The Define step is about narrowing in and identifying a problem, or in our case, a challenge, based on what you know and have discovered about your learner.

This is key to the design process as it is the focal point that you will use to build your solution. It is tempting to start BIG, but it is actually more productive and yields better results if you start with something small.

Make sure that the challenge that you have identified is clearly defined.

Using principles from, a design thinking institute based out of Stanford University, a good learner challenge is one that:

  • Provides focus and frames the challenge
  • Inspires you and others around you
  • Informs how you will evaluate subsequent ideas
  • Captures the hearts and minds of your users
  • Helps you focus on developing concepts and plans that meet the needs for most of the people that matter (in other words, you cannot design something that is 100% perfect for 100% of all involved!)

Hopefully you will be able to easily define your learner challenge once you have created an empathy map. If not, use the map to find patterns that point to an opportunity. If you are still coming up blank, challenge your assumptions. Ask yourself, “What if?” and “How might I?”

For example:

Currently, I ask students to write a short research paper, and this exercise receives lukewarm response. How might I reimagine this activity through the use of technology?

Or is there is a concept that students tend to have trouble with? Is there a topic or a problem that benefit from being accompanied by extra examples?

Once you define your challenge, write it down and put it front and center. You will be using this for the next steps of the design thinking process.

For this DEFINE activity share your learner challenge as a post to the collaborative Learner Challenge Bank padlet.

This can be done anonymously, without logging in. Sharing here may help other spark more ideas!

Take a screenshot of the area of the padlet with your post, then either edit the image to include a box or arrow to indicate which one is yours or embed it into a document and describe it. Save the image or document to upload as your response to this activity.

This activity is part of the Define your learner challenge section of the Technologist Module.

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106 Responses for this Activity

  • Learner Challenge: Student stress hinders confidence in pursuing online learning
    by Megan Gibson (@Megan Gibson)

    Since last spring, my students have expressed concern about their ability to adapt to the online environment. This appears to discourage students from pursuing strategies for success that may have been more readily attempted when confidence in themselves and /or the learning process was higher. I will be exploring ways to reaffirm capabilities (much of more… »

  • Geography Learner Challenge
    by Chadwick Rawana (@ChadR)

    The learner challenge identified is particularly applicable to international students.

  • Course Challenge
    by amy taylor (@amytaylor)

    I used the snipping tool to take a screenshot of the padlet entry regarding my course challenge.  Given this term is online, I have spent a great deal of energy trying to connect with students through many creative ways.  One of the requests is that they turn their videos on when we are learning synchronously.  more… »

  • Learner Challenge
    by Brittany Murphy (@TaxBM)

    I have attached a screenshot of my learner challenge identified. This challenge is especially relevant for online courses. To do this, I reviewed my empathy map and considered where the bigger issues were. Some ways to help would be to use the FAQ section of FOL, which will answer recurring student questions so they can more… »

  • Gary Danner – Learner Challenge
    by Gary Danner (@gdanner)

    The Learner Challenge I identified is how to get students to use their audio and video more during the online classes/lectures. They will have to get used to this in the business world.

  • Christopher’s Student Challenge
    by Christopher Rowe (@ChristopherRowe)

    For my challenge, I’m looking for a way to interact with students in a more engaging way during on online synchronous lecture.

  • Challenge: Measuring Engagement
    by Kaitlin Marriott (@kmarriott)

    My learner challenge involves measuring student engagement, as well as increasing engagement, in the online environment.

  • Learner Challenge Response jp
    by Jordan Porciello (@jporciello)

    Attached screen shot of my response on padlet

  • Peer feedback H5P tool
    by Elan Paulson (@Elan Paulson)

    Padlet activity: Identified a challenge and a tool to address. It was helpful to read the thought process of other posters because it helped me to reflect on the scale and effect of my work. This will be as much about my learning as it will be (hopefully) helpful for faculty. Thanks for sharing, everyone!

  • Learner challenge: keeping students engaged
    by Anahita Khazaei (@Ana)

    Please see attached my post on the Learner Challenge padlet, regarding how to keep students engaged with the course and each other in an online environment.

    0 Resources for this Activity

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    This work by Ontario Extend is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

    3 Responses to “Learner Challenge”

    1. Ahmed Mukhlis

      Students facing difficulties in completing the lab works using simulation, they need face – to – face class to collaborate with the teacher and real physical devices

    2. Tom Honey

      With group work in class, or on-campus I am looking to understand how to set up groups in teams and use/train the students with a steep learning curve in the using software to complement the information being provided in the LMS. Teams will be pivotal in ensuring success for a large project, using the file-sharing feature, and presenting remotely as a team.


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