Welcome to week two of 12 on our journey through the Design for the Greater Good Instructional Design online course. This week, we focused on the ‘Analyze’ phase of the design process, learning more about both the learners and the instructional opportunity there.

Empathy and eLearning Design

The main approach this course uses is called Empathic Design. The empathy framework (Kouprie & Visser, 2009) is used as the roadmap to help us think about the learners and their hopes, dreams, fears, circumstances, and what they want to achieve overall.


The framework looks like this:

-Discover: Think about personas, scenarios, and their varied experiences

-Immerse: Create names for these fictional characters and live in their world

-Connect: Use you own personal experiences and connect emotionally with your characters

-Detach: Remove yourself and reflect on what your characters might want to achieve

Persona Discovery

In design, considering and focusing on the user during the entire design process is important to the success of the final product. The same is true when designing instruction.

We ask: Who is our audience? The question goes beyond basic demographics, such as gender, age, skill, and schooling. We need to empathize with our audience for whom we are designing and constructing personas.

The core concept of empathy is the ability to emotionally identify with someone else. Written in narrative, personas are fictitious representations of our learners intended to convey their hopes, dreams and fears, and what they want to accomplish.

Through personas, we have empathy for our real learners and we use this empathetic link to make all our design decisions in light of how it influences learners. When we relate to learners, we design with an all-inclusive view of our audience. And this is what instructional design is all about.

The Learning Gap

Within the instructional design process, it’s key to identify the desired results and instructional goals of learning. The difference between the learner’s current state and the end state is the “learning gap.”

Think about a learner’s current state (i.e. reading ability, time, money, life experience, formal education attained, etc.) and their desired state, and realistically, a number of learning gaps could upset your learner’s success.

Here are some of the types of learning gaps:

Knowledge Gaps – Some students have not been exposed to the right information.

Skills Gaps – Other students know the information, but have not had adequate practice to be able to perform well.

Motivation Gap – When knowledge and skills are present, you also have to think about attitude and motivation.

Environmental Gap – Think about how environment impacts learning. Where do they study? Do they have the right tools? Do they have enough time?

Communication Gap – Communication is key. Ensure the right messages are being sent between instruction and learner.

Filling the Gaps

Consider the personas using the discover-immerse-connect-process to validate and fill in gaps and empathize with learners. Remember to look at all design aspects from the learner’s viewpoint. Depending on the learning activities you design, you may find it essential to fine-tune and fill in gaps with a persona.