Picture this. A budding entrepreneur has an idea to create a better and more functional computer desk. The same entrepreneur then spends months and months designing and testing materials before engaging a marketer to help them take it to market. The first question this marketer asks is, “So, who is your ideal customer?”. Now, if the entrepreneur is experienced, they will no doubt provide them with a handful of ideal customer profiles that they have created. In this scenario, it would also be easy to see how these personas had informed design as the prototype would be reflective.
This design step is somewhat commonplace in the business world. It’s important in a successful company to know who you are designing for. Unfortunately, until recently, little attention has been paid to this critical design step in the online learning environment. As online learning competition heats up and learners become more sophisticated investors in their education, organisations who fail to understand and design for their learner profiles are at risk of falling behind. Just like an in-person workshop flops if the facilitator fails to understand their audience.
Optimising design through learner profiles
Online educators have borrowed the idea of personas from marketers and are seeing tremendous payoffs when they get it right. The value of engaging in this design process can be summed up into three areas. Learner profiles:
- Put a face to the learner
- Limit production waste
- Support you to deliver on the education value you promised
Putting a face to the learner
Most online courses have the potential to reach a wide range of people globally, therefore it can often be hard to picture just one or two people doing a course. Online courses are also published into software, without any real-time feedback from a human (unlike a face-to-face workshop). However, if you take the time to design a series of learner profiles, by giving learners’ names, characteristics, and faces then you are more likely to consider their virtual opinion when making design decisions. A persona brings to life your ideal learner, so you are less likely to forget them!
Limit production waste
Once you have conceptualised your learners as more human, you can use this learner profile to inform design decisions and not make unnecessary investments. For example; imagine one of your learner personas is named ‘Julie’. Julie is in her 60s and engaging in continuous professional development for her aged care position. She has an old Macintosh desktop computer which she uses on weekends to study.
Julie doesn’t need a mobile app, nor does she need any complicated gamification elements. It is also doubtful that she would appreciate tonnes of videos and fancy animations. She cares about simplicity and, probably, structure. She wants to access the learning management system with ease and find out everything she needs to know in order to finish the course.
An organisation using learner profiles would be caught saying, “How would Julie feel if we did this in the course?”
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Deliver the value you promised with learner profiles
Just like the entrepreneur designing the new office desk needs to deliver value to their ideal customer (or they won’t make a purchase), companies need to deliver on the value promised to their learners. It is in every educator’s best interest to do this not only to ensure the survival of a business or organisation—but for the betterment of society. Time is a precious commodity and many industries are facing huge skills shortages. Online education has the power to accelerate an individual’s learning curve and teach the necessary skills of the future, at scale. Without really understanding your learners, you risk poor attrition, low outcomes, and brand damage.
Ignoring the person on the other end of the screen is no longer an option. Learner personas are a way of ensuring everyone on the design team knows who they are designing for and, therefore, smart decisions can be made and the maximum value for the course can be created.
What are you waiting for? Bring your team together today to create some ideal learner profiles for your online courses. You won’t regret it!
This post was originally published here on VET:eXpress.