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The 19 Learner Burdens

by Todd Kasenberg

I recently stumbled across some very compelling work by Kate Nasser, a savvy consultant with a long history as a people skills coach. Kate writes and thinks about skills development and leadership, seemingly with an emphasis on customer/vendor relationships and the amplification of business success.

I’ve already delved somewhat into notions that learning professionals can learn from marketers in this blog and in various presentations and guest post. Now I’ll extend that to opportunities to learn from customer success and service experts.

Ms Nasser, who appears to fit into the latter category (although I am confident she is an excellent marketer!), documented something she called the 21 Customer Burdens.  These burdens reflect the uncertainties held by the customer when engaging in a buying process.  Many of the burdens documented pertain to trust, relationship qualities, and being understood.

I stood up and took notice. Many of Nasser’s customer burdens are a pretty reasonable fit for learners new to subject matter to which they are exposed.  Largely, I’m not talking about informal learning, although some matters of trust and being understood (as in, does Google get me?) come into play – but I see a derivative application of Kate’s “customer burdens”.  After my massaging and editing and extrapolating, I’m pleased to document the “19 Learner Burdens”. With, of course, many thanks to Kate Nasser!

  1. Will my needs be met by this learning program?
  2. Are my learning needs actually understood?
  3. Are my learning needs and preferred learning style taken into consideration?
  4. Will I understand the learning environment?
  5. Will my time be respected?
  6. What positive effect will this learning program have on my work? On my life?
  7. How easy will it be to participate in this learning program?
  8. What happens if I should fail?
  9. Will the experience be stressful or positive?
  10. Will I enjoy the experience?
  11. Are the expectations of me realistic?
  12. How will I be treated after the learning experience?
  13. Will I regret participating in this learning program?
  14. Are there alternatives for me if this program isn’t right for me?
  15. Should I trust this learning program?
  16. Can I get this information some other way that is more suited to me?
  17. What can I do with the information when the program is done?
  18. Will this be boring?
  19. Will I remember what I’ve learned after the program?

I'm compelled to believe that most learners bring at least a subset of these burdens to their learning encounters, and that the angst about these can negatively impact learner engagement. Perhaps, in our efforts to market the programs or to adjudicate program intake, and to pay at least some lip service to learning personalization, all of us involved in instructional design and learning execution should be addressing these burdens. After all, you can force horses to water, but whether they drink is another matter entirely. 


Showing one comment.
Steve Snider
April 04, 2016 @ 10:59AM

Along with #8 "What happens if I should fail?", I would add #20. "Will there be a test?"

Underlying this question is the fear of looking stupid. People fear that failing a test might jeaopardize a positive working relationship with a supervisor. Test anxiety brings back many school day insecurities that adults carry into the workplace learning environment.