Personas are useful tools for understanding the roles of characters and actors in an interactive environment. They allow actors of those characters to take on the life of those characters and in the process help them better understand the roles and social states of those characters.
In User Interface Design, Personas help designers develop an understanding of the range of users likely to interact with a system and develop products that best meet the needs of these users. Using Personas add a personal touch to the design process.
Enters Education. It was most pleasing to read about the use of Personas in the design process of a MOOC by Professor Conole and her colleagues in the UK. A quote from this article provides some further insights into the process:
…to articulate the main personas involved in the MOOC; from those involved in designing and delivering it, to those who are expected to participate. For each person a persona profile was created, articulating who the person was, how they were involved and what they expected to get out of being involved. In addition, we clarified where the course would take place, the nature of the interactions with others (i.e. the how) and the perceived benefits of being involved. The output from this is shown in the first slide. Personas include ‘Anna’ a 34-year old lecturer, Alice, a 24-year old PhD student, who is one of the course facilitators and Jack a 48-year old teacher who is part of the course design team.
Thegoal was simple, it appears – to develop an understanding of the course leaders in this MOOC. The personas presented are brief but they just about allow us enough insights into the team composition. While this is extremely useful, it may (or may not) prove useful for potential participants of the course if more detailed personas are articulated. As a MOOC participant, i believe it helps if i can peek into the the minds and soul of my course leaders at the earliest possible time since MOOCs are different from our regular courses in the sense that there’s a wider range of course leaders and even greater range of participants. Might i add, sometimes the goals of a MOOC are not obvious to the layman.
So what about Personas for participants? I thought about myself and since i can only speak for myself, i wonder if the following is a typical of me?
Len is a 33 year old University Lecturer in Computing with 12 years of teaching and research experience. While teaching programming and software development is his primary interest, he’s very much interested in the Pedagogy of Computer Science Education. He’s particularly interested in the use of Social Networks and Web 2.0 technologies to enhance and augment his face-to-face classes; and a novice Web 2.o researcher. MOOCs offer Len an opportunity to interact with seasoned educators, students, administrators, researchers and almost about everyone. They serve a massive confidence builder for him and provides a space for him to feel part of the larger ‘change education’ community.
So is it important for MOOC course leaders to understand ‘gather’ and understand participants’ personas?
What is your Persona?