Learner Personas

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.”
Lloyd Alexander

Advertising professionals have used buyer personas for many years to obtain a clear picture of whom they are trying to sell to, what motivates them, and what the optimal strategies to target them to buy are. They establish the personas using actual market research data and then adapt them to a degree to describe a single buyer. For teachers, creating learner personas should be very similar. Carrying out some research will enable to the discovery of learners’ personas and help teachers to better understand the needs of the learners. This is usually best done in an informal setting, but explanation should be given to the learner.

Lesson goals and objectives

In this lesson you will learn:

  • How learner personas help the teacher really understand learners
  • How teacher can create effective learning personas
  • How teachers can ensure personalised learning with learning personas

Creating personas involves extensive research into what motivates and enthuses the learner. In developing the persona, teachers and the organisation can take a look into the minds of the learners and can identify their needs, behaviours, decision-making skills, motivations, challenges, capabilities and capacity including digital literacy, that would not have otherwise been considered. Furnished with this information, teachers can then provide direction on the vocational education and training the organisation will offer learners.

Example Persona of a Student Named Marie

Example of a user persona (Source: Personas in Instructional Design – Rebecca Heiser, Penn State)

Learner personas can be a very effective tool for connecting teachers with their learners. As can be seen from above, created using Xtensio, they provide insight into learners’ behaviours. Personas for learners should focus on learning attributes like goals, interests, reasons for learning, behavioural patterns, skills and attitudes, beliefs and opinions, etc. and give insight into preferred learning method, preferred learning device, and so on.

Supplied with the personas, effective teachers can then create learner-focused content. Research has found that often teachers find it difficult to separate themselves from their work and end up creating strategies and learner content that appeal more to them than their learners. Be aware of this – use the reflective approach!

Armed with the personas, teachers can ensure personalised learning that can be customised, relatable and practical, especially with the use of digital technology. The learner personas familiarise teachers with learners’ preferences (remember the advertising organisations: you would not buy something that you did not want!).


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Q: What sort of information is used to develop a learner persona?
A: Basic demographics (i.e. age, gender, where they live); what a typical day is like (i.e. if they play sports or have other extracurricular activities); data on the learner’s work environment (i.e. frustrations, relationships, competences); needs, especially related to the course, but also in reference to learning styles, etc.