The Three P’s of Creating Impactful Learner Personas

You’ve likely heard the term “human-centered design” by now. But what exactly does that mean in the world of learning and development?  

In learning design, there’s usually a problem to solve or an issue to address in the learning experiences we create. Human-centered design ensures we’re looking at that problem or issue from the perspective of the learner. That’s why the creation of learner personas is a vital part of learner-centric design. Learner personas are the foundation for designing relevant learning. And when done effectively, they are a powerful way to truly connect your design to what matters to your learners.  

As you think about creating learner personas there are three words to keep in the back of your head as you work through the process. It’s the three P’s of learner personas: personal, partnership, purpose.



While this may seem like the most obvious of the three P’s, it’s worth specific focus and attention. Personas may be fictitious characters, but they are intended to represent your learners. For that representation to be effective, personas must reflect all the things that make your learners who they are: emotions, knowledge, interests, behaviors, skills. When we are human-focused in creating learner personas, our training design naturally becomes human-centered and empathetic as we utilize those personas to develop training.

Always be sure you assign a photo and name to your persona, which helps add a more personal feeling and brings your persona to life. That can assist you in moving past building learning experiences that are simply based on a list of objectives and requirements, but instead approaching design with a person in mind – even if that person isn’t real.



Learner personas are not just something a learning strategist can work on and create in a silo. Collaboration is vital to building personas that accurately reflect your learners. Think about the people you should partner with who can add value to the persona creation process.  

  • The Learners: Who better to tell you about the learners than the learners themselves? Through individual interviews, focus groups and surveys, explore what your learners’ true wants and needs are.  
  • Stakeholders: Collaboration with stakeholders on persona development is key. Not only can they give you a different perspective and valuable insight on learner specifics, but they may also add value to strategizing how you gather the needed information from learners (the right questions to ask, the best forum to ask them, etc.). 
  • Human Resources Team: Work with human resources representatives to collect valuable data from the LMS as well as other quantitative data – like employee surveys – that can provide insight about specific learner behaviors and choices.



Human-centered design cares deeply about what motivates your learner. So, when you create learner personas to assist your training design and development, ultimately the learner persona’s motivation should align with the purpose and thought that drives your design. If your persona’s problem or issue doesn’t tie back to the program goals, are you really using the persona to guide the design? Are you too stuck in the design you’ve had in mind all along and ignoring the needs you uncovered through creating the personas?

Coming up with learner personas is a detailed, time-consuming investment. But it’s a worthwhile investment that helps you make a meaningful connection with your audience when you’re using them right. Be sure you are utilizing your learner personas for the purpose intended: creating learning experiences that meet your learners where they are and support their needs.

If you want to learn how to create learner personas and use them in your design, contact an Ardent Expert today.



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