Do you know your learner?

In traditional approaches to the audience and learner analysis, we think about what they do in a group or department they belong to (roles) and what age group or generation they belong to (demographics). We ask what their expertise is and what tools do they have?

A good start, but we also sometimes lump people into categories because that is easiest. But it may not be the best way of doing it. As an example, we used to think all Baby Boomers liked lectures because they were “auditory” learners. We know today that that is wrong; people may use all the senses at the time of learning. Still, some have preferences around videos, others like podcasts or books. Hands on and peer learning is still a strong way to transfer knowledge. All these nuances play into who your learners are.

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I like to borrow some of the tools from design thinking to form ideas and thoughts about my learners when designing a program. I typically start with empathy and ask questions that get me closer to the pain points and needs of the learner. Then I use a persona template to visualize some of the attributes of the learner. This helps me break down the traditional groupings and some of the bias that can happen in the traditional audience or learner mapping.

hat if we ask some of the traditional questions, but then also dig a little deeper and a little broader?

Here are some examples questions to dig deeper:

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Are you starting to see it? You can then start to gather traditional answers along with the new ways of getting to know your learner in different ways.  Put these into personas to visualize your learners, what they care about, what they want for the future. This is powerful insight to have as well. Imagine being able to give some of this back to managers so they could have richer dialogues with employees.

Much of what you will get in standard audience analysis interviews and surveys will help you. But, the follow up and the peripheral insights; those really help round out personas and help me create better and more immersive learning based on those pain points and needs.

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I print personas on posters and hang them in my area with my team. Anytime we were talking or thinking about the program, the personas about the learner are represented, and we can look at them to see if we are meeting needs. Sometimes there is role playing, sometimes it is asking questions and then reflecting on what we know about the person, but it is always about the learner.

You will be more successful by putting the learners in the “driver’s seat” and having them come along with the journey of creation with you.