Skip to main content

Learning Design

Changing Up Your Delivery

Using Personas, Characters, Conversations and Scenarios

Whichever field you teach in, changing up the delivery of your material can add freshness and increase engagement in your classes. This article is designed to spark interest and foster engagement by using different pedagogical techniques. Enter personas: characters, conversations, or scenarios to convey the same concepts.  

By definition, personas are well-developed fictional profiles that represent the target audience. Grouping names, photos, backgrounds, demographics, faculty can make the material relatable and relevant.   

What’s included in a persona? Demographics, behavior, goals, needs, attitudes, beliefs and skills and strong context and background information about those areas of the persona's life.

Not only are personas advantageous to creating relatable information, using personas will benefit the student’s connection to the course and your materials.

Not only are personas advantageous to creating relatable information, using personas will benefit the student’s “personalized learning.” Personalized learning can be characterized as utilizing flexible content and tools, targeted instruction, data-driven decisions and student reflection and ownership. For example, if you discuss the federal reserve policy to keep interest rates high to avoid inflation, you could shape the story to show how will it impact Emily, a marketing specialist for GM. If your student learns Emily is a well-liked bright recent college graduate who is juggling school debt and increased rent, students may relate to the economic policy.  

  1. Add personas to assignments 

While personas are popular in marketing or market research, using personas to help students understand complex theories or concepts can be helpful as well as engaging and enlightening. 

Julie Fisher, age 32, management analyst for Ernest & Young, is on a deadline to present her findings to develop a competitive strategy for an Icelandic yogurt company. The yogurt food market is overloaded with new entrants, but Julie thinks a successful report will give her the edge to a promotion. Use Michael Porter’s Five Forces to highlight her findings. 

Julie’s background is minimal, but the challenge is for her to explain the concepts within the deadline. A lot is at stake.  

  1. Use conversations in discussion boards 

Discussion boards can be a dynamic way to engage students in conversations, but instead of starting with an opening statement such as explain the ethical concept of “common good,” start with a conversation. 

Every year, Klein & Fisher, LLC donates a generous amount to a local charity as a year-end fundraiser. This year, Erica suggested a donation to the Victorian Statues of downtown. Mei Li, however, wants the money to go to a new recycling program downtown. Explain the ethical issue of common good. 

 “The Victorian Statues need repair,” Erica huffed. 

 3. Try scenarios in quiz questions 

Darius works in the accounting department at a Marble & Granite Construction company. While preparing the income statement for the CFO, he discovered an irregularity in several expense reports. He knew one of the construction managers takes the company truck home on weekdays, but he noticed the gas expenses were very high. While current gas prices hover around $4.00 per gallon, the total expense was high as was the mileage on the odometer. What can Darius do about his suspicions of fraud? 

  1. Be inclusive with your personas 

When students see themselves represented in course curriculum and course materials, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging, leading to increased energy on learning tasks and motivation to do well in the course.  When finding images and compiling a list of traits for personas, be intentional and include diverse backgrounds and ages, and use names from various cultures. Including names that are gender neutral is another useful strategy.  


Alzate, Vanessa, How to Develop Learner Personas for Effective Training: May 2020 

Malamed, Connie, Learner Personas for Instructional Design, How to Develop a Learner Persona in Three Steps, 

Gutierrez, Karla, The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Creating Learning Personas: 

McCready, Ryan Sept 2021 

Wallace, Danielle, Creating Learner Personas for Learning Success:  Dec. 2019 

Wallace, Danielle, Four Steps To Creating Learner Personas: 

Wengroff, Jake, What is a Learner Persona, June 2021