Thursday, 5 December 2013

Learner personas for lesson design

Personas are a recognised technique in website design. Kruger, L (2013) suggests that they help designers to:

  • Synthesize and articulate what we learn about constituents through user research
  • Build consensus around target audiences
  • Encourage empathy for constituents when making design and/or content decisions for your website
A student who was encountering them for the first time asked me "What's a persona?", to which I replied "A persona is a web designer's imaginary friend" - flippant, but clear - it's a character representative of (part of) the audience that you are designing for.

There's nothing specific about web design, though - personas can be used for other types of communication, for example eLearning (or just learning situations or module design, I would suggest)

Malamed, C (2013) explores Learner Personas for eLearning: "Personas are well-developed profiles of audience member groups for whom we are designing a course. These audience groups are prototypes of learners in your target audience that share common characteristics, such as their training goals, job responsibilities, educational background or skill level. Every course has at least one audience group and most courses have several"

This strikes me as an interesting approach to wider course design, provided that as Malamed says you "watch that stereotypes and social judgments don’t slip into your personas. These unrealistic profiles defeat the purpose"

In particular it could potentially be helpful for designing modules that are going to have very mixed cohorts in terms of previous learning experiences, for example a mixture of students on different degrees.


Kruger, L (2013) Nonprofit Web Design Process Part 2e: Personas

Malamed, C (2013) Learner Personas for eLearning

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