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Discover the target audience

“How can designers gather analysis data about learners?”

“What are the purposes of and differences between learner stories, learner personas, and learner persona spectrums?”

“What are best practices to consider and mistakes to avoid when creating learner stories, learner personas, and learner persona spectrums?”


To create effective learning solutions, designers must first gather and analyze data to discover their target audience. Through the process of gathering data, designers uncover the unique experiences, goals, and challenges of learners. With this knowledge, designers can make better design decisions that are based on data, not assumptions. As a result, designers can create learning solutions that align with the specific motivations, goals, challenges, and needs of their target audience.


Through this lesson, you should be able to create tools that help project teams empathize with learners.




How can designers gather analysis data about learners?


Learning designers can gather analysis about learners through various methods and techniques. Some common approaches include the following:


  • For new or existing learners, consider the following:

    • Surveys and questionnaires: Designers create surveys and questionnaires to gather information such as learner demographics, prior knowledge, learning preferences, and feedback on specific learning experiences directly from learners.

    • Interviews and focus groups: Designers conduct individual interviews or focus group sessions to collect more in-depth information through conversations with learners. This qualitative approach provides valuable insights into learners' motivations, goals, challenges, and specific needs.

    • User testing and observation: Designers observe learners in action during user testing sessions while learners perform tasks or activities related to the learning materials. User testing provides real-time feedback on learners' behavior, interactions, and challenges.

  • For existing learners, designers also find valuable data via:

    • Learning analytics: Learning management systems and online learning platforms often collect data on learner interactions and performance. Learning designers analyze this data to gain insights into learners' progress, engagement patterns, completion rates, trends, and areas of difficulty.

    • Feedback mechanisms: Designers incorporate feedback mechanisms such as discussion forums, feedback forms, or interactive elements, that allow learners to provide input directly. Designers analyze this feedback to understand learners' perspectives, identify common challenges, and make improvements accordingly.


When gathering analysis about learners, remember to obtain proper consent from learners when appropriate, ensure data security, and follow relevant privacy regulations and guidelines. Additionally, you’ll want to implement a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to gain a holistic understanding of learners' needs, preferences, and experiences.


What are the purposes of and differences between learner stories, learner personas, and learner persona spectrums?


Learner stories, learner personas, and learner persona spectrums are tools used in learning design to understand learners and tailor learning solutions to their needs. Although similar in nature, these tools have their specific purposes and differences.


Learner stories


Learner stories, also known as user stories or learner scenarios, are narrative descriptions that illustrate a specific learner's unique experience, goals, and challenges throughout the learning journey. The purpose of learner stories is to provide a deep understanding of individual learners' perspectives and help designers empathize with their needs. Learner stories are typically concise and written in a narrative format like this:


"As a [describe learner], I need to [task] so I can [goal]."


Here are a few examples:

  • "As a language learner, I need to practice speaking Spanish for at least 30 minutes a day so I can become fluent within a year."

  • "As a programming student, I need to master the basics of Python coding so I can build my own software application."

  • "As an adult learner returning to school, I need to balance my studies with my work schedule so I can earn my degree without compromising my job."

  • "As a history enthusiast, I need to thoroughly research primary sources so I can write a comprehensive and accurate paper on the Civil War."

  • "As a novice chess player, I need to study and understand different game strategies so I can improve my performance in chess tournaments."


Learner personas


While learner stories focus on individual learners and provide detailed narratives of their real-life experiences, learner personas are fictional representations of generalized learner types based on research collected from surveys, interviews, observations, and other research methods. The purpose of learner personas is to create a shared understanding of different learner profiles and guide the design process to meet their needs. Personas include demographic information, background details, learning goals, preferences, challenges, and aspirations.


Review the sample learner persona below:



Learner persona spectrums


While learner personas represent specific learner types, learner persona spectrums, also called learner continuum or persona matrix, represent a range or spectrum of learner characteristics and preferences to acknowledge the diversity among learners and design learning experiences.


Review the sample learner persona spectrum below:


Learner stories, learner personas, and learner persona spectrums help designers empathize with learners, design for specific learner types, and consider the diversity of learner needs.


What are best practices to consider and mistakes to avoid when creating learner stories, learner personas, and learner persona spectrums?


When creating learner stories, learner personas, and learner persona spectrums, it's important to follow certain best practices and avoid common mistakes.


Best practices

  • Research and gather data: Use surveys, interviews, analytics, and other data sources to gather insights about the characteristics, needs, goals, and preferences of learners.

  • Use qualitative and quantitative data: Combine both qualitative and quantitative data to create a comprehensive understanding of your learners.

  • Segment target audience: Identify various segments or groups within the target audience based on similar characteristics. This allows designers to create more targeted and specific learner personas.

  • Create detailed personas: Develop detailed learner personas that encompass a range of characteristics such as age, gender, education, occupation, goals, challenges, preferences, and motivations.

  • Focus on learner needs: Ensure that learner stories and personas are centered around the needs of your users. Understand their pain points, motivations, and desires to design effective learning experiences.

  • Involve key stakeholders: Gather input from key stakeholders to validate and refine your learner stories and personas.


Mistakes to avoid

  • Making assumptions: Don't make assumptions about the target audience without proper research and data. Relying on stereotypes or generalizations can lead to inaccurate personas and ineffective learning solutions.

  • Overgeneralizing personas: Avoid creating personas that are too broad or generic. Ensure that each persona represents a distinct segment of your target audience with specific characteristics and goals.

  • Neglecting updates: Learner personas and stories should be regularly updated to reflect changes in the target audience. Conduct periodic research and collect updated data to ensure their accuracy.

  • Ignoring diversity and inclusion: Be mindful of diversity and inclusion when creating personas. Consider different cultural backgrounds, learning styles, disabilities, and other relevant factors to ensure learning solutions are inclusive and accessible.

  • Focusing solely on demographics: While demographics are important, don't rely solely on them when creating personas. Consider psychographics, such as attitudes, behaviors, and motivations, to create a more holistic understanding of your learners.

  • Disregarding feedback: Don't disregard or overlook feedback from learners and stakeholders. Continue to seek input, listen to suggestions, and iterate on your personas and stories to improve learning solutions.


By following these best practices and avoiding common mistakes, you can create learner stories, learner personas, and learner persona spectrums that effectively inform the design and development of impactful learning solutions.


Summary and next steps


To discover their target audience, learning designers gather and analyze data. Designers collect this information directly from learners through various methods, such as surveys, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, learning analytics, user testing and observations, and feedback mechanisms. With data, designers can then create learner stories, learner personas, and/or learner persona spectrums that capture the unique learning experiences and needs of their target audience. These tools allow designers to keep learner needs and experiences at the forefront of their minds, resulting in the creation of effective learning design solutions.


Now that you are familiar with discovering the target audience, continue to the next lesson in LXD Factory’s Analyze series: Create an action map.

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