Outline of Needs Assessment and Proposal – Instructional Design


By Jessica Grant

Addressing a Problem Situation

This semester in Instructional Design in Open, Digital and Distance Education (Winter 2023) taught by Dr. Rob Power, our first assignment was to outline a needs assessment plan to address an instructional “problem situation” with which you are familiar. Note that the term “problem” can mean a challenge or something to be worked out, not necessarily a difficult situation. This exercise should lead to the development of an online instruction module throughout the remainder of the semester. (Power, 2023)

Needs Assessment and Proposal 

I am a founding director of a recently established nonprofit society that was formed in my city of Nelson, British Columbia to protect the local black bear population called the Ursa Project Society. Our goal is to minimize bear deaths related to human-conflict through advocacy, education, and outreach. 

The Ursa Project

Part 1: Needs Assessment 

I would like to design and create an online course for the residents of Nelson, BC on Bear Smart practices that can be widely available through social media, city websites and through the K-12 public school system. Slade’s advice of “stepping back and determining what exactly your eLearning course is attempting to accomplish, or better yet, whether an eLearning course is needed at all,” (Slade, 2017) gives me a baseline on how and where to begin conducting a needs assessment. He describes most needs analysis seeking to answer three basic questions: 

1. What are the people doing? 

2. What do you want people to do?

3. Why aren’t the people doing it? 

I will seek to answer these questions in my needs analysis. 

Needs Assessment Approach 

While there are many different approaches to the various needs assessment models, they all share similarities. In determining the appropriate approach to determine the accomplishments of the course I plan to design, I looked at the education sector context models (Franklin, n.d) rather than business and training need models. The best suited model is Smith and Ragan’s Problem-finding/Problem-solving Approach – what problem do you need to solve through a training or learning intervention? I need to train/ educate the general population (residents) of Nelson how to co-exist with black bears by adopting Bear Smart policies. 

Scope and Extent of the Need 

  • Determine whether there really is a problem. (Franklin, n.d. slide 16, 2007) 
  • Are problems caused by motivation, incentives, facilities’ design, tools design, the climate of the
  • agency, interaction with peers, policy decisions,or other non-learning factors? (Franklin, n.d. slide 20, 2007) 
  • In my needs assessment query, I will involve the residents of Nelson. These individuals are the target audience of my learning intervention, therefore, the key source holding the information I am seeking in my needs assessment query. In addition, I will seek information from another community that has been successful in implementing Bear Smart policies such as Whistler. 
  • My main source of data collection will be through a questionnaire/survey conducted on an online platform through social media. The information obtained from the other Bear Smart community will be an interview. 
  • 2 examples of the type of questions I would ask participants of my needs assessment are based on Slade’s (2017) three questions. 
  • Other sources of data I would use are information resources from experts that are well versed in this area. This would include the government of BC resource website, wildsafe BC, BearSmart BC, Bear Alliance, NorthShore Bears, The Furbearers, and the resource library of our society. 

Gap Analysis 

The gap in this scenario is identified when I ask the question “What do I want people to be doing?” (Slade, 2017) The answer to this question is “To co-exist with black bears in my community of Nelson, BC.” There is not a lack of caring, there is a lack of understanding. There needs to be an understanding among our population that we live in the mountains and with this comes wildlife. I will delve deeper into the details of the Program Development. This is a public education problem that involves the entire population of Nelson. 

Potential Solutions 

There is more than one solution to the problems I have outlined. In conjunction the combination of instructional learning and education to the residents of Nelson along with non-instructional solutions is the best solution to this problem. 

  • Instruction is one component in the big picture of this problem. As I have discussed, Nelson has a large influx of newer residents and is growing at an unprecedented rate. In addition, climate change and deforestation are driving more black bears into the city due to lack of their natural habitat to seek out food sources. It is paramount that the residents of Nelson understand co-existence with these creatures and learn best practices not to further entice them into our community. According to The Furbearer’s, Coexistence means for two objects to exist at the same time and in the same place. Coexisting with wildlife means people and animals living together in the same communities at the same time. (What is Coexistence? n.d.). Newer residents, with little or no understanding of wildlife would benefit from education and training on bear safety and a general understanding of these animals. 
  • Non-instructional solutions are wildlife-resistant garbage containers primarily to prevent bears from accessing residential garbage and becoming habituated. This would include all residential households as well as parks and public areas and restaurants. 

Part 2: Proposal Development 

Proposed Course (or Program) 

The online program I will design will educate participants on bears and their natural habitats, food sources, distinct types of bears, seasonal habits, and identifying bear attractants around their homes and how to avoid this. This would detail securing garbage between bi-weekly pick-ups, cleaning barbeques, and keeping them free of grease and attractants, eliminating bird feeders or at least, during the months when bears are active, safe composting, feeding pets indoors, harvesting fruits, vegetables, berries, and nuts, and if residents keep bees or chickens using electric fencing to prevent attracting bears. 

Further to this, the residents, namely newer former city dwellers, and youth would benefit from bear safety practices and how to interact with black bears and education in black bear behavior and characteristics. 

Learner Characteristics 

Montes (2013) discusses creating instruction around your audience rather than creating your content. Then determine if the instruction will be appropriate for more than one audience. In ascertaining a “primary” and “secondary” audience, a “Target Population” is determined. 

In doing a learner analysis, Montes (2013) discusses stable characteristics as the learner characteristics that rarely change over time and unstable characteristics as the learner’s attributes 

that change over time. Because my course is intended to reach the general population, residents of 

Nelson, and youth. In determining the overall characteristics of my course participants, I looked at the City of Nelson demographics. Nelson’s population is 11, 557 people, 47.7% male and 52.3% female. The average age is 42.5 years old, with 96.8% of residents English speaking, 2.6% French, 0.4% English and French and 0.2% other language (Point2, 2023). 

I can define my primary audience as 42.5-year-old English speaking men or women and my secondary audience as English-speaking youth, with a mix of gender. 

I have applied an assumption-based analysis of Montes (2013) Learner Analysis in Table 1. 

Delivery Context 

The course will be delivered online through Canvas Open Learning Management System. The course will be offered through social media, Facebook, the City of Nelson website and offered to K-12 students through the Kootenay Lake School District. An incentive will be offered to participants for taking and successfully completing the course. 

Learners will be able to complete the course at their own pace and save their progress, however, the course will have to be completed within a certain time limit. 

The course content will reach my target population. This is both adult learners and youth and aim to fill the gap. Answering the question “What do I want people to be doing?” (Slade, 2017) “To co-exist with black bears in the community of Nelson, BC.” 

Pilot Module to be Developed 

Two subject areas for my online learning module are General Characteristics of Black Bears and Black Bear Behavior. These areas are closely related and with a basic understanding of black bears my target audience will build a foundation for moving forward through the course with a better overall understanding of the content. Understanding characteristics and behavior of black bears enables the participants to have the tools and knowledge to better understand co-existence with the creatures in addition to a basis to build comprehension and empathy around avoiding attractants. 

Bear Characteristics + Behavior: 

  • Bears are highly evolved social animals with intelligence comparable to that of the great apes. Bears often share friendship, resources, and security. They form hierarchies and have structured kinship relationships. 
  • Bears are not as unpredictable and dangerous as Hollywood, or the media would have us believe. Bears exhibit very predictable behavior. This trait can be beneficial to people who meet bears. 
  • Bears are not mean or malicious; they are very gentle and tolerant animals. 
  • Bear behavior can be predictable. The more you can learn about bears and how they behave, the less likely you will be to have a negative encounter or misinterpret interactions. 
  • Bears are predictable. In fact, bears are usually more predictable than people. If you learn more about bears and how to interpret their behavior, you will be able to react appropriately when you see them and avoid a negative encounter. 
  • Bears are NOT ferocious. They are NOT mean or malicious. Bears are normally shy, retiring animals that have little desire to interact with humans. Unless they are forced to be around humans to be near a food source, they usually choose to avoid us. 

(Get BearSmart, n.d) 


Demographics in Nelson, BC. (2023). Point2. Retrieved from: https://www.point2homes.com/CA/Demographics/BC/Nelson.html 

Franklin, D. (n.d.). NEEDS ASSESSMENT Materials based on Smith & Ragan (2007), instructional analysis: analyzing the learning context. [Presentation slides]. Available from https://slideplayer.com/slide/7342491/ 

Get BearSmart Society. (n.d.). Behaviour. Retrieved from: https://www.bearsmart.com/about-bears/behaviour/ 

Get BearSmart Society. (n.d.). General Characteristics. Retrieved from: https://www.bearsmart.com/about-bears/general-characteristics/ 

Montes, B. (2013, November 17). Instructional Design – Unit 2 – Goals and Objectives. [YouTube Video]. Instructional Design – Unit 2 – Goals and Objectives 

Power, R.(January 30 – February 5, 2023). Assignment 1: Needs Assessment and Proposal. Retrieved from: https://cde.lms.athabascau.ca/mod/assign/view.php?id=91994

Power, R. (2023, January 17). Everyday Instructional Design. A Practical Resource for Educators and Instructional Designers. Power Learning Solutions. Chapter 5 everydayid 

Slade, T. (2017, October 15). How to Conduct an eLearning Needs Assessment. [Weblog post]. Tim Slade.com. https://timslade.com/blog/elearning-needs-analysis/ 

What is Coexistence? (n.d). The Fur-Bearers. Retrieved from: https://thefurbearers..com/our-work/living-with-wildlife/what-is-co-existence/ 

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