Valuable learning content is one of your association’s key value propositions. But if you want people to engage with your continuing education programs, you must make sure the content truly meets their needs and preferences. It’s important to design, communicate, structure, and deliver your learning program in a way that appeals to learners across diverse roles and multiple generations. And that starts with understanding your learners.

One of the best ways to know your learners better is to develop personas.

What is a learner persona?

Personas are fictional representations of your customers – your learners. They can help you think of your learners as groups of people with similar characteristics so you can design content for and market to them in ways that grab their attention and deliver maximum value.

In-depth learner personas are a great first step toward creating compelling professional education programs. Entire groups of people can be represented in just a few personas. This can simplify program design because it will keep you focused on the individuals represented by each persona.

Developing learner personas

To be most effective, learner personas must correctly represent the individuals you’re trying to reach. Start to develop your personas by understanding generational differences in attitudes and preferences when it comes to education and professional development. For example, for Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers, consider factors such as:

  • top choice for where they seek professional education (employer or professional membership organization)
  • preferred types of training (in-person, online, and hands-on)
  • most important factor in choosing professional educational training (content, convenience, cost, and speaker)

Some other things to consider about your learners:

  • career stage
  • technology comfort level
  • content interests
  • educational requirements

The Community Brands Member Professional Development Study provides insights into many of these factors, including what different generations value in professional education. You can also get to know your learners better by conducting surveys or focus/advisory group meetings (online or in person) in which you ask them questions and get their feedback about their professional education needs and preferences.

Once you have collected information about your learners, here are four steps for creating personas:

  1. Break down your learners into a few key groups with similar characteristics.
  2. Think about each group of people as one person.
  3. Give each person a name so you can think about each group as a real person.
  4. Write down the characteristics of each person (persona), including basic demographic details, their needs and pain points, buying patterns, and key behaviors toward professional education.


Tailoring your content

Now it’s time to put your personas to work. Take a close look at your continuing education offerings to see how they map back to the learning personas. As you evaluate your continuing education programs and develop new content, think about each persona just as you would picture friends when writing them an email or letter.

With this clear picture of your learners in mind, you’ll be well on your way to creating an professional education program that hits the mark.

Taking your professional education program to the next level

Community Brands offers learning management systems to help you make the most of your online learning content. Learn about Community Brands’ award-winning learning management system, Freestone.

Looking for more tips on how to level up your online continuing education program? Read the paper Innovation in Continuing Education.