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    These 27 Questions Will Help You (Really) Know Your Learners

    Creating a course that fails to resonate with its intended audience is an exercise in futility, isn't it?

    Nonetheless, it is not uncommon to find eLearning designers crafting courses that, bewilderingly, appeal to no one. These are courses that even the designers themselves can't pinpoint who might desire to take them.

    This approach, however, ought to be completely inverted.

    Before anything else, designers must cultivate a deep understanding of their target audience. They need to construct content that speaks directly to the audience's needs, circumstances, limitations, preferences, and desires. This requires transcending the superficial descriptions provided by subject matter experts (SMEs), managers, or even clients.

    Consequently, this article will delve into the concept of empathy mapping, a potent and intuitive framework that employs a series of targeted questions to put you firmly in the shoes of your audience. This tool not only facilitates effective engagement with SMEs but also proves invaluable in conducting independent research.

    Questions for Demographics

    Demographic insights are vital to understanding the values and outcomes that resonate with your learners, enhancing engagement and motivation. To comprehend their values, you need to address several key questions:

    1. What is the scale of your target audience? This information can help assess if your target audience is substantial enough to generate the anticipated revenue.

    2. What are their educational and cultural backgrounds?  This insight guides your choice of language for your course, ensuring it is neither overly simplistic nor excessively technical for the audience. It also aids in preventing any potential misuse of culturally confusing or inappropriate metaphors and analogies.

    3. What are their current roles? This information impacts how the content is delivered. If the audience leads a highly dynamic, fast-paced work-life (like C-suite executives) or balances multiple roles (like working mothers), your course modules should be brief and the content must reflect these needs.

    4. Are they primarily office-based or do they engage in outdoor physical labor? This factor dictates the mobility your course content should offer (distinct from the accessibility of the course). For instance, outdoor workers may benefit from a course with less reading content and more audio, video, and visual content (such as infographics).

    Also read:  4 Steps to Becoming a Learner-Centered eLearning Professional

    Evaluating Your Audience's Technological Competence: 

    The level of comfort your target audience possesses with respect to technology can profoundly impact the effectiveness of your eLearning course. Without a clear understanding of their technological knowledge and hands-on experience, you could end up with underutilized or overlooked interactive lessons, including those featuring social-based activities. Therefore, it's essential to probe the following:

    1. Are they tech-savvy? — What is their level of dependence on technology (mobile, social, web, etc.)

    2. How will they be accessing the course? Will they rely on office equipment (computer lab, training room, etc.) or will they rely on their own device? This sets the budget on the level of mobility and device responsiveness of your course.

    3. What is their level of activity on social media? —How much do they understand its use? This lets you increase/limit the reliance on the course of social activities.

    4. What software and programs do they use in their daily work? — Let’s supplement the course with already available courses.

    By thoroughly assessing your audience's technological savviness, you can custom-tailor your course's interactive elements and technical demands to align with their aptitude and comfort level. This approach optimizes the learning experience and prevents potential frustration or disengagement caused by technology that may be too advanced or intimidating for them.

    Questions to Ascertain their Current Level of Skills/Knowledge:

    Determining what new knowledge and skills your course should impart and foster, respectively, can only be adequately addressed once you have a clear understanding of your audience's current level of knowledge and skills. This assessment is critical to ensure that your course provides value by expanding their expertise and abilities, rather than reiterating what they already know. Therefore, the following questions are pivotal:

    1. What types of skills is the team missing that you’re looking to fill with this course?

    2. What do they already know? — Do they want to learn from scratch or update themselves?

    3. What they DON'T know?

    4. What’s their experience with this topic? Perhaps practical experience lacking structured theory?

    5. Do they think they need this training? — What is their level of urgency? Organization-wide change or personal growth?

    6. What are your audience's preconceptions about your topic? — Do they find it hard and too technical? Do they think it’s just a formality?

    7. How much time available for training do they have?  — Can learners attend a 1-week course or only be away 2 hours at a time?

    8. Under what circumstances will they need to use what they learn?

    9. Why will they want to learn? — What’s in it for them?

    Questions for Better Marketing

    These are strategic questions geared towards understanding how best to promote and position your eLearning course to your target audience. They are designed to gain insights into your audience's motivations, preferences, and the communication channels they frequent, thus enabling a tailored marketing approach that resonates with potential learners.

    This process is crucial to maximizing course enrollment and engagement.

    1. What will prevent your audience from hooking to your content?

    2. What will keep them from adopting your message and carrying out your call to action?

    3. How might they resist? — Think of different objections learners might have.

    4. What is using this content going to be like in their real work?  — Where will they be after taking the course?

    5. What if they don’t take the course? What will happen?

    6. What do they actually need to DO after? — What are your learners expecting to be able to do at the workplace after they have taken your course?

    7. If learners weren't required to take your course, would they? — What is your course’s USP?

    Questions to Address the Problems They Face

    These questions are designed to identify and understand the issues your target audience faces in their professional or personal lives that your eLearning course aims to solve. By gaining insights into these difficulties, you can shape your course content to provide practical, effective solutions, thus enhancing the relevance and appeal of your eLearning course to your potential learners.

    This approach ensures your course is not only informative but also problem-solving and transformative.

    1. What’s their world or typical day like? — Their routine/schedule sets the tone for your course. If they will have time only at the end of the day or on weekends after a hard day/week at work, then the tone and length of the modules must be short, and the type of content must be light, simple, and even humorous.

    2. What are the common constraints or challenges? — Lack of time, information overload, house chores, extensive road trips/flights, etc. Let's you make your course leverage those constraints (Audio for the road, light reading for the flight, Infographics in between lunch breaks, etc.)

    3. What are their professional and life goals? — Your content must reinforce how those goals are met or are being met at the end of every module.

    Once you have all this information apply audience analysis insights to eLearning design.

    Also read: 
    Audience Analysis Template


    Diana Cohen
    Diana Cohen
    Education Writer | eLearning Expert | EdTech Blogger. Creativa, apasionada por mi labor, disruptiva y dinámica para transformar el mundo de la formación empresarial.

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