I am interested in developing a set of postgraduate level courses that will be taught entirely online aimed at a primarily international (non-UK) audience.

I am seeking strategies for defining a set of learner profiles to help understand broad educational needs to help inform the course design process. While there will be many subject-specific student needs, there will be many more that could be considered generic or trans-discipline.

What strategies are there for defining learner profiles for an online course aimed at international students?

Are there particular parameters I should set eg demographic data, technological ability, experience of higher education etc? These are fairly obvious (although this could be questioned), are there others?

Also, is there an evidence base in support of a given strategy or approach?

Thank you for your time!


A (loose) definition of a ‘learner profile’. Essentially, a generic image of a learner that outlines their needs and characteristics relevant to the learning environment. The expectation is to create a set of broad generalizations about students in order to help inform course design.

This could be informed by research into actual student experiences that are distilled into key questions or criteria, or through professional practice.

This is not to say that the needs of individual learners will be disregarded in a one-size fits all mentality, rather it is to set broad expectations of what learners might need.

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