5 Tips To Apply Empathy To Research Learners’ Needs And Develop More Meaningful eLearning Experiences

Learners' Needs And Empathy In Online Training
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Summary: Corporate research is a familiar concept, and emotional intelligence is gaining traction too. How can you harness empathy as a research tool and use it to improve your team’s online training experience?

5 Tips To Identify Your Learners’ Needs And Improve Learning Experiences

The enjoyment and benefit trainees derive from a course are directly dependent on how the course is built. If the course’s content and structure speak to them on a personal level, they get more from it. They’re able to form a connection and assign meaning rather than merely going through the motions. And asking trainees what they need is the best way to build a course that suits their personal preferences and goals. How can you apply empathy in your market research and use it to make your training material better by addressing learners’ needs?

1. Create Backstories For Your Learners

When you’re marketing a product, you begin with customer profiles. These are representations of your target audience. They describe the type of person most likely to buy your product, and you should have a range of profiles. By understanding who your typical target is, you can develop sales techniques that will appeal to them. This approach improves your chances of closing the deal. In eLearning setups, creating student profiles works the same way. It guides you on the kind of content and structure that will best appeal to these trainees. You can use data about existing trainees to build up these profiles. Talk to your learners. Give them quick audience research quizzes and surveys. They can respond anonymously if they prefer. Use these varied bits of data to curate a series of trainee personas. Then use those personas to make your course better.

2. Host Live Events And Workshops For Fact-Finding

Customer research is the best way to collect data on your course. And every good eLearning platform has analytics built in, so that’s a good place to start. Harvest that data and analyze it from a performance perspective. Which modules were completed the fastest? Which tests had good/bad results? What sections had the lowest completion rates? This can help you identify trouble spots. You can also invite trainees for a laid-back seminar. Gently nudge them for information—what they (didn’t) like about the course, or what they’d change. These surveys can be done online as well. Just synchronize in real-time and they can attend in webinar format. They can follow along and respond by private message. They can email their answers later, use social media, or post in anonymous chat rooms. Giving them the option to stay anonymous empathizes with their concerns about tattletale backlash.

3. Ask The Right Question To Find Out What Trainees Need

Online courses have varied origins. It could be a matter of regulatory compliance, or it could be driven by the bosses’ vision. The CEO may have a clear idea of the kind of training he wants his team to have. Or HR/Admin may have attended a staff motivation seminar and come back with bright ideas. The best type of training is self-directed, though. So, if you can find out what your team wants to learn, they’ll be more invested. Ask them what skills they’d like to develop. Give them an option to make anonymous suggestions if they’re more comfortable that way. Invite big-sky thinking. They can include foreign languages, calculus, or snowboarding. You’ll whittle down the list later. You could even ask them to list five each, in order of preference. Include some general questions in the survey too, like what they think eLearning is. How long do they think it takes, what mandatories would they like, anything they want you to avoid?

4. Take A Conversational Approach

This applies both during your research and in the course content itself. Natural speech patterns make it easier to interact. When you’re crafting your questions for the survey, don’t use stilted formal language. It will put learners on edge. They’re already intimidated because you’re an authority and they’ll be trying to figure out the answer you want. They’ll be driven to give “your” answers, not their own. Instead, keep it casual and frame queries in ordinary language. Don’t ask, “In your past experience, what are the barriers to online learning?” Instead, ask, “Have you trained online before? What did(n’t) you like about it?”

5. Identify Their Primary Motivators

Everyone has something that drives them. Something they’re passionate about. To identify learners’ needs, you must first determine their primary sources of motivation. Why are they enrolled in the course? Which goals are they trying to achieve? How can you help them accomplish their objectives through your online course design? Surveys, polls, and focus groups can help you get the answers you’re looking for. If they need an added incentive to participate, offer course sign-up bonuses or add-on eBooks. The market research gives you the power to meet their expectations and continually improve your strategy, not to mention personalize your promotional materials.


These tips don’t just apply to personal eLearning endeavors. Using the term “empathy” in the corporate training sphere, in particular, may seem a little out of place. However, it makes your training process more effective, which saves time and money. And these words are music to any employer’s ears, so it’s worth infusing empathy if it will gain practical results. How can you incorporate it though? Get background information on your learners and infuse these backstories into course characters. Use group sessions to collect this data, in person or via synchronized video conferencing sessions. Ask insightful questions and apply a conversational tone throughout. It feels more natural and is easier to remember.

Does your LMS offer you the ability to focus on KPIs that matter most to your organization and gain valuable learner insights? Use our online directory to find a system that features custom reports generators. You can use LMS metrics to evaluate learner behaviors, identify areas for improvement, and better address their needs.