Using Diverse Names in Your E-Learning Courses

Several years ago, I worked on a project to create an e-learning course for a customer relationship management platform, and we had to populate the “sandbox” system with fake names. Doesn’t seem too hard, right? Well, not for the first 25 to 50 names, but I was amazed at how quickly my inspiration ran dry. Plus, I wanted to make sure I had a good cross-section of society represented. That’s when my search for online name finders began.

Even if I only need 2 or 3 characters for a scenario, I still turn to some of these sources to make sure I’m using authentic, diverse names.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Fake Name Generator is great if you need more than just a name. It gives you fake profiles such as fake addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. You can search for just male, just female, or random. And you can specify the country of origin and country of residence.

All profiles are fake, but the individual elements are pulled from actual databases. So you’ll get a real first name with (someone else’s) real last name, plus (someone else’s) real street name, etc.

I do have two issues with it. When you select the “American” name set, you get mostly names of Western European origin. (But by selecting different name sets, you can get around that.) The other issue is that a few name sets come in the alphabet of that country, which makes those names challenging to use in an English-based course. It’s free to use, and they require you give attribution.


Their list of the most popular given names includes up to 20 choices (10 male and 10 female) for close to a hundred different countries.

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Social Security Administration

We have a client whose e-learning is for volunteers with an average age of 73. So reviewing a list of the most popular baby names last year doesn’t really help. The Social Security Administration publishes the top baby names in the U.S. from every year since 1879. (And for the record, James and Linda were the most popular names 73 years ago.)

One caution with any list providing the most popular names: “Most popular” means majority, not minority.

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Nameberry Gender-Neutral Names

If you’d like to use a unisex or gender-neutral name, check out this list of 50 names from Nameberry.

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Use these tools to help you be more inclusive and authentic in your courses.

Diane Elkins
Diane Elkins is the co-owner of E-Learning Uncovered, as well as Artisan E-Learning, a custom eLearning development company specializing in the use of Storyline, Captivate, and Lectora. Diane has been in the eLearning industry since 2001, speaks regularly at national conferences about eLearning, and is co-author of the popular E-Learning Uncovered book series.

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