If you’ve been following this blog (and of course you have! Why wouldn’t you? It’s awesome!) then you likely already have a good idea about how important knowing your audience is.
In past posts, we’ve let you in on what you should know about your audience, why you should know it and supplied a template for organizing that data. But what happens once you have your audience analysis in hand and your data ducks all in a row? How do you apply that knowledge to your design?
In this post, we go beyond telling you about audience analysis and delve into how you can actually apply the data obtained to your course design to make them more effective. Primarily this means taking your eLearning course and making it learner-focused by making sure their needs and expectations are met first before anything else.
Let’s look at how we can use audience analysis insights to make our eLearning courses better:
From your audience analysis, you should have gained some insight into what your learners expect. Expectations might include a glossary of highly technical terms for a computer language course, or it might be a more conversational tone with interesting stories to go along with a social studies type course. The first type represents logic while the other one appeals to emotion. Audiences for one are very unlikely to respond to the other. Knowing when to be logic focused vs. emotion-focused is one way to ensure your course speaks to your audience.
Along with expectations about the course, you should also have gotten a sense of how your students feel about the topic. Knowing that your audience is skeptical or not very interested in the subject you’re designing for will help you focus on highlighting the What’s in it for Me? factor. For example, you might be all fired up about creating an intro course on sales tactics, but if your participants are feeling cold over it, then you know you have to take special care to tell them why it’s important to them and how it can advance their education, career or lives. Conversely, if you’re teaching an advanced Spanish class where everyone has already taken several classes before that point then you know they’re already invested and don’t need to be convinced as much.
Examples that Speak to your Audience
Examples help make things clearer. This is hardly a secret but knowing your audience helps you present better examples in your courses. Similar to speaking to your audience’s expectations, examples must also match up to your audience’s personal and educational background. This means not using super technical examples for a beginner class and not using anything too basic for an advanced audience. If you incorporate customer stories, workplace scenarios, and stories, it’s important to use characters with names, ages, and lives that your audience can relate to.
Words to Teach By
Use your knowledge about your audience to figure out what kinds of words you can use in your course. Are your learners mostly Millennials and learning about social media policies in the company? Then you’re probably going to be ok using an informal language including some jargon and slang. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if your audience is IT Managers and learning about a very technical topic then you will want to be more formal and possibly even avoid contractions. As you’re writing, consider if the words you’re using have multiple meanings, different connotations or if your word choice may be confusing. Look closely at these and consider if your audience will be able to relate to the wording. But what if you have more than one audience? Speak to your main audience but if there is a secondary audience, include a glossary of terms for easier understanding. Your knowledge about your audience’s existing knowledge will help you decide on word choice and prevent you from teaching too few or too many technical terms.
Keep these ideas in mind as well as you decide on wording:
- Your audience’s education level and professional standing should always be considered, so you NEVER talk down to your audience or way over their heads either.
- Show respect for the topic. Make sure to use technical terms when needed and provide a glossary. Make your writing accessible. While you may be creating a more technical course, that doesn't mean you can't use language that is engaging. Include active verbs instead of verb phrasing for example.
Look here for more information on adapting your writing style.
The organization of your information can be as important as the information itself. Imagine if you were trying to learn Spanish and the course started with a detailed, pages long description of Spain before teaching you your first word. While the information on Spain may be interesting, you probably aren't going to care that much until you start learning the language. That is what you came there for so anything holding up the start of that is going to be more annoying than helpful. Depending on the course you may need a little background to start, or you may need pieces scattered throughout the whole course.
Try these methods for better organization:
- Break up any larger blocks of texts to make things easier to read. Breaking up info also makes it easier for learners on the go who may need to stop the course more frequently.
- Speak to your audience’s feelings about the course. Uninterested audience? Put the most important info at the top, so they get the most out of whatever amount of effort they put in. Is the course just a requirement to get to something else and don't really care much for the content? Make the reading as easy as possible and further organize with a table of contents to help them get the info they need quickly.
- Clearly, label any background or theory information so students can skip these areas if they are more advanced. If your secondary audience may need something, your primary audience won't then put that information in a separate attachment. Details in attachments or appendices.
When to use Graphics, Videos, and Other Visuals
Your audience analysis will let you know if your learners what a sparkly, image packed course or if they prefer a quieter version. Some learners will need a full video to learn how to do something while others will be okay with written, detailed instructions. Getting to know learner preferences is key to create resonating eLearning design.
The style of your images is also important. A cartoon has little place in a course that is formal while high art wouldn’t fit in children’s course. When designing global eLearning courses, you should also be mindful of the fact that some images may be more offensive in other countries. For example, Middle Eastern learners don't like images of women to have much skin showing including their arms and legs. Generally speaking, non-experts will expect more casual or fun type graphics. Highly technical learners will want more detailed images.
Any of these elements are based on common sense, but we all have to be reminded of them from time to time to keep from losing our touch and getting in a rut where we are no longer thinking about the audience and only going by what we already know. Always bear in mind who your audience is and what they would want to learn, and you'll be on your way to creating amazing eLearning.