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Designing with the learner in mind is paramount to a successful instructional program. Utilizing personas, which is a visual and relatable representation of your target audience, can help the instructional designer “paint a vivid picture of who you are designing a learning experience or materials for,” (Boller, 2017).
According to Boller (2017), personas are fictionalized characters designed using market-research data to help determine traits and characteristics that give a personalized, relatable feel to the learning program. To create a persona that is relatable to the market you are targeting, attention to detail is key–start with a name, then focus on facts like demographics, experience within the field or company, any challenges faced on the job or task, values of the character, workday flow, the flow of individual tasks, devices used during the day, among other traits.
There are some critics of e-learning who believe that e-learning courses are “text-heavy,” “boring,” and “digital page-turners,” (Nichani, 2002), however, increasing the use of personas, among other modern e-learning techniques to increase the level of interaction between the learner and the program, is an excellent way to quell this misconception. By gathering information about the learner analyzing the collected data to develop the “archetype of users,” you can write the backstory of the persona and use them to drive and convey instruction, (Gutierrez, 2013).
While there is some debate about the pros and cons of using personas in e-learning, whether they are merely just a product of what the instructional designers “wish” their learners were like, you should at least keep personas in mind when designing and developing your program, (Malamed, 2016). By doing so, you are keeping the traits and characteristics of your learners at the forefront throughout the development of your program and designing content to suit the needs of your target audience.
Boller, Sharon. (2017). “Why Learner Personas and Learning Design Go Hand-in-Hand.” Bottom-Line Performance, Retrieved from: http://www.bottomlineperformance.com/why-learner-personas-learning-design-go-hand-in-hand/
Nichani, Maish. (2012). “Empathic Instructional Design.” Elearningpost.com, Retrieved from: http://www.elearningpost.com/articles/archives/empathic_instructional_design
Gutierrez, Karla. (2013). “The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Creating Learner Personas.” Sh!ft Disruptive eLearning, Retrieved from: https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/302513/The-Ultimate-Cheat-Sheet-for-Creating-Learner-Personas
Malamed, Connie. (2016). “Learner Personas for eLearning.” The eLearning Coach, Retrieved from: http://theelearningcoach.com/elearning_design/audience/learner-personas-for-elearning/