Learners Needs

  • SumoMe

heirarchyMaslows Heirachy of Needs refers to the needs of the body, mind and spirit.  Of all which
cannot be met in training session, to be sure, but it can give us a good idea about how to make learners as comfortable as possible.  The way we do this will be vary based on the delivery method; live, webinar, and elearning. Let’s start with the ugly one and get it over with.


Cammy Bean wrote an article for T&D Magazine ATD (previously ASTD) that focuses on the writing elearning modules.  Please have a look at her article, but a big take away for me was to make the writing human. There are few things more insulting than forcing a learner to listen to policies being read aloud, like story time being hosted by a robot.  And not a cool robot, a crappy one.  By spending the time reworking the content from a policy to a parable, the learner (or viewer in this instance) can see immediate value in the spending their time. This addresses the Esteem level, which is pretty close to the top, in the sense that is shows the learner a level of respect and they don’t have to feel inadequate for not understanding a policy as it’s ready to them.  Policies, on a good day, are not easy to understand, but unless I read them at my own speed and decipher the text in my own way, it does me no good to have them read to me.  This goes to the learners confidence level.

Also, if possible, allow for control over the pacing of the content, pause, rewind, continue later, etc.  This put the control in the hand of the user, where it should be.


With the webinar, the locus of control is back in the trainers/facilitators hands.  For my money, an environment free from anxiety is a ‘safe’ environment and we can directly support Maslows Safety need by taking steps to remove anything that causes the attendee anxiety.  What could cause anxiety? Speaking in front of strangers, appearing dumb, not understanding the technology, not making connections right way with the content, etc.  I’ve been in a lot of sessions where no one ask a thing, and they are rough.  Encourage interaction by soliciting questions. Most webinar platforms have a text-chat function in addition to the phone lines and sometimes I even say that I received a question in the chat function, even if that’s not entirely true, to show that asking questions makes the session a bit more enjoyable.  I explain how to access the chat tool and I ask attendees to simply enter the city and state they’re attending from, so they have already used the technology before the session even starts.  I also used polls at the beginning of a session to get a better idea of the level of experience customers have had with the content and the technology so I can steer the session where time can be better spent.

Connect the dots and review content as needed.  This isn’t something that comes naturally to some people, especially when they aren’t entrenched in the technology and content.

Whenever possible, don’t read to people.  This means you’ll have do some more homework but this goes a long way to showing respect for their time and intelligence. I’m guilty of this and I’m ashamed of it.  Let’s all just agree that we won’t do it, unless we have to.


Almost everything above can be applied here but now we can get into the Physiological bits.  A little preparation goes a long way, especially in long sessions.  Have water and snacks.  This makes a massive difference for the learner. As far as snacks go, I’ve been surprised how well received fruit is, even when given cookies as an option.

Music will easily satify other needs; during labs and breaks music can set people at ease and provide an energy and mood booster.  The type of music will depend on the audience, but a mix of oldies seems to work for most crowds.  If you’re using Pandora, there is an option to filter explicit content so you can safely play a station without having something slip through [see image below]. pandoraMix up the format occassionally and include learners in discussions. By allowing for discussion, learners Esteem and Belongingness are both satisfied on some level.  It shows that they are also bringing value to the session.

This is a short list but regardless of the learning channel, we are able to accommodate some basic human needs and make our training sessions a little more human.

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