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Empathetic Persona Mapping

Engage with empathy to map the imagined personas of extreme cases of learners from divergent backgrounds.

Photo of Audey Seawright
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This brain storming activity asks participants to engage with empathy and draft abstractions of imagined people who need to make progress in higher education and they have particular pains/challenges on the way to earning a credential or degree. Maybe it is the case that traditional ways of accessing education has not met their need or feels out of reach. These are imagined learners! What I've drafted are points of pain challenges from conversations I have had talking to other non-traditional learners.

If this seems useful, imagine a persona in the comments section! Thank you for pondering.

Gil is an accounts receivable clerk at a manufacturing plant in Homer, LA. She knows she has the chops to understand advanced accounting and finance and wants to advance in her career at her current company, but she’s not sure how to get started on the path toward a credential or degree, or even what is mode is appropriate. She lives far away from a public university but fairly close to several junior college and vo-tech schools that offer lower division credits toward a B.A. in Finance or Accounting.

  • wants to advance career with accounting or finance credential or degree
  • works full time and supports a family, but has the time to dedicate to 12 hours per semester if she can do it remotely or close to home
  • lives far away from public university but near to vo-tech and junior colleges

Armand is a veteran living in Oakland, CA who entered the civilian workforce 10+ years ago has a few transcripts including military service (SMART, ARRTS, ACE, JST) and online classes at public universities amounting to about 12 transferable credits. He wants to apply for a traditional Bachelor of Science program in kinesiology and hopes to go onto graduate school. He works full time at a physical fitness training facility where he has take several certificate programs in personal training.

  • has multiple transcripts, about 12 hours of credit
  • wants to apply for a B.S. program
  • has hopes to go on to graduate school

Lenora is a 50+ year old oil and gas worker from McCloud, OK who has a concerns about a changing economy and a fear that she can’t do the same kind of physical labor that she has done at her job for the past 15 years. She has aspirations to teach early childhood education and she has taken some MOOC courses in early childhood development. Now she wants to get a teaching credential, but just found out she needs about 30 more transferable credits in upper and lower division courses before she can take the credential exam.

  • fear of a changing economy and limited retirement funds
  • wants to transition into a role that is less physically demanding
  • has some MOOC credits in early childhood education
  • needs transferable courses to qualify to take the credential exam

Kiaan is an advanced high school student in Bangalore, Karnataka, India. He has taken 24 MOOCs (massive online open courses) in math, science, computer programming, English language, and art history at more than 10 colleges and universities around the world. He would like to earn a credential or degree, but his courses are spread out at institutions throughout the world and there is no degree granting institution that recognizes his cross registration or accomplishments at multiple universities

  • advanced high school student international student
  • wants to earn a credential or degree
  • COMPLETED more than 24 MOOCs across 10 universities
  • institutions do not grant MOOC based credentials or do not recognize cross registration

Contributed by Alexina:

Athena is a first- gen low-income students who has taken a lot of college credit through her AP classes in high school and community colleges during the summer to save some money and get ahead in college. She wants to study abroad when she goes to college but she also wants to quickly graduate as soon as she can to again save money and come home so to help with her family. She is interested in public relations and has experience with photography from her own personal camera and writes her own blog.

  • has experience in photography and blogging
  • interested in Public Relations and studying abroad
  • has some AP credits and college classes from her community college
  • wants to graduate as soon as possible and doesn't have so much money

Contributed by Alexina: Aiden is a student who is about to graduate high school and has no idea about what he wants to major in, and doesn't feel comfortable going to school and having to decide in a year or two. He doesn't want to be rushed and is concerned what he decides on won't end being offered at the school he settles on. Then he would have to transfer and worry about pre-requisites. Aiden has been voluntering with community groups around Immigration and has been learning a lot about policies, who to contact, agencies that are there for undocumented families as support, etc. He knows he wants to continue this kind of work but doesn't know what he can or wants to do.

  • has interest and experience working with immigrant and undocumented families
  • unsure about what he wants to do yet
  • has work experience for a few years like policy writing

Contributed by Shawnim:

Ranah is a refugee living in Los Angeles, California who immigrated to the United States in her early 20s. She spent two years earning educational credit towards a pharmaceutical degree in her home country, but was required to start her degree from the beginning upon immigrating to the United States. This meant she had to retake all of the introductory courses for her degree, while also working close to full time to support her non-English speaking family. She works part time as a barista while also serving as an Arabic tutor for Arabic language students. Additionally, she has work experience in her field, having worked as a lab tech before her immigration--but none of this experience is considered to be "standard" by American universities. Spending another 4 years in school repeating courses she has already taken as well as learning English fluently is time-consuming for her.

  • two years research experience working as a lab tech
  • wants to earn a complete degree in order to work in her field
  • has transcripts from her home country's institution
  • wishes to complete a degree in the most cost-effective way possible

Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • A group brainstorm
  • A classroom or academic assignment

Tell us about your work experience:

Graduating Sociology major. 12 years experience consulting software engineers, lawyers, and judges on best use of technology in high stakes litigation.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Engage with empathy (and respect) to map a persona helps designers align the needs of potential users, their pain-points, and what they want to accomplish in higher education. Try it in the comments!

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Photo of Gloria Tyler

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Regards
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