learner profile

What is a Learner Profile & Why Have One?

A learner profile is something you create to identify who your learners are, what they need, where they come from and where they are going.

In short, learner profile describes HOW your audience learns best so you can tailor your course design to them.

Often misunderstood, online learning differs significantly from delivering in a face-to-face setting.

Understanding the needs of online, distance learners can guide you in developing essential support and creating great learning environments to ensure happy learners.

Here are some recommendations for supporting online learners mixed with adult learning theories (as we learn differently than children). Jot down your ideas to develop a learner profile for your online course.

Personalize Your Course

Online learners want their learning to be personalized and not just a one-size-fits-all. An effective way to do this is to deliver accessible content and activities in various formats.

For instance, I am a visual learner. I can’t really absorb concepts or strategies if I only hear it or watch someone talk/lecture about it. I need to SEE words, descriptive illustrations or video demos.

Whereas, some people get hung up on written details and need to HEAR more about it. And there are those who just want to jump in and TRY something before finishing with the instructions.

Support Your Learners

The online learner is basically alone (see note below). Provide a variety of immediate supports so they can continue their learning when issues or frustrations arise. Get feedback from your former and future e-learners on how to provide better support.

For instance, how tech savvy are they? If not too experienced with technology (like seniors), keep your course simple with less multimedia and add lots of instructions on how to navigate your course.

Also, what is their career level? If they are not in a profession, be careful of using complex terminology or acronyms. Consider their education and reading level, as well.

Be Flexible with Your Students

Considering the busy work and personal lives of adults, a good online experience would include flexibility. Have continuous access, flexible deadlines, quick-access (chunked) content, and multiple ways to express themselves.

The latter is giving your students choice to share their work via audio, video, live chat, drawings or written words. Let them be creative as it heightens their learning experience.

Create an Online Community

Though tricky to deliver well, a good learning experience includes engaging with an online community to feel less isolated, learn from others, be inspired and gain essential, just-in-time support.

While we might feel we are connecting with our online learners, they work through the content and learning activities in their own head and space.

Consider a Facebook group, or a discussion forum in Slack, to allow students to connect with one another. Typically, students learn from you (the instructor), the materials and fellow classmates.

Alleviate Student Isolation

Regardless of how you deliver your online course (facilitated or evergreen), at some point in time your learners will be learning at a distance… and alone.

You might plan to speak with your learners from time to time in a web conference; however, when they engage with your online course content and activities they will be doing that alone.

Think about where, when and how your learners will access & engage with your e-course. They could be on a bus reading via their smartphone on the way to a movie. They could be on their work computer and tapping in during lunch. Maybe they are flicking through your e-course on their tablet while watching TV.


It’s exciting the number of ways people can access and engage with your e-course. Have fun with your design and make it a rich experience for your students!

why learner profile