Borrowed from the concept of Buyer Personas in the marketing world, a learner persona is an individualized representation of your ideal learner. It’s a tool that helps you better understand who your learners are and how best to serve them—and it can help make the design process more efficient. In this article, we’ll break down the steps involved in creating a learner persona and give you tips for getting started.
Step 1: Gather information and data about the audience
The first step is to gather information and data about your audience. What do they like? What are their pain points? How can you help them?
You could ask these questions and more by speaking directly to potential learners. You may also want to conduct surveys or interviews with people in your target audience and their managers, which will allow you gain insight into the learner population.
Step 2: Think about your learners’ motivations, interests and needs.
It’s important to understand your learners’ motivations and interests, as these are the reasons why they do what they do. Learners have different needs depending on their motivation for learning a new skill or subject.
When creating a learner persona, you should think about:
- What is their overall goal at work? In life?
- Why are people learning this skill or subject?
- What resources do they already have to help them achieve that goal?
- Where can they find more information if needed?
Step 3: Analyze the data
After you’ve collected your data, it’s time to start analyzing it. This is where the most important learning will happen—you want to identify patterns, see what you can learn from them and make sure that they match up with your assumptions.
- What do your learners already know?
- How do their past experiences influence how they learn new things? Is there a correlation between their experiences?
- Are there any unexpected patterns in the data that jump out at you as being worthy of further exploration.
Step 4: Create a profile of your learner.
The next step in creating a learner persona is to create a profile of your learner. As mentioned, a learner persona is a fictional person that has been created by analyzing the needs of real learners, based on data collected. The persona should have a name and picture, as well as characteristics like age, gender and level of experience with the topic at hand. This information will help you tailor your message accordingly and make it more relatable to the target audience.
Step 5: Consider ways to bring the persona to life
Once you’ve created your persona, it’s time to bring them to life. Here are some things you can do to help this process:
- Give them a name. A name is important because it allows you to refer to your learner persona by name, rather than “the learner” or “learners.” This helps establish a connection between the persona and their user base. You might choose something simple like “Jane Doe,” but if the person in question has an uncommon name or might be confused with someone else (e.g., John Smith), consider using their full name instead of just their first one (i.e., Jane Doe vs. Jane Smith). The same applies for nicknames—if they have one that’s commonly used by friends and family members, use it here as well (e.g., Bob instead of Robert).
- Describe their personality type and interests outside of work tasks/tasks related directly with learning content material; include information about how these things impact how they approach certain situations at work (i.e. how does being Type A affect how fast does Marciela work?).
Step 6: Use the persona to make better decisions
Once you’ve created a learner persona, use it to inform the way you think about making decisions. In terms of content, your persona can help you make better choices about what to include or exclude when creating new learning solutions. For example, if a large percentage of your target audience self-identifies as introverts, then it might be beneficial for them to have opportunities throughout the training that allow them time alone and time with others—and this could mean providing them with individual and group activities or giving them some quiet space they can use during breaks.
The same goes for learning outcomes: use your learner persona to identify which previously unconsidered skill needs. For example, if many people in your target audience are recent college graduates and aren’t familiar with business etiquette but may be interacting with a senior executive, then it might make sense to include topics in your new hire program to prepare these learners adequately.
Creating a learner persona is a great way to create more targeted learning solution that speaks directly to your audience. The persona can also help you make better decisions about how to design your training programs and courses by bringing the learner’s needs and interests into focus.