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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129 Responses for this Activity

  • Learner Challenge – Online Discussion Board Activities
    by Rob Harrison (@Rob H)

    Attached is my learning challenge related to online discussion board activities.

  • Learner Challenge
    by Cynthia Gordon (@cynthia.gordon)

    This is my learner challenge for Academic and Career Prep students

  • Learner Challenge
    by Jenn Harren (@j_harren)

    Here is my challenge for students working in pairs in one of my courses.

  • Learner Challenge Activity – Creating a Feedback Loop
    by Wesley Butler (@wbutler925)

    I’d like to experiment with various technologies so learners can receive real-time, ungraded feedback.

  • Learner Challenge Activity
    by Brian Percheson (@bpercheson)

    Thanks to observations with diagnostic and formative assessment, my student will have formed a learning goal to organise their thoughts with technology instead of mainly pen/paper notetaking.  One suggestion for us would to be to use mindmaps via and we both hope that this would be a teaching and learning strategy that could be more… »

  • Learner Challenge
    by Rhonda Paulsen (@RPaulsen)

    Relating the information from the Empathy Map, my challenge for this activity is that students become overwhelmed with the volume of readings from multiple courses. The solution I have identified is in the attached document.

  • Learner Challenge – Digital Images to Help with Terminology
    by Maria Romios (@MariaR)

    First year music students can sometimes find the new vocabulary used in analysis challenging. Typically, we listen to songs and try to analyze them as a group. I have also tried using matrixes for the students to think about the terms within the elements of music. Using digital images ( could be a useful and more… »

  • Role Play Courage
    by Karyn Baker (@Karyn Baker)

    Our students have to role play throughout the program to demonstrate helping skills. To be honest, most students are petrified of the experience. I have seen students go through incredible steps to avoid at all cost including barely passing the course. NO matter what I say to comfort them about their normal anxiety is continues more… »

  • Learner Challenge – Consistent expectations and clear communication
    by Julie White (@JulieSLC)

    I am approaching this activity as the Program Coordinator of an International program. Our students are currently studying from several countries and are grappling with challenges related to time zones, internet connectivity and COVID. From the feedback they have provided, I think they will become more engaged if faculty in our program are able to more… »

  • Different Learning Structures
    by Karen Burns (@karen.burns)

    There does not appear to be a cookie cutting option for teaching online, especially during Covid.  Some students enjoy and thrive when working independently while others need the structure of a weekly class.  In some cases, a regularly structured class may not work. Students with jobs or parents with school age children trying to share more… »

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    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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