Create high-quality online learning that reflects the demographics of learning

Knowing your audience is a key strategy for many things: giving speeches, marketing a product and, of course, developing e-learning.

Understanding who your learners are, what their background is, where they come from, and what they need to learn allows you to create training content that resonates with your learners and helps them achieve their goals.

The Pew Research Center estimates that by 2055, the United States will no longer have a single majority racial or ethnic group. This diversity should be reflected in your training.

The first step is to perform an audience analysis. Armed with the right information about your audience, you can move on to the exciting part of e-learning development: creating high-quality, professional content. With the right templates and graphics, you can create a course that at first glance looks great, but may not properly reflect your audience and their goals. Worse still, you might create something that makes your learner uncomfortable or even alienated.

Learners want to see themselves and their work environment reflected in the learning content. When you create that connection with them, they retain information much better. So, do your audience analysis first then look for graphics that will speak to them.

How to understand your learners

You can collect audience data by conducting surveys, interviewing stakeholders, asking questions about past performance, and observing learners as they go about their daily tasks. Here are six pieces of information to collect:

  • Demography. The bare minimum to understand your audience is to know their age, gender, ethnicity, primary language, education, and current role.
  • Group characteristics. It is rare that only one person takes your e-learning course. You will want to know if all of your learners have the same level of expertise or if it varies. Find out if they are all based in the same region or spread all over the world. Understand whether your learners are office workers or non-office workers.
  • The context. Think of it as a deeper dive beyond what you’ve learned about group characteristics. Knowing if your learners have an hour to sit down and go through formal training or if they’re trying to incorporate things on the go will help you decide what kind of content to create. Try to understand your learners’ challenges and what they hope to achieve in their role. Where possible, tailor your training to meet these specific criteria.
  • Prior knowledge. To avoid making your course too easy (wasting learners’ time) or too difficult (frustrating learners), you need to know how much prior knowledge they already have on the subject. Find out what specific skills they already have and what skills they need to do their job now to fill those gaps.
  • Learning preferences. Knowing the age and background of your learners can give an idea of ​​learning preferences and expectations, but the best way to find out is to ask. This will tell you if a video tutorial or summary infographic is the best way to demonstrate a procedure or task. Find out what motivates them to learn and build that into your training. It can be gamification or new technologies, such as virtual reality.
  • Accessibility needs. This includes factors such as familiarity with technology, availability of fast internet speeds, and type of device. It also includes Section 508 and WCAG compliance.

How to represent your learners

Now that you know who your learners are, you can create a training course that includes them. Use stock images that represent your learners, provide inclusive language in your course content, and create realistic scenarios that resemble something your learner would encounter on the job.

For example, research shows that including successful female role models in STEM education and sharing evidence that women are gaining ground in these areas improves women’s performance in these subjects. The same concept can be applied regardless of your training topic.

Various stock images
There are a growing number of websites and photo libraries focused on showcasing diversity and inclusion.

inclusive writing
By ensuring that the language of your learning is socially conscious, you can demonstrate that diversity is an integral part of your organization’s mission, values, culture and business model. Using language that is gender and sexually inclusive can help your learners feel more comfortable and accepted.

Be careful not to write in a way that assumes White is the default race for your learners. Remember that if you are going to name an individual’s race, you must do so for all the others mentioned. You may find it helpful to create an inclusive writing guide for everyone on your team to ensure you create content that is consistent with your goals.

Realistic scenarios
Scenario-based training is one of the most engaging and effective ways to promote knowledge retention, as long as the scenario is believable.

An e-learning scenario is made up of four elements:

  • People. Who are the people performing the task at hand? These can be characters you created or real learners. If you are using on-screen characters, refer to the list of various stock photo sites.
  • Setting. Where does it take place and what is the context of the scenario? If you’re creating a conversation script for dental hygienist training, don’t use a background photo with rows of cubicles, for example. You want to set the scene properly and make it look like they’re at a dentist.
  • Challenge. Present the learner with either a choice that needs to be made or an action that needs to be taken. These options must be credible and relevant to the position.
  • Feedback. Show the consequence or result of the choice or action the learner took. If it was a negative result, allow them to try again and see what they could have done differently.

Creating high-quality content that reflects your learner demographics can be challenging but fun. By following these tips to better understand your audience, you can create inclusive training content that you’re proud of and that helps your organization succeed.

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