How Does Empathy Humanize Online Learning? 4 Instructional Design Methods That Leverage Empathy

How Does Empathy Humanize Online Learning? 4 Instructional Design Methods That Leverage Empathy
Summary: As the focus on technology grows and the human element takes the back seat, incorporating empathy into your online learning strategy is becoming increasingly important. Read this article if you are interested in how and why you should be using empathy to humanize online learning.

The Significance Of Humanizing eLearning Courses And Instructional Design Through Empathy

In today's tech-obsessed world, eLearning designers often get caught up in the latest advancements and gadgets and overlook the importance of the human element. Despite the undeniable appeal of the flexibility and freedom that eLearning offers, online learners still seek connectedness and community in their online courses. Therefore, it's essential that eLearning designers and developers incorporate empathy into online learning to foster more effective learning experiences. In this article, we will explore 4 ways in which empathy humanizes online learning as well as 4 Instructional Design models that leverage empathy to enhance learning outcomes.

Why Is It Important To Humanize Online Learning Through Empathy?

1. Foster Connection And Engagement

It's undeniable that online learning gives instructors the ability to reach learners at the far reaches of the earth. However, providing them with courses and forging a meaningful connection with them are two very different things. Often, online learners experience feelings of isolation and disconnection from their learning communities, which can result in frustration and disengagement. When you make an effort to humanize online learning through empathy, you create numerous opportunities for interaction, collaboration, and relationship-building among students. This makes online learners feel supported and valued, enhancing engagement and morale throughout their learning journey. Moreover, if learners belong to the ENFP personality type, you should incorporate creative and interactive elements to keep them engaged and motivated.

2. Promote Inclusivity And Diversity

Humanizing online learning helps make courses accessible and suitable for learners from varying backgrounds who bring unique experiences and requirements. This rings true for more and more learning institutions realizing that their target audiences are becoming increasingly diverse over time. Empathy puts instructors and developers in the right frame of mind to acknowledge and understand the different learning preferences, skillsets, and cultural nuances that these learners bring to the table. This, in turn, allows them to offer personalized feedback, tailored content recommendations, and targeted support, ultimately fostering a learning environment that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion.

3. Enhance Learning Outcomes

As we mentioned earlier, impersonal online learning courses can lead to disengagement, which can, in turn, negatively impact motivation and learning progress. On the contrary, when you manage to establish a meaningful connection with learners as well as foster an interactive learning community, learners are more likely to accomplish their goals, retain information for longer, and implement their new skills more effectively. This is due to the personalized support they receive from their instructors, paired with learning materials that are perfectly tailored to their unique needs.

4. Prepare Learners For The Real World

Leveraging empathy to humanize online learning isn't necessary only because it helps create meaningful and effective eLearning. It also equips online learners with invaluable skills that they can apply outside the confines of the eLearning course. Specifically, when you incorporate empathy into your eLearning strategy, you encourage learners to discover and develop a wide range of skills, including communication, problem solving, collaboration, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and many more. These skills will pave the way for them to achieve success not only in their future academic endeavors but also in their professional and personal lives.

Instructional Models That Leverage Empathy

There are various Instructional Design models that prioritize empathy as a basic component of creating effective learning experiences. Let's see what the most notable ones are.


The ADDIE model, which stands for analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation, is a common tool among Instructional Designers and trainers in many learning environments. Although it doesn't focus explicitly on empathy, this ID model humanizes online learning development by emphasizing the importance of understanding learners. This occurs during the analysis stage, where designers take extra care to uncover and comprehend learner perspectives and challenges, as well as the gap between their current skills and the level they want to achieve. With this information, designers can specifically tailor learning courses for their target audience.

Universal Design For Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework that highlights the importance of fostering flexible learning environments to accommodate diverse learner needs and preferences. It's easy to understand that when the end goal is to create inclusive and adaptive learning, empathy takes center stage. eLearning developers and designers are encouraged to carefully consider the specific needs of each learner persona to identify or develop instructional materials and assessments that help them achieve their goals. As they adopt an empathetic approach to analyzing their audience, they empower them to forge their road to success.

Design Thinking

Design thinking is a problem-solving approach consisting of five stages, the first of which is empathizing with users. Specifically, Instructional Designers are expected to leave their assumptions aside and focus on understanding what their target audience is lacking. With the data they collect during this essential stage, they can move on to defining problems, ideating fitting and innovative solutions, and then prototyping and testing them. Design thinking is the perfect ID technique for demonstrating the significance of utilizing empathy to humanize learning experiences so that they effectively target learner needs and preferences.

Human-Centered Design

Finally, human-centered design (HCD) is a model that cannot only be used in Instructional Design but also in product and service design, engineering frameworks, and many more disciplines. HCD is clearly linked to empathy, as its core methodology surrounds the end user and their unique needs. By implementing empathetic research methods, such as user interviews, observations, and user persona analysis, Instructional Designers can gain valuable insights into learners' behaviors, preferences, and motivations. This enables them to design user-centered online learning courses that successfully meet the specific requirements of learners and help them achieve their objectives.


Figuring out how to effectively use empathy to humanize online learning is a requirement for fostering inclusive, engaging, and effective learning experiences. Empathy will support online learners in achieving better learning outcomes and gaining an array of skills that will remain useful for the rest of their lives. Apart from the tips we shared in this article, you can explore the Instructional Design models we mentioned to gain a better understanding of the most effective ways to incorporate empathy into your online learning strategy and unlock the full potential of your target audience.