Learner personas are a key tool relied on by instructional designers to create effective training. Whether the course is a company-wide learning and development initiative or a self-service certification journey, personas make it simpler to decide what kind of training to provide, in which formats, and when.
One positive side effect of this is that your corporate learning ends up centering the user experience. When designing from a persona, you’ll end up with a positive user experience, from the technology you use to the color schemes of your elearning modules.
Read on to explore what a learner persona is and how it centers the user experience as you design your content.
What is a learner persona?
A learner persona is an archetype of a subset of your learner population that represents the group’s needs and motivations. A good learner persona profile is based on both quantitative research — such as survey results, data pulled from LMS or HR systems, or focus groups — as well as qualitative research, including anecdotes.
Learner personas are often personified with profiles, such as “Joe” or “Mary,” in order to make sure that your research is present at all levels of design decisions.
At the end of the day, learner persona profiles extend empathy into instructional design so that each moment of learning is centered on what the learner needs in order to meet the learning objectives.
How do learner personas center user experience?
Traditional training design focused on the what. Every instructional designer knew to begin with the learning objectives and work backwards to what knowledge needed to be transferred in order to meet those goals.
By taking a step back and framing instructional design through the lens of your learner personas, you end up with user-centered design because you focus on the when, where, how, and why.
One basic question your learner persona will answer is when your learners are taking the training. Is your persona representing employees of a call center who will be taking an in-person learning session on their lunch break? Or does your persona tell you that your learners are executives who only have 15 minutes to squeeze in as much of your content as possible?
Knowing when your learners can participate will help you make decisions about what kind of content to create and how to deliver it.
Your learner personas will also help you understand where learners will be consuming your content. If they are remote learners, will they have access to wifi and webcams? If they are in a manufacturing environment, do they have access to mobile devices, or will you need to secure a conference room for instructor-led training? How will they access supplemental materials, like printed workbooks or digital training workbooks?
Particularly as more hybrid learners require more virtual training options, knowing where your learner is likely to be joining from will help you ensure you create content they can consume.
Your learner persona will inform many of your decisions about how to deliver your training. For example, if you have a remote sales team, you might decide an instructor-led virtual session with breakout groups is the best way to provide negotiation training. Meanwhile, if you want to offer ongoing skills training to learners who don’t have flexibility in their schedule, you might design microlearning series instead.
Most importantly, your learner personas might reveal that you need multiple training content delivery methods to accommodate multiple personas. For example, if you have a company-wide course, you might design one track for the general population and a modified version for executives.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, your learner persona will help you understand why your learners are participating in your training. Are they joining voluntarily in order to build an aspirational skill? Is this a mandatory L&D course? Do they know what they can get out of your content? What are the consequences if they don’t achieve your learning objectives?
By using learner personas to understand your learners’ motivations, you will make sure your instructional design is geared towards meeting those needs. As a result, your learners will be more likely to participate, more likely to engage with your content (no matter the format), and more likely to retain the knowledge after the learning journey ends.
Learner personas are an important tool to help corporate training teams understand their employee populations and assist any instructional designer in creating effective learning experiences. By thinking through who your learners are, what motivates them, and how they interact with your training content, you can ensure your learning is centered on the user experience. As a result, your learning will be more effective than ever.