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Do you know your learners?

In this blog post, Learning Designer Robin Nicolls asks the question:

Who are your learners?

young learners talking

If you’re a teacher and you can’t answer this question, how will you ever adapt your teaching style and material to be powerful and appropriate?

In face-to-face teaching – so long as you’re a fairly confident teacher – it’s possible to get to know your group as you go along. However, in the e-learning industry, it’s crucial that we know who the learners are as early as possible in a project’s lifecycle.

This is because the learner must be central to every part of the design process, from conception to delivery. Each course we produce is worked on by numerous experts in different fields and undergoes several iterations. In addition, as e-learning specialists we rarely get to meet our learners. It’s easy to see how a consideration of the learner might get lost somewhere along the way.

Getting to know the learner

This is why we make it a priority to find who our learners are at the earliest opportunity. Often, this will be at our first kick-off meeting with Subject Matter Experts at the beginning of a new project.

Questions we might ask to develop our understanding of the learner include:

  • What is the age range of the learners?
  • Where are they from, and where do they work?
  • What is their work schedule like?
  • Is English their first language? If it isn’t, what is?
  • What level of literacy and numeracy do they have?
  • Which devices do they use primarily?
  • What is their current level of expertise in the subject matter?
  • What is their current attitude to e-learning?

These questions help us form our image of the learner, and this filters into every aspect of the design of each project. Working prototypes, face-to-face interviews and online questionnaires conducted with the target audience are also very useful at this stage – if time and budget are sufficient.

So what are some of the aspects of the design process influenced by our knowledge of the learner?

Tone and content

Our knowledge of the learner should have a big impact on the tone and voice we develop for the written content within each course. If our learners have a low average reading level for instance, or if English is not their first language, we need to ensure that the language used is sensitive to this; the level of English must not create a barrier to comprehension, and use of non-essential technical jargon kept to a minimum.

On the other hand, if we are producing a course for high-level executives who are established experts in the subject matter, there is a danger of patronising and therefore disengaging the learner if we oversimplify.

Functionality and chunking

Knowledge of our learners also affects the interactivity and pacing of each course. A course designed for employees in a fast-paced environment, such as the sales industry, will not have the time to sit down for an hour at a time to complete several modules of e-learning. They will find it much more useful to have smaller, ‘just-in-time’ chunks of learning, optimised for convenience to the mobile devices they are used to using.

Conversely, office workers who spend lots of time at their desks might find the same approach fragmented and annoying – for these learners, a more prolonged learning experience will be more appropriate.

Look and feel

We are also sensitive to the learner when designing the visual style of each course. A course that is rolled out to a multiculturally diverse group of learners who work in different locations across the globe will require a very different photographic style to a course designed for a group working in a single location. Learners will be more engaged if they see images within their course which accurately represents their working environment.

Placing the learner at the heart of learning

At LEO, we place the learner at the centre of the design process from conception to delivery and beyond. This, combined with our outstanding technical know-how and over 30 years of industry experience, allows us to consistently create e-learning that is powerful, compelling, and proven to get results.

Do you know who your learners are? Contact us today and we can help you find out.