Developing an Audience Profile for Your Online Course

Designing an online course isn’t as simple as it seems. There are several factors that have to be taken into consideration when designing a course. One of those factors is your audience. It’s very important to think about who is going to be taking your course. Who are your students? Why are they taking your course? What knowledge and skills do they already possess? Your course success hinges not only on how well it meets your teaching goals but also whether or not it fulfills your audience’s needs.

But, how do you go about defining your audience? There are five questions you can answer that will help you develop your audience profile.

1. How old is my audience?
Are you working with millennials, teenagers, baby boomers? Your tone and how you present information may need to change based on the age group that you focus on.
2. What is your learner’s educational background?
Learners coming right out of high school are going to have a different educational and life experience background than senior learners. This is two-fold. You have to think about what knowledge they possess and where the gaps might be. On one hand, if your course has a math component, your senior learner may need some refresher information. On the other, your high school students won’t have much of the life experience that can help a senior learner to better grasp certain subjects.
3. What do I know about my audience’s job experience?
This question comes in especially handy if you are building continuing education courses. You will present very different information to audience members early in their careers vs. those holding executive positions. This also matters in other types of courses. You need to know if your learners are trying to hold down a job while taking your course. This can affect the kinds of outside reading, writing assignments, and projects you choose to include as part of your curriculum.
4. Why is my audience taking this course, and what are their expected outcomes?
This is a very important question to ask. Your audience will come in with certain needs and expectations for the courses they are taking. You need to make sure you are meeting those needs and expectations. If not, why are you providing the course in the first place?
5. What teaching strategies will be most effective for my audience?
As we’ve seen above, every audience is different, and by answering the questions above, you can get a good idea of what kind of learners you may encounter. You may need more visuals to get your point across, or you may be better off with reading material. You will have a better idea as to what kind of activities will appeal to your audience.

Anyone can put together a course, but building an effective, valuable course takes time and preparation. By spending the time to build out an audience profile, you can ensure your course falls into the latter.

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