Understanding learners on their journey of acquiring skills outside academics — UX Research Case Study

In this article, I’ll walk you through the approach & insights uncovered during the research process. Some major wins, pivot points, all driven by our super puzzled process.

This case study is a team project done as a part of a research task on identifying major problems in the process of learning anything that one feels like learning.

Team ~ Priyansh Singara(That’s me✨) • Ananya Jain • Ishita Dev • Nachiket Nayagaonkar

Duration ~ 3 weeks

🌈 Sleepless nights, fingers tired after typing in loads of documentation, messed up presentations, endless zoom meetings, lots of disagreements, too many things to laugh about & eventually lots of fun. A perfect mishmash, isn’t it?

Now, let’s look at the problem statement to cool down our anxiety.

People in the age group of 18–22 years are experiencing difficulties in figuring out how & where to start learning something new.

But, how did we get here? Going back to how we started

We were given an open brief under the domain area of Education & Learning. So, we started off by looking for key problem spaces in the sector.

Selecting Problem Spaces

We finalized on moving ahead with Problem Space 2 • How to learn anything that one feels like learning

  • How to learn anything that one feels like learning’ goes directly to the aspect of curiosity & exploration. “How to make people curious?” is a legitimate question that we asked after finding various related verticals in the initial brainstorming sessions.
  • Uncovering reasons behind why many people around us are not able to learn everything that they feel like learning.
  • Nowadays, a lot of careers & studies demand cross-functional learning. To thrive in this environment, everyone should have the skill of learning anything that they want to.
  • This problem was faced a lot by individuals around us & even all the group members could strongly relate to it. Competition is extremely high, and people want an extra edge over others.
Key Assumptions about the problem space

Before proceeding we made certain assumptions, it is important to call them out.

  • Learning anything that one feels like learning pops up in the age group of 18–22-year-old people as they are highly concerned about career and personal growth, wanting an edge over peers.
  • They usually struggle with how & where to start learning something new due to content overload in today’s times. Everyone’s different perspectives and viewpoints make decision-making difficult, adding to the confusion.
  • People are struggling to make themselves curious. Usually due to lack of exploration, not communicating with someone experienced, and not questioning themselves enough.

Although, the urge to learn anything usually occurs in the age group of 16–30-years but we narrowed down to the age group of 18–22-years to generate impactful insights by understanding the specific nuances.

  • 18–22-year-old age group with the highest hunger to learn new things & to explore.
  • The phase of progressing into a career ~ extremely important & substantial impact.

✨ Revisiting our problem statement again

Problem Statement
  • To understand the process of skill acquisition.
  • To identify the pain points involved in the process of skill acquisition.
  • To identify & understand the factors which hinder the process of skill acquisition.
  • To understand the impact of information overload in today’s world, while learning a new skill.
  • To understand the role of peer groups (friends, family, teachers, colleagues) on your curiosity and the intent to take up learning new skills.
  • The barrier to skill acquisition isn’t intellectual. It’s EMOTIONAL, depends on your willpower and fire to learn.
  • Emotions like internal provocation, self-worth & self-image occasionally help increase curiosity, if taken positively.
  • The more neural pathways you create, the better you can learn. Exploration creates pathways.
  • By answering questions in early childhood, parents appreciate curiosity in children for their whole lifetime.
  • Curiosity arises when a person recognizes a gap in their knowledge, creating a sense of deficiency.

These findings helped us understand the problem space and the overall process of skill acquisition. We cleared our concepts on curiosity and how the brain processes information on learning something.

Main character of the story✨


Meet Krish, a 19-year-old student pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Mumbai.

  • Krish is like the dark horse👨🏼‍💻 in his college, average at academics, yet super focused on his career📈.
  • Loaded with college work and assignments, although he is super passionate about growth marketing🎨, but has no time to learn more about it.
  • He has always wanted to build his portfolio📑 with the latest marketing skills in demand, eventually wanting to intern🏢 at a great company.
  • Krish’s deepest fear😨 is not to do the same thing as all his friends🧑🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏿. He wants to explore & have an edge over others.
  • Although whenever he starts, he is confused with a hell lot of content, 🤯, where to start? How to start? What to learn first?
  • Eventually, losing all his motivation😖 to learn.

But what happens between the lines of this story, is what we will uncover🔍

User Survey via Google Forms

  • The google survey had a total of 117 respondents.
  • 80% of respondents (93 respondents of total 117 respondents) were from the GenZ (16–25 years) age bracket

Let’s start with the analysis of the user survey.

I have added a section of “Patterns Recognized” below some questions to help readers identify the pattern/observation which was inferred from the question asked.

What mediums do you use to upskill yourself?

  • This was a multiple select question as one person could use many different mediums to upskill themselves.
  • The majority selected YouTube & Paid/Online courses which were both a form of video + audio content.
  • Most learners preferred visual + auditory learning.
  • Still, we weren’t clear if learners liked unstructured or structured content or is it everyone’s personal preference.

Do you go about planning your future?

On a scale of 1–10, how satisfied are you with the current position you are in professionally/educationally?

On a scale of 1–10, how stressed are you about your future?

  • The majority of participants were moderately-highly satisfied with life.
  • On the other hand, the majority of participants were highly stressed about their future.
  • If you look at the intersection of satisfaction and stress lies growth.
  • The key observation made here was that people are satisfied with life, yet stressed about their future, which implies that they had a hunger to grow, a positive fear about the future, wanting to upgrade their lives constantly.

What do you like/prefer more? Formal Education or learning new things on your own?

How would you describe your journey to learn a new skill?

  • The majority of learners feel ~ the journey of learning a new skill is moderately difficult.

Do you force the feeling of learning and curiosity on you just for future achievements? If you said yes/maybe, what factors cause such an action?

  • 63 out of 117 respondents feel that they force themselves into the concept of curiosity and learning for future achievements.
  • The majority felt ~ Educational bodies and peer pressure was the reason behind it.

But, what did we find out later in the 1:1 interviews?

🔨 Peer pressure has more impact on learning than educational bodies. This validated our secondary research finding ~ 😔 Negative instances and emotions like self-provocation, self-image and self-respect originating from peer pressure could cause ⚡positive drives in humans like learning🧠

💡 More on this part later.

Does being afraid of failure affect you positively or negatively?

What difficulties do you face while learning new skills?

This open-ended question about difficulties faced in the learning process was a major win🎉 in the user survey.

  • It was basically a repository of pain points in the skill acquisition process. Extremely useful findings.
User Interview Summary
  • We conducted 10 semi structured interviews (6Female // 4Male) with our primary target group of 18–22 years from Mumbai, pursuing their bachelor’s degree.
  • Since we also wanted to understand the perspectives of parents, we interviewed 2 parents, who have kids in the age group of 18–22 years.

Bit more context

Setup ~ Zoom / Telephonic Interviews.

Any 2 members at a time from team would conduct interviews. One would engage in conversation, the other would document & highlight important findings.

Tools ~ Otter.ai for transcription (permission granted from interviewee)

Average call duration ~ 30–45 mins

We created a questionnaire, basically a repository of questions, from which we could pick and ask according to context and scenario. Since these were semi structured interviews, many questions were part of probing.

📃 Here is the link to the questionnaire. 🤔

“I feel stagnant. I forget to focus on all subjects while spending too much time on one. I believe there is Lack of guidance and community, no one is here to give feedback.”

“I feel inferior when someone unexpected has more knowledge than me.”

“I like it when some content has structure to it, but it should also be easy to explore.”

“Too many resources to start with and so much information on the internet.”

Remember Krish? our main character of the story, now let’s take a closer look at his journey.

Summary of Krish’s Journey

The key pain points experienced by a learner have been discussed in the image above.

You can look at the detailed User Journey Map by clicking on this link.

Drumrolls🥁 Now comes the part we have all been waiting for

This is specific to the learners between the age of 18–22 years.

Industry Exposure

  • Learners pursuing degrees when exposed to the real world feel under-confident, even after learning the skills because of a mismatch in the skills learned and the skills used in the industry.


  • Learners want to be better than their peers to enhance their status, which in return evokes a desire to test their skills
  • Learners experience a rise in their power to explore and curiosity due to peer pressure and continuous internal self-provocation.

Guidance & Community

  • Learners sometimes feel lonely in the process of learning due to the lack of community and peer learning
  • Learners get confused and impatient due to the lack of guidance and feedback.

Thinking & Mindset

  • Learners tend to overthink the outcome of their learnings which hinders skill acquisition.
  • Learners, when burdened with a lot of academic work, find themselves procrastinating which causes a mental block.

Content Overload

  • Learners get confused because of the content overload and multiple resources available.

Peer Pressure

  • When peers learn faster, learners feel inferior and unmotivated due to the feeling of peer pressure.

Time Management

  • Learners pursuing their degrees while learning become inconsistent and lazy due to poor time management.

Oh, and yes. We discovered so many beautiful nuances about skill acquisition, many surprises, unexpected discoveries, in the end a very interesting rabbit hole to dive in💫

But what’s after these insights, let’s look at what we could possibly do post this. What’s next?

We have drafted these super impactful problems as how might we statements. These are problems with the highest impact on the stakeholders.

  • How might we help learners to motivate themselves to put in effort every day, without looking for instant results?
  • How might we bridge the gap between the skills learnt and the skills applied in the industry, to make learners reach the industry levels?
  • How might we design something for learners to overcome content overload and to help them find the correct resource to learn something new by optimizing curiosity and exploration?
  • How might we help learners to overcome loneliness and the feeling of being lost in the process of learning?

💫 We trust we will try to do something about these.

  • Selecting a broad age group (16–30 years) didn’t help. We then narrowed down our scope to target 18–21year old to extract specific nuances in the user journey.
  • One open-ended question in the survey is effective, this was done for users to express themselves and to get a substantial quantity in terms of pain points. It worked in our favor, where we had a repository of different pain points ready for us to dive deeper.
  • Managing each other ~ Yes, we were working remotely. Having meetings every day by managing everyone’s time was extremely difficult. We had a few morning birds and a few night owls, and this time opposites clearly did not attract. But we managed, managing each other. Our guilty pleasure.
  • Type until your fingers hurt ~ Oh damn, the power of documentation. Unmatched. I’ve had mini heart attacks about not remembering an interesting fact from the conversation. Documentation got it covered.

Click here to view the poster, whole research sandwiched into this super crisp poster.

With this, we demystify skill acquisition. yet a lot to unfold. Anyways that is it, for this time.

I trust you loved it, be generous with claps👏🏼 Means a lot, if you were able to uncover the journey till here.

I would be more than happy to look at some feedback for this project.

You can connect with me on social handles, feel free to hit me up for some juicy design banter & unpopular opinions organically ripened✨

My socials

Thank you✨

Read the full article here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

How to find the right icons faster and manage them with ease

How to find the right icons faster and manage them with ease

We draw hundreds of new icons every day and continuously create new icon packs

Ethical Design and Respectful UX Research with Kat Zhou of Epidemic Sound

Ethical Design and Respectful UX Research with Kat Zhou of Epidemic Sound

Table of Contents Hide Highlights:Sources mentioned in the episode:About our

You May Also Like