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Helen Whitehead: Personas and Scenarios OLDSMOOC-W2

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Helen Whitehead
20 January 2013

Related to assessment in MOOC

Saima is a third year Business School undergraduate (UK) who is taking the MOOC for extra credit. She is taking the 10-credit version of the module in order to build up enough points for a Nottingham Advantage Award which she hopes will give her an edge in securing a job on graduation.  She doesn’t have a lot of time but is motivated to get those last 10 credits. She isn’t very social media savvy and has never done a MOOC before. She is interested in the credit, not the MOOC format. She will be working from University PCs and her iPad and she wants to know exactly what she needs to do to pass the module.

Donna Li is a postgraduate student at the China campus. She is taking the module for credit, to get 20 credits from it, and hopes that it will help her both improve her English and add to her employability skills.  During the course she may struggle to understand what to do, and be diffident about working in an online group. If these needs are not met, she will likely drop out.

Anne is an administrator in the School of Law (UK). She is taking the course without student credit but hoping to count it as continuing professional development. She is interested in the subject of the MOOC but isn’t social media savvy. She wants it to be very clear what she needs to do and she’d be happy to work with others. She is unlikely to persist if she starts floundering and can’t understand how it works.

Beatriz is a lecturer in Spanish (UK campus), she will enthusiastically take part as she likes new things, but is likely to be be very critical, and is more interested in the mechanics of the MOOC than in either the MOOCs subject or employability skills. The activities need to engage her enough to interest her in the subject matter!

Paloma is an elearning specialist at the Malaysia campus. She is early in her career and a bit nervous about new technologies although it is part of her job to introduce them to colleagues.  She comes to the MOOC with an open mind and mostly wants to be able to help other people take part. (see more about Paloma below).

Emily is the wife of Martin who is a mature lifelong learner at the University. She doesn’t have a login at the University so she is participating peripherally in the course using the OERs and other open resources while her husband downloads . It’s a subject close to her heart as she volunteers in this area, and she becomes involved to the extent she wants to submit assignments.  Her husband is reluctant to let her submit them in his name.

Implications for course design

  • Face to face study groups as well as online ones (especially for credit-taking students)
  • Make it easy to join those groups, as well as allowing people to form their own groups. Provide ready-made groups (especially for the 10 and 20 credit students) as well as encouraging formation of groups by participants.
  • Designated facilitator for students who are taking the module for credit
  • Very clear information on what to do and which activities/assessments are essential for getting the credit.
  • Both staff and students at all levels will be taking this module, so we need to ensure that the content, learning opportunities and forms of assessment suit everyone – this may mean a choice of ways to proceed – and that the assessment fits the level of the participant. (The Advantage Award is well established and the assessment for that credit should be reasonably easy.)
  • The MOOC is open and uses OERs, but we will need to use Moodle. Can we use social media channels enough to provide a satisfactory experience – and an opportunity to gain badges perhaps (obviously not credit!) - to those who do not have a University login?

Extra content

So I'm wondering if this is closer to personas than scenarios.  I don't really see how a narrative about one person can help design - you'll end up with a thoroughly personalised design for one person!  And a course - particularly if it's a MOOC - needs to be relevant to many people.

Let's take one of these people and extend her story.

Paloma starts by accessing the Moodle space which is where she understands all University courses start. She sits near the person who is organising the campus face to face study group for those participating on her campus, so she emails her personally and asks when the first meeting is. 

The Moodle page is long and confusing so she starts at the top and is pleased to find Introductory Week and a clear description of activities, including instructions on how to set up her learning journal, where to fins preliminary readings, and instructions on how to find a study group. There are also instructions on how to set up some social media channels but they aren't ones familiar to her - in her country different channels are used.

Paloma goes to the first meeting which is in a seminar room with a single computer, projector and screen. There are six students aiming to do the module for credit.  The facilitator covers much the same ground that Paloma has already covered online, but she comes away with a much better idea of the materials she needs to read, and has promised to read the blogs of the other participants. She has also heard it explained exactly what to do to get credit and she decides to follow the 10-credit learning pathway as it involves four very clear assignments. She's not sure yet whether anyone will mark her assignments, though, as she's not taking the module for credit. And does she submit them to the same assignment dropbox?

Helen Whitehead
14:17 on 20 January 2013 (Edited 14:19 on 20 January 2013)

Factors and concerns I have started to to think about and can flesh out.

However a force map involves drawing. I don't do drawing. It takes me much longer and is more worrying to draw something than to think about it.  So long as I have a personal understanding of the positive and negative forces and how they affect personas, hopefully that's enough!

I now have a list (not posted) of positive and negative factors.  Maybe if I see some more examples of force maps I'll be able to do one, but for now it wouldn't be helpful.  Will try to add more Key forces, but it's difficult without examples to reflect on.

Key forces

Isolation  -           Group support   -

Need to Belong +?             Facilitation  +

Ease of use of technology  (+ or -)

Use of language   clarity +

Time constraints -

Interest in subject / Course's approach to subject and how it relates to personal approach (+ or -)

Helen Whitehead
15:24 on 20 January 2013 (Edited 15:27 on 20 January 2013)

Embedded Content


Gill Windall
5:58pm 20 January 2013

Hi Helen,  

I've found reading your Personas helpful.  I was trying some scenarios where I was defining a persona and their path through the (as yet non-existent) learning support/experience all in one go.  It was useful but I began to tie myself in knots a bit. So initially defining some personas and then tackling how they might interact with the learning experience seems like a sensible approach.

Helen Whitehead
10:24pm 20 January 2013

Thanks Gill. I found that out by trying it :)  Week 2 talks about scenarios and then personas, but I do think it helps to do the personas first, then fleshing into a scenario.


Ebba Ossiannilsson
9:37am 22 January 2013

I agree on your discussions on scenaroius, narratives, personas adn force maps, I can see how they goes toghether and have impact on each other

But is it not many perspectives on the entire scenarous

Clare Gormley
9:04pm 22 January 2013

Hi Helen,

I found the way you separated out the personas and the scenario very helpful - I've been trying to figure out the difference myself and was getting very muddled up. I think what we're being asked to do is briefly outline multiple personas and then one possible scenario based on one persona. Hopefully I've got that right - I'm going with it anyway!



Jane Challinor
8:53am 23 January 2013

Hi Helen

Glad I'm not the only one who doesn't do drawing. In fact I am quite artistic and I like mind maps, but I could not get into this process at all and I had exactly the same problem years ago with "rich pictures" when I did a Complexity course with OU. Is this form of diagramming an OU fetish? am I just not made that way? or is it that we each have to find  own way of grappling with these concepts in order to best meet our particular way of learning/comprehending?

I have really been struck this week by reading Dave Cormier on rhizomatic learning and there you go - maybe I am a bit of a nomad and I don't know how to express a rhizome in a neat diagram :)

Helen Whitehead
9:11am 23 January 2013

Clare - I hope it's right, although I think several personas and a few scenarios rather than just one are probably a good idea.

Although I think it may depend on how well you know your students.  I usually create courses for the same group of people every time - staff in our institution - and have come to know them and their needs and ways of working, factors and concerns, very well, and have a clear idea in my head when I am designing the learning.  For this exercise I'm trying to consider a wider group.

Jane, thanks for the link to Dave Cormier - I'll have to take a look at it.

I have an idea about the Force Map but will only share if it works - still not entirely sure what the nodes should be - surely they are student and learning!


Helen Whitehead
9:32pm 24 January 2013 (Edited 9:33pm 24 January 2013)

Mmm, rhizomatic learning is good concept.  I have for many years now been exploring hypertext, three dimensions, netowrks and other ways of expressing how learning (or any other experience) is not linear - except in the sense of time - the one thing that really IS linear!).  I like to think of all sorts of networks, and knitting has been a way in which I have expressed it.  In a mailing list back in the early 90s we used to talk about "stitching" threads and Gilly Salmon talks about "weaving" to bring together different people's ideas which chime.  I have thought of the warp and the weft, together forming the piece of cloth.

At ALT once I tied the audience in knots by using wool to connect ideas among the audience members. I think this might work.  Not drawing maps, but connecting the nodes with physical threads...

So a MOOC is like a piece of knitting... with dropped stitches and a pleasing but probably unexpected form that emerges despite the planned pattern...


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