December 5, 2023

Knowing your audience helps shape the process

Mapping learner personas has been a trending topic in recent years, yet many learning and development (L&D) professionals are still hesitant to invest time in their study and development. Instead of trying to make technology and processes work for every student, organizations often try to fit students into their status quo. While this hard-line approach may lead to some success, it does not respond to the varying needs and preferences of each student and does not foster a culture of learning. Human beings are complex, and while there are broad similarities, not every student can be expected to thrive on the same pre-defined technology platforms and processes.

To develop strategies that work for everyone, there must be an understanding of who “everyone” really is. A deep understanding of who they are and how they work is essential to truly understanding their needs. Developing three to five learner personas that act as detailed “summaries” of the different types of learners found in an organization helps to gain this understanding. When used correctly, these personas provide several benefits in addition to the higher level of awareness they naturally bring.

Examples of student personas

Here are some simplified examples.


  • Age: 49
  • Job title: Manager
  • Degree of education: Bachelor
  • Learning preferences: Independent research on a given topic, personal instruction
  • Goals: Improve your skills and advance in your career
  • Motivation: Skill development, career advancement, personal satisfaction
  • Barriers to learning: Limited time and resources, competing priorities


  • Age: 27
  • Position: Specialist
  • Education level: Master’s degree
  • Learning preferences: Independent research on a given topic, short videos
  • Goals: Improve your skills and advance in your career
  • Motivation: Skill development, career advancement, personal satisfaction
  • Barriers to learning: Limited time and resources, competing priorities


  • Age: 62
  • Position: Technician
  • Education level: High school education
  • Learning Preferences: Person-to-person, experiential learning
  • Objectives: To gain effectiveness, hone his skills
  • Motivation: Gain efficiency, personal satisfaction
  • Barriers to learning: Limited time and resources, competing priorities, confirmation that training is a serious source of viable information

Why creating student personalities is important

1. Increases engagement and knowledge retention

This user-centric approach delivers relevant learning content at the right time and place. This type of personalization is potentially much more valuable to the student. In today’s world where instant gratification is expected, seizing the moment of need to learn is essential. Providing behavioral incentives to engage in learning is a modern approach to learning strategy. This is an important aspect to pay attention to when choosing an LMS. Using student personas for key essential functions helps quickly identify technologies that meet the needs of each persona and the people they represent.

2. Reduces turnover by setting employees up for success

Providing the right content at the right time and place will not only set employees up for success by increasing engagement and knowledge retention, but also by showing them that their personal growth and development is important, valued and prioritized by their employer. According to a LinkedIn study, approximately 94% of employees would stay with their company longer if the company invested in their professional development. But without an effort to personalize learning, demonstrating this investment may be a futile effort. A user-centered approach can help an individual feel that the training they received was truly designed with their best interests in mind.

3. Creates a habit of prioritizing students’ needs

Frequent reference to these student personas can help keep the real people they represent at the center of each learning goal. Remember that these people have different needs, goals, and motivations that drive their behavior. Some educational leaders treat the learner as one tool to be used only as a starting point for strategy development. Once they get the ball in play, they take an unfortunate backseat to tactics. While creating personas is a great way to start a tutorial, not updating them (and referencing them often) stifles their potential. Any new educational initiative should address student needs and lead to desired outcomes. Student feedback can also help ensure this, but without personas it can be challenging to find the most effective, efficient and reliable ways to get this feedback.

4. Reduces inaccurate or unfair assumptions

It can be very easy and often instinctive to make assumptions when developing strategies. For example, one simple assumption is that all students in a given organization typically complete training at their desks during business hours. When learner personas are present, questions like “How does Sally from the sales team prefer to learn?” they may occur and offer new information to consider. It is important to have multiple people (we recommend three to five) with different characteristics such as background, job title, education levels, career goals, abilities, temperament, motivation, physical location, places they usually go to find information, etc. These variables help ensure , so that learning programs are well-rounded and designed to educate, engage and empower every student.

Remark: Try to avoid making unfair assumptions when creating personas. Talking directly with students across the organization can help reduce stereotypes and unfair assumptions in the creation of personas, which will ultimately help reduce unfair assumptions in the development of curricula and strategies.

5. Provides a reference point for improvement

Assessing learning and improvement strategies can be a confusing process. Part of this process should include getting feedback from stakeholders, especially feedback from students. Turning this feedback into actionable items is easier if you have a good understanding of the student’s personas and the people they represent. There are many ways to get feedback, such as answering surveys, listening sessions, and video coaching assignments. These channels can shed some light on areas that need improvement, whether it’s content, design, environment or overall strategy. In itself, this type of feedback may not be as cut and dried as one might hope. But when coupled with the student’s thoughtful personalities, it can illustrate why students raise particular issues and help troubleshoot. The pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together to reveal the complete picture.


To get the most out of student personas and reap the above benefits, personas should feel real. Bring characters to life by giving them names and faces. When referring to them, use their names and treat them as if they were actual employees. This allows for a more targeted approach that addresses specific needs and challenges, rather than a generic, impersonal and monolithic approach.

Although even the most carefully crafted personas cannot perfectly represent every student, they can help get into the minds of different students, consider new and different perspectives, and remind leaders that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning and development. .

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