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6 Reasons Why You Should Know Your Learners Before You Create Your eLearning Course

That you have built it is no guarantee that they will flock to take your course. Your learners have better things to do than take courses that do not appeal to them.

So what do you have to do to appeal to your learners? You have to excite them. You have to intrigue them. You have to provide solutions to their problems. And most importantly, you have to convince them that your solutions will change their life for the better.

How?  By knowing what your learners expect from you. By knowing your learners, so you can deliver exactly what they need. By having a deeper understanding of them you can approach them like a friend and guide them like a mentor to make them change their behavior and attitudes.

Have conversations with them frequently. Hear about their needs, fears, goals, interests and expectations and figure out next steps from there. Each conversation will make you more effective at eLearning design. 

"The better we know our students, and the more they know and trust that we know them, the more invested they become in their learning" - TeachThought 


If you know your learners, it will be worth your time as you will be more capable of:


1) Grab their attention and persuade them more easily

Adult corporate learners have too little time on their hands. They are also surrounded by distractions. So if you cannot grab their attention right away, you will lose them soon. There is one foolproof way to hook them: convince them that your course has solutions to improve their life. Convince them of the value of your course.

By thoroughly knowing your learners before you create your eLearning course, it becomes easier to grab their attention because their needs and goals are front and center.

Here’re some things you can do:

  • Identify target audience needs clearly. Here are some tips.
  • Mention specific, measurable benefits. The benefits of learning soft skills are hard to measure, but here is a tip: research your target audience, find out about their performance goals, and tie in the benefits with these. For instance, if your course wants to teach time management skills, point out benefits like reduction in the duration of meetings
  • Evidence and examples: The art of persuasion is not just about seizing the learner by his throat and making him gulp down your teach. Present real-life scenarios, case studies, expert testimonials to make the learner appreciate the relevance of altering his behavior or cultivating a new habit. Choose characters who match the demographic characteristics of most of your learners. Use examples to get them to see benefits of the new idea.
  • Reiterate the what’s-in-it-for-me information in the course.
  • Experiential learning: Create a design where learners can learn by exploring and seeing for themselves the consequences of their actions and decisions. This increases the relevance of the course.

2) Improve Engagement and Decrease Dropout Rates

You don’t want your learners to leave midway through the course, right? So you have to keep them engaged throughout the entire course. Know their motivations, expectations, fears, and challenges, to think like they do, so you can say what they want to hear. This will help give you the clues on how to connect with them.

Let your learners know that you understand them—and that you’re here to help them. Here’s how:

  • Choose a few critical benefits of taking the course and refer to these often. Remind the learner how the lack of skill is hampering his climb the corporate ladder, and repeat. Being often reminded of the benefits of taking the course will keep the learner interested. 
  • Write in a language that feels familiar and friendly to the learners. Use expressions that they are accustomed to hearing and analogies that they can relate to. Do not chide him for his woes; instead, show empathy. Assure him that his situation is not uncommon, and the solutions are right at hand. The adult learner wants to be talked to, not talked at.
  • Encourage exploration. Create opportunities within the eLearning course that allow learners to explore around. For instance, make learners click images or buttons to find clues, or introduce quizzes to reinforce the learning. Your learner will naturally and enthusiastically “pull” information when you subtly guide him towards it instead of shoving content down his throat.

Also read: Five Rules of Engagement All eLearning Designers Should Live By

3) Enhance Knowledge

Each new learning experience builds on earlier knowledge. Optimize the learning experience you provide by tapping into the existing knowledge base of the learner. How? By conducting an Audience Analysis. This way you’ll find out what your learners know (their current knowledge level).

Here is the golden rule: DO NOT assume that you know what your learners know because the learners themselves do not know what they know.

You have to blast through the layers of misconceptions to uncover the knowledge levels of your learners. This will enable you to create course content that makes learning easy by building on prior learner knowledge and experience.

Here’s how:

  • Understand the language skills of your learners, so you can present concepts, theories, and models lucidly.
  • Identify the base level of learner knowledge and skills, so there are no knowledge gaps and the learners can easily assimilate new information based on existing knowledge.
  • Understand prior learner experiences and the culture that they live in, so you can create analogies the learners can relate to.

Also read: 6 Things that Take Your eLearning Courses from Good to Great

4) Customize the learning experience

Your learners won’t sit through a course that feels alien to them. You have to make them feel special by providing personalized learning experiences. Your learner has to be convinced that you had him—his needs, aspirations, and challenges—in mind when you designed the course. Any run-of-the-mill whiff from your course and your learner will be repulsed.

Here’s how you can create a customized learning experience:

  • Be careful with jargons because they are double-edged swords. Just as jargons can frighten away the uninitiated, not using common occupational terms with an audience who are aware of these could get you branded as someone who is not an expert. This will dent your credibility.
  • Use imagery and analogies that your audience is familiar with.
  • Use appropriate cultural references to bond readily with your audience. On the other hand, using inappropriate cultural references can offend learners or make you look like you are a stranger in their midst.
  • Go easy on the humor. Although humor can break the ice, it can backfire as well if you unknowingly touch a raw nerve or end up making fun of a touchy issue.
  • Respect your audience’s time. Do not bore your learners with irrelevant content. This is especially true of courses geared for the C-suite.
  • Present content in modules and give your learners the freedom to take these at their own pace and place.

5) Save Time (Yours and Your Learners)

Your eLearning courses should be relevant to what your learners need.

It’s just common sense: no one wants to feel like they’re wasting their time. Not you, not your boss, and definitely not the employees expected to learn from your course.

Given that training is often perceived as a waste of time, being irrelevant is one of the primary reasons why employees do not put in the effort.

Therefore, you must first understand your target audience and then build content around their needs, circumstances, limitations, preferences, and wants. This means that you must move beyond the common descriptions handed out by SMEs, the manager, or even the client. 

Here’s how you can create relevance:

  • Spend time researching target audience demographics.
  • Carry out a thorough Training Needs Analysis.
  • Use thebackward designtechnique to maintain relevancy.
  • Here are some more tips on how to create relevance.

Also read: Want Your eLearning Courses to Deliver Results? Avoid These Mistakes

6) Save money

Maximize your training budget by knowing  your learners better than you know yourself. When you know whom your target learner is you can create courses that are truly useful, relevant and engaging. This means the training isn't a waste of resources. 

Here’s how following an audience-centered approach in eLearning can help you save money:

  • Cookie-cutter learning solutions do not benefit all learners. So you end up wasting the learners’ time that translates into lost productivity.
  • Cookie-cutter learning solutions do not address knowledge gaps. So at the end of the learning, the learners are still liable to make mistakes at work and disregard compliance policies. Errors, slips, mistakes, and policy violations can be costly.
  • When you have the learner at the center of your design,  you can increase the speed and effectiveness of transforming bland concepts into powerful learning experiences.

Read: How Human Centric Web Design Improves Your Workflow

If you want your learners to stay with you and then come back to you, give them what they want from you. You can be thoughtful and empathetic only if you know them well.

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