Learner persona demystified

Picture this, you are randomly scrolling through the internet and an ad for a product or service you’ve been searching for pops up. The reason why it almost feels like someone must have gotten in your head to figure out what you needed is that marketers know the type of consumers they want to engage with their ads. They gather and use information about them, which can be anything from age, sex, profession, even down to where they hang out on the internet, to create personas that truly represent portions of their audience. By targeting the people that are most likely to buy their product, they are able to get better returns on investment of time and resources and at the same time fully satisfy the wants and needs of their customers.

Just like the consumer is at the heart of everything in the marketing world, the learner is at the heart of every good learning strategy. Putting the learner at the forefront ensures that the learner’s interests are not forgotten while fulfilling organizational goals. One effective way to keep the learner at the forefront is to create a learner persona. They are one of the most important instructional design toolkits.

What is a learner persona

A persona is a hypothetical person with a name, backstory, likes, dislikes and specific character traits beyond the persona’s job roles and duties in the workplace. Marketing professionals have long used buyer personas to gain a clear picture of whom they are selling to, what motivates them and what strategies best target them.

Personas are based on real market-research data but are fictionalized for easier implementation and a more realistic idea of the specific target audience. I recommend going beyond audience analysis, something most L&D professionals do, to create a learner persona of a prototypical learner and truly bring the learner profile to life.

Importance of a learner profile

A learner profile allows you to analyze your specific audience (your learner). The typical learner profile displays an overview of your learner’s needs, wants, and behaviors. Having these in-depth descriptions will allow you to create not only more effective programs but more engaging ones as well.

Putting a name and face to the learner stats makes it easier to understand what the learners needs and even weave a story that will ensure their needs are consistently included at every stage of instructional design. At every decision point, the course designers can ask, “What does Ava need?” or “What does Ava want?”

A perfect scenario could be including people with certain learning disabilities as one of the learner personas in a given organization. Persons with the learning disabilities will need more time than others learners to carry out instructions. Creating a unique learning strategy that successfully satisfies their needs will be instrumental in helping them feel more in step with other learners

Design for the learner, not the demographics

By crafting a learner persona, you can go beyond the typical audience analysis and paint a vivid picture of who you are designing a learning experience or materials for. This means gathering more than simple demographic data such as age or gender. Ideally, you will capture this data through interaction with the learners. This will provide a more in-depth understanding of your learners, which will result in greater accuracy.

Instantly improve your learning strategy

Knowing your audience is crucial for the best results. Without a learner persona in the workplace, it’s difficult to stay consistent with the needs, behaviors and thought processes of the learner. By following the steps above and using a learner persona, your company’s learning strategy will instantly improve.

Regularly referring to an accurate persona will create more uniformity, as every team member will have a better understanding of the typical learner. In return, you’ll be able to meet more learners’ needs and have an overall more effective program.

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