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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112 Responses for this Activity

  • Padlet – Challenge
    by Sarah Versteeg (@Sarah Versteeg)

    This is a challenge that I’m facing and would love to see how this course can assist me.

  • Learner Challenge – Design Padlet Post
    by Bert Slessor (@BS)

    In my Padlet post, I talk about the high volume of text and reading within my online course.  The irony is that I prefer visuals and experiences to help me learn, but for the sake of time and lack of creativity, I have resorted to overly descriptive instructions and information.  The goal for me moving more… »

  • Learner Challenge Padley
    by Deborah Leal (@deborah.leal)

    Using the empathy map, I explore the concerns of introverts in learning and realized that our current online environment was an excellent space and it is the time to try and use the digital learning delivery platforms to explore how engaging in these digital spaces allows for introverted learners to have a fuller engagement with more… »

  • Learner challenge
    by Michelle Laurence (@Michelle Laurence)

    With the pandemic pivot, there were many learner challenges. This one I would say was a success. There were failures too. This activity made we realize the underpinnings of remote teaching was the lack of connectedness and how that as attached to fears of failure, missed experiences and ultimately leaving their education behind. Powerful stuff.

  • Ensuring Learning and Understanding
    by jessica srivastava (@Jessica)

    The issue I am addressing is focused on the issue of students not following direction or the information being provided and thereby submitting assignments that do not meet the requirements.

  • PLANEWORK Learner Challenge 1
    by Terry Greene (@terrygreene)

    Many of the learners in this program have the added challenge of oh just travelling half way around the world in between classes, and have a great deal of stress about getting behind in their work during the trip. But what if they were able to use that time to get ahead in their work! more… »

  • 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… »

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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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