syntax for designing courses online

When developing e-learning courses or products, the course designers and instructional designers may choose to use a business driven development technique like the Gherkin syntax to picture the layout and design of the course by viewing the requirements from an end user perspective (example: students or customers) and using learning logs.

Using RAID for project management of e-learning courses

Risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies (RAID) is an important concept for every project manager to consider when delivering projects. This is equally important in e-learning when selecting the right learning technologies for your business and the right stakeholders. Using business analytical tools highlighted above, it becomes easier to identify RAID.

Using JIIRA for agile - scrum process for developing e-learning products

JIIRA is a tool that can be used to deliver e-learning projects using agile methods such as Scrum methodologies. As a tool JIIRA is used to track projects and work with project teams online. With e-learning projects, JIIRA gives us the opportunity to utilise scrum model for implementing projects. Scrum model is all about implementing products in incremental iterations.

While this has been used heavily in software development life cycles, it can equally be used when working with a team of instructional designers, graphic designers, LMS operations experts, business development teams and others. Each project can use Scrum methodologies to meet customer requirements throughout the life cycle of the production of the e-learning product.

To summarise, we have covered concepts that are used heavily in business analysis and showed how this has been utilised in e-learning and learning technology projects with example business case reports and also expanded on technical business analysis models used.