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Oct 2014

How to design for multiple personas in your LMS

Blog posts



Shaping the future of learning

We all learn differently – you knew that. Personalisation is the topic of the hour in learning technology. But can your LMS make a personal experience across your organisation, and still earn a decent return on investment? Designing for personas is the answer.

In the first instalment of our October Totara User Group webinar series, we explored how to effectively implement blends within a learning management system that cater for all your learner types. We delved into what different persona journeys may look like, highlighting the importance of understanding how your personas like to learn – and most importantly, how to use that understanding to create learner journeys they’ll want to go on. Here's four tips on how to achieve just that.

Identify Your Organisational Learner Personas Early

Do you have mostly theorists or activists in your organisation, or are you more of a pragmatist bunch? Of course you have them all. But you need to start thinking about what they look like, what they want, how you’ll engage with them differently. And maybe you reject that Learning Styles categorisation – that’s fine, many do. But you do have types and personas. Learn from the marketers, who spend all day trying to define buyer personas and then targeting them. Your role is no different.

Personas are the lynchpin of defined learner journeys. If you don’t know what type of learners you’re designing for, how can you create a learning experience that works for them?

Some things that can help you define your personas:

  • Needs, time available, role, level, geography, learning preferences, technical preferences… Define your characteristics, and create personas that will make it personal. Give them names, images, whatever works to make them feel real.
  • Consider having a mandatory questionnaire for learners the first time they log in to the LMS. Their answers could then link them to a persona type, which in turn will generate a tailored learner journey that works for their learning style.

While blended learning designers (the good ones at least), do this as standard best practice, LMS user experience design can be oddly generic in comparison. The result? You move to everyone being alienated by the LMS experience. At least you’re annoying everyone equally….but it's easily fixed if you think of personas from the outset.

Start With the Homepage

When a learner logs into their LMS, what do they see? The homepage.

If this homepage alienates their learning style , you’ve lost your learner before they’ve even started.

Instead consider delivering the same content differently for each persona. Simple layout changes can make a big impact here, as can giving learners choice through optional modules.

Next time you’re at the home page pause for a moment – think about the personas in your business, and what experience they’d want. It’s a great way to foster early engagement with different learner types.

Not Everyone Needs Everything – Tailor Your Content Journey

We’re all of course proud of the content we create. And in our hearts, we’d like everyone to see it all. But in our heads, we know that to show your personas respect, you need to show them only what they need.

Being selective with the content you expose the learner to will:

  • Save on the time learners spend training, without compromising on quality
  • Improve engagement, which results in higher success rates
  • Allow you to adopt ‘lean’ design approaches; if you have mostly activists in your organisation, is that e-zine really going to produce better learning for them?
  • Reduce organisational spend on producing unnecessary content

By having a practical and logical approach to both the content you create for the LMS, and the content that the learner then sees based on their persona, you can optimise your ability to engage learners and increase uptake of non-mandatory training.

BMI Healthcare tailored the compliance learning journey across their organisation through clever use of LMS data on role and length of time since last certification. If it wasn’t for you, you didn’t see it. No more frustrations and timewasting by completing irrelevant content. They were able to measure precisely how much time was saved by using the LMS to tailor the experience. The results showed higher engagement too.

Which leads us to the third point.

Measure and Evolve

All this content planning, persona mapping and LMS implementation is pointless unless you can prove it worked (particularly to the purse-string holders).

  • To avoid costly, convoluted problems, make sure you define and agree KPIs early on and stick to them.
  • Define what good looks like in your organisation. Ask yourself: “How will we know if it’s working?

By confirming a success criterion through objectives and measuring results, you will be able to recognise any problems early on. Post-launch, make sure you are measuring the learning solution against your success criteria and KPIs, as well as evolving it with nurtured, targeted content to keep the learner journeys fresh.

What metrics can we use? Again, borrow from marketing:

  • What’s the bounce rate from your content – people who started and immediately exited? Is it because it’s not targeted properly?
  • How many completed journeys do you have? Are people following the journey through?
  • Can you do some A/B testing – use different styles of home page and see what engagement you get?

All of this takes more time to evaluate – but if you want to know it’s worth it, you’ve got to measure it.



Shaping the future of learning

Kineo helps the world’s leading businesses improve performance through learning and technology. We’re proud of our reputation for being flexible and innovative, and of our award-winning work with clients across the world.