From ID to LXD: Building Better Learner Personas

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Learning experience design (LXD) focuses on creating memorable learning experiences that impact a learner’s performance. This is accomplished by understanding the learner's environment, personal experiences, and needs.

A user or learner persona is one effective tool LX designers can use to accomplish this deeper understanding.

In this episode of Insider Training, Learning Experience Designer Kathy Borysiak explains what information and details LX designers should include when building useful learner personas.

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Speaker: Kathy Borysiak, Kaborzi Learning

What type of information is really included in a user persona?

Okay. So I want to talk about this again. This is going to vary. Right? This is going to vary...industry to industry. User experience (UX) design, product development, and marketing; folks are going to look at this a little bit differently.

So the way that I'm seeing this is from a lens of an LXD. But here's some ideas.

Here are ideas of types of information that you might want to include as you're thinking through creating a learner persona.

Types of Information to Include in User Personas

So, a name, we want to name these people. Yes, they're fictional, but we want to name them. So, Mo, and I've thrown some pronouns up here. Mo uses she/her pronouns.

Also, I have a picture of Mo. And I know it's a little bit funny in this instance because I'm using this more characterized illustrated style.

But find a photo, an actual photo of someone who represents your group, that archetype that you're looking for, that's going to help make it so much more tangible.

You're really going to be able to humanize this person so much more once you're able to put a face to a name. Basic information. So here I see an age 29, like I said, occupation graphic designer in the marketing department, an individual contributor.

So just some basics. Right? Getting to know a little bit more. Personal info, engaged, no kids, lives in Austin, has a bachelor's degree, 70K, couple of dogs. Right? So, just some basics.

Also behaviors. And so you'll see this a lot more, especially when it comes to more like UX or marketing, but what is Mo doing?

So, where is Mo hanging out on social? How about the news media? Like where is Mo getting important information? What's catching her attention today? What about transportation?

How's Mo getting around? I see a bike, I see a bus.

Hobbies. What are they doing outside of work that they like to do? Cooking, learning the piano. What are some brands that really resonate with Mo?

Those are cool things to think about. We might not have that information necessarily in our positions as LXDs, which is where I think we can be a little bit creative.

But thinking through, "Hey, I know someone who's a little bit like Mo." Or, "Hey, I can talk to somebody on the marketing team. Let me learn a little bit more about how they show up to work."

Big things here.

Goals. Goals and frustrations, and specifically how they pertain to the job at hand. Or in this case, creating a learning experience that they're going to show up to.

What are their goals? What are their frustrations as they pertain to learning?

So, in this case, Mo wants to minimize distractions at work. Has strict deadlines. Really needs to be able to deliver on those.

So the goal is, "Hey, I need to be heads-down; I can't be distracted. I've got to get my things done."

So, frustrations...dislikes the mandatory training, getting in the way of actually meeting those strict deadlines.

Also, doesn't read email. This is interesting, and a few folks on the call will probably laugh at this. Doesn't read email, just in Slack. I think this is a huge aha moment.

The more that I'm seeing going back into an in-house role, I mean, I'm guilty of that. I'm only in Slack. And so, when things are coming through an email, they're getting lost.

That's a big aha. So, need to think about personality, and I think this is so fascinating. I like to think of things from the OCEAN personality test.

Although you can think about Myers–Briggs, you can think about...

I think we do color profiles, insights, and all sorts of things, but I tend to like OCEAN, which stands for openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

So look it up; if you're not familiar with the OCEAN personality test, it's a pretty cool one.

I'm making some assumptions here, but highly open, an artistic person, highly, highly open, seasonally, and conscientious.

Clearly not that conscientious, not reading all of their emails. Right? Not so extroverted, pretty agreeable, and a little bit anxious, right? Anxious to get those things done.

So thinking through the personality is going to be really fascinating. Technology is huge, especially as we're creating more online learning experiences.

And then also communication. I just want to keep driving this home.

How do you reach them? How are they alerted?

Especially today, when we have do not disturb mode, when we can just go heads down, how are we going to get their attention?

All really, really fascinating. So you can see how something like this is definitely being used for marketing. It's definitely being used for UX.

Why can't we use this for instructional design? Why can't we use this for LXD? Why are we so late to this game?

I don't know, but it's fascinating to me how we can start to catch up...

Kathy Borysiak

Kathy Borysiak

Kathy Borysiak is the Creative Director of Kaborzi Learning and a Learning Experience Designer (LXD) at Gusto. She’s been in the instructional design (ID) space since 2013 and has developed learning content for companies like Zillow, Nordstrom, Adobe, Microsoft, T-Mobile, and the Gates Foundation.
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