Learner Personas: Adding Dimension To Your Instructional Design
Business leaders serious about staff development are very likely committed to using the latest e-learning methods available to develop their employees. How would your organisation react if they were told that social media bots, in the form of learner personas, are exactly what they need?
The recent global attention surrounding the abuse of artificial intelligence has deeply eroded business and personal confidence in anything to do with bots. Advising that bots should walk in the shoes of your staff to help your organisation identify development needs and learning styles are likely then only to raise hackles and be summarily dismissed.
But what if you knew that this information enables instructional designers to tailor-make eLearning programmes that are both engaging and effective and resonate deeply in individual learners? If you knew that the pinpoint accuracy of data gained from a learner persona could enable an optimal learning experience for your employees, would you be interested?
The primary reason why learner personas are so beneficial to organisations is that they facilitate a shift in the learning experience from that which is convenient for the business, to that which is learner-focused.
In practical terms this means that the broad-spectrum differences across an organisation’s learners can be categorised into individual learner personas that represent the different learning styles, developmental goals, behaviours, work challenges, motivations, ages and demographics of their target audience. One learner persona becomes the face and personality representing a category of individuals and for whom the instructional learning designer builds the learning solution. They can then create a tailor-made learning experience relevant to the specific characteristics embodied within the learner persona.
Learner personas can be described as coming from a place of organisational empathy where getting to know and understand their people is paramount to the organisation being able to build their business development programmes in a way that enables their staff to learn most effectively.
There are three essential keys to building effective learning personas:
By building your learning persona based on the unique details of your staff, you will be able to identify and understand the learning objectives, challenges, styles and dreams of the people within your organisation. The development programmes designed from this information are customised to enhance their learning experience and effective development.
Learners can, of course, be grouped into similar generalisations, for example, job descriptions, seniority or department, but it’s important not to assume blanket attributes fit all individuals within a grouping. Learner personas lose their efficacy if you view groupings as a “one size fits all” solution and fail to identify vital trends, behaviours and characteristics that can enhance the strength of the persona.
Have more than one learner persona:
To overcome stereotyping, why not create more than one learner persona? With multiple personas, you can cover different tastes and personalities and again enhance the strength of the learning experience.
Where do you start?
You can’t start to build a learner persona until you have as much information about your target learner audience as you can get. Detailed knowledge is the basis upon which your profiles, and ultimately persona, will be based.
- Identify a sample group of learners who represent your target audience and interview them around these types of questions:
- Their age, family, where they live, tastes;
- Their work environment, what a typical workday looks like, challenges, work relationships, job likes and dislikes, skill levels, any details relevant to the e-learning course;
- What their current development needs are.
- Once you’ve gathered your interview answers, collate your information into categories that help you to identify and create archetypes from your sample audience. These archetypes will come from trends of similar characteristics, habits, behaviours, needs and learning types pulled from your data. Ideally, you’re looking to find one primary learner persona with one or two secondary personas.
- From the identified archetypes, you’ll then create your learner persona. This is your hypothetical person, aka, your “bot”. They will have a name, a life-story background and specific characteristics and traits that go beyond just their job description and role. In fact, giving them a picture will help to bring them to life even more.
Ideally, you’ll be looking to have a write-up description of your learner persona of a few pages in length, and it should include:
- Behaviour patterns
- Goals (long and short-term)
- Development Needs
- Attitudes, beliefs and opinions
- Strong life background information and context
Well-developed learner personas enable organisations to build e-learning development programmes that resonate with their employees and facilitate a shift in the learning experience from what’s convenient for the business to a learner-focused approach.
Best of all, by tailoring development programmes to your staff’s styles, they will know that you care about them as individuals. This knock-on benefit contributes immeasurably to enhanced employee satisfaction, productivity and staff retention, all invaluable returns on the investment of time and resources.
Author: Mandy Collinson