DevLearn Conference 2015

I just got back from the Dev Learn Conference in Las Vegas. It was an amazing conference with hundreds of presentations. Most of the time there were 10 to 20 sessions running at the same time, making it was difficult deciding which session to attend. The presenters were professional and informative. The learning was deep and I highly recommend it. Dev Learn was hosted by the eLearning Guild.

The Growth Mindset

Yesterday I read an article by Sal Khan that began with how he praises his son for persevering at difficult tasks rather than tasks he is already good at. Sal is following the teaching of researchers that have found that our brains grow the more we use it. Our intelligence is not fixed! We can make it grow. Sometimes I wonder about my brain but I am encouraged, yet again, that I can keep sharp if I continue to explore new things and to work hard to “grow my brain.”

And then I read the line that really stuck with me:

The internet is a dream for someone with a growth mindset.

It is so true, you can learn almost anything from the internet, not because you get a grade, but because you want to!  I’ve watched videos on Khan Academy! I never did well in Algebra and I ran from it as far as I could go. Then, one day, I thought, this is stupid. I can learn Algebra, and if you aren’t good in math, so can you! And guess what, you can learn for free on Khan Academy, and not just math either.

Plus, there is so much other stuff on the internet, mostly for free. Don’t know how to do something, search YouTube! Don’t know how to take down that big tree in your yard, search YouTube. Don’t know how to write a learning objective, search YouTube. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Want to go deeper, sign up for a massive open online course called a MOOC. I am a MOOC junkie! Last month I took a MOOC on Learning to Learn, this month I’m taking a MOOC on digital storytelling. Next month I’m signed up for a MOOC on entrepreneurship. How cools is that!

Happy Learning!

(To read the full article by Sal Khan, visit )


Learning to Learn

I’m taking a MOOC called Learning to Learn*. This is an amazing MOOC. I recommend it to anyone, young or old, who would like to become a better learner. This course is well thought out, professionally done, and Dr. Barbara Oakley has done an amazing job making sure her lectures are clear, engaging, and useful. Please share it.

Do not be shy about sharing this MOOC  with learners, young and old, around you who may make good grades as well those who struggle. Perhaps the A students aren’t really learning the material, just memorizing until the test, as I did so many years ago. I wanted to be a good student; I just didn’t know how. There isn’t a reason not to know how today. The MOOC is freely available to anyone who would like to learn. The next offering is October 5, 2014.

*You can find the MOOC on on Coursera ( by the UC San Diego. Dr. Barbara Oakley, the is the main instructor. Dr. Terrence Sejnowski also lectures.

Making a Difference

I don’t know about you, but I want to make a difference in the world. It is one of they reasons why I became an instructional designer. In my mind, when I guide a developer to create a stellar course, I am making a difference for the students enrolled. My ultimate goal would be to inspire an instructor to create a course that is not only engaging, but that gives students work that matters–to them and to people around them.  Will Richardson says it best:

2014 Higher Education Horizon Report: 6 Key Trends

The higher education Horizon attempts to identify and describe emerging trends in higher education within the next five years. It then to takes a look at the potential impact these technologies have on teaching and learning.  A expert panel is selected and a wiki is used for collaboration and open to make their findings transparent. You can find the wiki at and the complete report at

Not swayed by the shinny new thing, the principal measure for inclusion into the report is its pertinence to teaching and learning and creative inquiry in higher education. See the innovative pedagogical practices chart below.

chart illustrating 28 Innovative Pedagogical Practices
Innovative Pedagogical Practices

6 Key Trends

1. Growing ubiquity of Social Media

According to the report (quoting Business Insider), 40% of the world population regularly use social media and 70% of faculty and the general population use social media in their personal lives. Not only that but “today’s web users are prolific creators of content, and they upload photographs, audio, and video to the cloud by the billions. Producing, commenting, and classifying these media have become just as important as the more passive tasks of searching, reading, watching, and listening.”(p. 8)

Plus, social media isn’t just for the young. The largest growth is in the 45+ age group! As an instructional designer, I find the combination of age and ubiquity exciting because most of the learners in post secondary education are working adults. The bottom line is that instructors can integrate social media into their courses without the implications of non technical users…cool beans.

2. Integration of Online, Hybrid, and Collaborative Learning

“The tremendous interest in the academic and popular press in new forms of online learning over the past few years has also heightened use of discussion forums, embedded videos, and digital assessments in more traditional classes, with the intention of making better use of class time. An increasing number of universities are incorporating online environments into courses of all kinds, which is making the content more dynamic, flexible, and accessible to a larger number of students. These hybrid-learning settings are engaging students in creative learning activities that often demand more peer-to-peer collaboration than traditional courses.” (p. 10)

Yeah. Need I say more?

3.  Rise of Data-Driven Learning and Assessment

I knew that adaptive learning software could be used to mine information so that learners comprehension is monitored and instruction is adapted to the learner’s need. I stink at math and Khan Academy leads me down the path to competence and I work my through the levels.

I never thought before about the collection of data from learning management systems to improve teaching and learning by tracking trends and student data to help students at risk and to personalize the learning experience. This data also helps academia as a whole as tracking trends may help predict why some some students drop out more than others.

4.  Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators

I am so happy that students are moving from consumers to creators. I remember in high school, so long ago, that the teacher’s idea of engaging students was to require them to produce a poster or perhaps book cover as part of a project. I can’t draw and felt it was simply busy work. How can drawing a book cover possibly help me remember the content?

Today, students as creators means students learn by making rather than as consuming content. Yeah. Hurray. It’s about time. The reason I write this blog is that it helps me learn the content. I have to process the information in this report and tell it in my own words. Yet, it is public; anyone can see it so I am extra careful about word choice (a struggle), spelling, and grammar. If I summarize and internalize the report I am no longer consuming the information, I’m creating something from it.

Besides, will we be writing papers in the business world, unless we are education or some areas of business commerce, not likely. But we may have to pitch our ideas to the boss and engage our audiences in a way that an essay can’t do. I realize that writing well is important, very important, but surely there are other ways of expressing ourselves so that every assignment isn’t to read text and then write a paper.

5.  Agile Approaches to Change

This long range trend involves institutions that are “increasingly experimenting with
progressive approaches to teaching and learning that mimic technology startups. …universities around the country are nurturing entrepreneurship within their
infrastructure and teaching practices….[There is] a growing emphasis on both formal and informal programs that build students’ interests in solving social and global problems, creating products.”  (p. 16) Now we are thinking. After students add up this massive amount of debt, they are going to need the skills not only to get a job but to create one!

6.  Evolution of Online Learning

As online learning garners increasing interest among learners, higher education institutions are developing more online courses to both replace and supplement existing courses. According to a study by the Babson Survey Research Group published at the beginning of 2013, more than 6.7 million students, or 32% of total higher education enrollment in the United States, took at least one online course in Fall 2011 — an increase of more than half a million students from the prior year. As such, the design of these online experiences has become paramount.

Okay now I’m really excited because as an instructional designer, much of my time is spent developing online courses. And not only is this finding job security for me, it is exciting that in order for this trend to grow, more institutions will equip faculty with the skills and tools to be quality online learning facilitators. What an exciting time for students. I think online courses have the potential to be even better than face-to-face classes because faculty and institutions are beginning to see the value in additional instructional design support.


I see an exciting future for learners everywhere. Higher educations is moving, abet ever so slowly, from a Socrates learning environment to an environment of movement and change.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A. (2014). NMC
Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New
Media Consortium.

A Creative Choice: Using Online Instruction to Help Make College Affordable

My daughter graduated from high school last week. She has her whole life ahead of her—a career, family, and hopefully, college. I worry about college. Even though my husband and I are both more affluent than both of our parents, college for my daughter seems almost out of our reach. Not only has college costs skyrocketed, but the job market for graduating college students looks dismal. Making things worse, this week congress worked on a bill that makes college loans variable, an increase in college debt for sure.

In order to help students still obtain a good college education in this waning economy, colleges look at online courses to reach students where they are. With the age of the internet, it is no longer necessary for students to travel to universities to receive a stellar education. Today, students can minimize debt by staying at home to save on dorm costs and other expenses associated with living away from home.

Some institutions and professors worry that the quality of an online course isn’t as good as a face-to-face course. In a Pew Internet study, only 30 percent of the faculty in higher institutions believe online learning is a legitimate method for learning. (Would that be because they have never taken or taught an online course?) On the other hand, a large number of the chief academic officers, almost 70%, think that online learning is critical to their long term strategy. Under the economic hardships students are facing today, I think this strategy displays merit. An online course, designed well, can be just as engaging and promote student learning as well as a face to face class. In fact, a well-thought out online course is often better. I know this to be a fact because I learned so much more in my master’s program, which was fully online, than in my traditional undergraduate education in a brick and mortar school.

Let’s face it, a course can be awful or wonderful, no matter the modality. When I was enrolled in my undergraduate program, I had a professor who read from the book. That was his lecture, no kidding. I also had a teacher make history so alive that I was never bored. My theory stands that the teacher that read from the book would not (or could not) create a course to motivate me in his online class. And the professor that made history exciting in the classroom would find a way to do that online.

The solution to quality online courses lies in institutional administrators and faculty to commit to quality. To promote quality courses, institutions employ instructional designers to help professors build courses that transfer the engagement and quality of a face-to-face class to online courses. (An instructional designer is an expert in course design and pedagogy.) The designer is trained in many technologies and can suggest a variety of ways make an online course more interesting and engaging for the student. There exists a plethora of tools readily available for online content. There are also systems of looking at course design following a set of standards to promote quality courses. One of these systems is called Quality Matters. Quality Matters was developed to review courses for standards of quality backed by research.

My friends all have bachelor’s degrees, most have masters degrees, and many have, or or working on their doctorate. We often talk about our college debt, regretting the money we spent on private institutions, elite schools, dorm life. We think about how much better off financially we would be if we started at community colleges, lived at home, and attended a good state school. I thought of my daughter as she walked across stage. Her next step in the fall begins at an expensive pastry school, but only for a semester. Then her choices need to be less about a traditional college experience and more about how will she be able to meet her career goals without student loans and other debt. She will need to be smarter, perhaps beginning at a community college, miss out on dorm life, choose a school that will not take most of her paycheck when she graduates, and perhaps take some classes online.

Beginning With the End in Mind

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am reading Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. The habits and ideas he writes about are so simple, but yet profound. Tonight I read more about the 2nd Habit, beginning with the end in mind. In this chapter, Covey encourages his reader to write mission statements and to follow the mission statement every day so that one does not stray from the principles that s/he values. Good advice.

The nugget I read tonight was about company mission statement. He gives an example of a hotel he visited that had impeccable service, down to the last employee. What he found was that the mission statement for the hotel was in the center of the statement, but there were spokes branching from the center that included a mission statement from every single employee. These statements were not written from behind mahogany desks, but from the pens of the employees themselves.

A lesson to learn from this is that people do what they themselves are invested in and believe in.

One of the fundamental problems in organizations, including families, is that people are not committed to the determinations of other people for their lives. They simply don’t buy into them. ….No involvement, no commitment(p. 143).

I couldn’t agree more. I was self-employed for 20 years. And as such, I was completely involved, therefore, completely committed. Now that I am employed by an institution, I had to find my spot, where my involvement was real, and where my presence mattered. Friday, for the first time in a long time, I came home excited to finish what I didn’t have time to finish during the work day. The difference? My involvement was significant. I bought in. It was a very good day.

What did I learn and how does it relate to leadership? Involve the people around you, work with them to write their mission statement.


Studying Leadership Skills

I’m reading the best selling book by Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. It’s been on my bookshelf for years and I  obviously read much of it because I can see faint highlighting in yellow. I don’t think I finished it though. And I certainly didn’t put the ideas to action. This is something I plan to change.

I’m reading Covey’s book because I am studying emotional and social intelligence and I am trying to understand leadership as I look at many different perspectives. As I look around me, I see “leaders” who are not leaders at all. They are managers, at best. I like how Covey puts it:

Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

You can quickly grasp the difference between the two if you envision a group of producers cutting their way through the jungle with machetes. They’re the producers, the problem solvers. They’re cutting through the undergrowth, clearing it out.

The managers are behind them, sharpening their machetes, writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up working schedules and compensation programs for machete wielders.

The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, “Wrong Jungle!” (p. 100)

I definitely see the difference, now can I make a difference? To help me with this process, I study and take notes on the leadership skills I would like to emulate. For instance, recently I wrote to a very busy person who is the chair of a job search. She took the time to write me back and I know she must get hundreds, if not thousands of applicants. I can see already that she has climbed the tallest tree.

I write down skills I would like to emulate and they are in a notebook for me to review on a regular basis. For the situation above, I wrote: Be kind to those who ask something simple of you. Even if you are busy, your kind response can make their day. Applicants sometimes just want to know where they stand and the only way to find out is to ask you.

A couple of weeks ago a person in the position of leadership went around the table and said something about each person under her authority. I think the idea was to say something kind that would build the person up and make them feel good about themselves. Unfortunately this individual didn’t spend the time to get to know everyone under her authority (around 20 individuals) but the ones she spoke of whom she did spend time with, were very touched. I thought that was a very effective leadership skill. I wrote it down. I will review it and I will remember it.

And I’m just getting started.