In our opinion, the first place to start when designing any online course or programme is understanding the person(s) you will be creating it for.
This will affect many aspects of your online course, including:
- What impact you want to have. What should be the change for the learner after taking your course?
- How you can measure the impact of your training. How will you be able to check they have achieved the outcome you (and your client) desires?
- Their prior experience and understanding. This will affect the content you may include in the course.
- What is their attitude towards the training? Is it a course that they are choosing (and paying to do), or are they being told to do it by their employers?
- The learning experience you will create to develop the understanding or skills in what you’re teaching.
- The tone of the language and media used. How can you make the content relatable and accessible?
- How they will likely access the online training. WIll it be on desktop during lunch breaks, or on a mobile phone at home? These have major repercussions for how you design your online course.
- Any accessibility requirements they may have.
So how can you learn about your learners? The best, and most obvious way is to talk to them! Don’t just talk to the person commissioning the training – speak first-hand to those who will take the training to find out what they care about, what they don’t and what will make a big difference to them in achieving their goals.
You may find it also useful to create learner personas. Personas are a fictional representation of the types of learners (and there may be more than one) that will be taking your online training. But these help us visualise each learner type, allowing us to get to understand and therefore design a more effective online course.
What’s your approach to understanding your learners better?