Bridging the Gap Between Students' Lives Inside and Outside the Classroom: Using Personas for Course Development

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Students’ lives outside the course environment affect performance in class. During this conversational session, participants role play student personas that drive instructional designers & faculty to make adjustments to courses. These tweaks help create the class community, autonomy, and satisfaction that might be the bridge to success for your learners.

Sponsored By


As the senior instructional designer at Clarkson University in New York State, my passion is creating engaging, diverse teaching and learning experiences for students and faculty. I am recognized as an Open SUNY Fellow Expert Online Instructional Designer and am also a certified Quality Matters Master Reviewer; I have reviewed or observed hundreds of online and blended course using various checklists including the OSCQR. I am a member of the MERLOT Teacher Education Editorial Board and a MERLOT Peer Reviewer Extraordinaire. Since earning my NYS teacher certification and a Master’s degree in Educational Computing from Buffalo State College in 2000, I have enjoyed teaching in higher education. Also I have had the pleasure of using my entrepreneurial skills to start several businesses, the most recent being Mobile Tech Mentor, computing services for those who need a little help. I have presented at a wide variety of venues over the last 15 years or so, such as Moodle Moot, Quality Matters, ADEIL, Online Learning Consortium, Sloan-C International Online Learning, Sloan-C Blending Learning, eLearning Consortium of Colorado Conference, SUNY Online Learning Summit (SOL) (DOODLE), Teaching and Learning with Technology Conference (TLT) and the Conference on Instructional Technologies on topics such as Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale: Development of an interactive, baseline professional development initiative ; Our Moodle Template: Who, what, why and how?; Building a Bridge to Success: Meeting Your Students Where They Are; Enhance Your Online Course and Engage Your Students with Video; Add Zest to the Final Project!; Adventures in Energy Course Redesign: Can You Say Solar Photovoltaic?; Online Course Quality; Emerging Technologies for Online Learning and Opening the Gate: How You and Your Students Will Benefit from Open Educational Resources; Course Redesign Made Easy with SoftChalk; Using Macromedia Captivate to Create Online Tutorials, and Small Business Development – Online Environment & Program Level Quality and more.
I am the Managing Instructional Designer at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY and adjunct instructor for Clarkson's Education Department. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Technical Communications, minor in Psychology, from Clarkson University and a Master of Education in Instructional Design from the University of Massachusetts - Boston. I have been working in online higher education for over 17 years and have experience as an Instructional Designer, Multimedia Instructional Designer, Instructional Systems Engineer, facilitator, and faculty member. Some areas of focus have been multimedia creation, accessibility, Quality Matters, project management, and faculty and staff professional development. I am certified in Accessible Information Technology, Quality Matters (QM) Master Reviewer, QM Face-to-Face Facilitator, and QM Online Facilitator and also am an OLC Online Facilitator.

Extended Abstract

Have you heard the one about the Uber driver who offers his riders a menu? It’s no joke! Perhaps you might choose the menu option of “The Stand-up Ride”, where the driver will tell you something funny (at least to him) or perhaps the “Silent Ride” suits you better?

What type of “ride” would your students choose if they had a menu of options? Have you ever encountered the “Leave Me Alone” student who is only taking your class because it’s required? How about the “I’m Busy” student?

Meet Clare, a 37 year old, busy mom of two teenagers. She was recently laid off from her job and her end goal is to find a new one. Clare supplements her severance package (lucky lady!) by working as a consultant part-time but has decided now is the time to work toward an advanced degree.

Clare is one of several personas you will meet during this conversational session where session groups will fulfill the role of a given student persona to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented in a variety of scenarios. Getting to know a bit about your students early on allows time to make small adjustments in your course that can help students be successful.

Scenario 1: Start of Semester

  • Class begins September 1; today is August 15

    • Describe some things your student persona will do between now and when class starts.

    • Name a few things your student would like to know before class starts.

Scenario 2: Content Delivery

  • The instructor’s style is to deliver a synchronous lecture for 45 minutes with an invitation for Q & A at the end.

    • How does your student persona react to this learning environment?

    • What other means of achieving the lecture objectives might suit your student?

Scenario 3: Assessment

  • An assessment activity early in the course allows students to choose their submission type.  Options include: 
    Write a blog post
    ​Create a slide deck
    Write a 2 page paper
    Lead a forum discussion with fellow students on a relevant topic
    ​​Collaborate with student peer(s) to develop video presentation

    • Which activity does your student choose and why?

Session Game Plan

1. Introduction (10 minutes)

  • Telling the story of the Uber article and introducing Persona Clare and the persona/scenario set up, handing out the persona cards and Scenario #1.

2. Three Scenario conversations (30 minutes)

  • Each group will have 5 minutes to discuss among themselves how their persona would respond to the scenario questions and what strategies they might use to help their student/persona to be successful/feel comfortable in class. (Timer set on screen)

  • Two persona groups will be chosen for sharing out (2-3 minutes each group)

Wrap up (5 minutes)

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Determine the value of getting to know their students at the start of the semester.

  2. List activities that will help them to gather information about their students.

  3. Use persona predictions to tweak their course to better meet individual student needs.