My blog assignment this week is to select a project in which I have played a part and discuss the “project post-mortem” analysis.  Also called a post-project evaluation (Portny et al., 2008), the post-mortem analysis offers valuable information and learning opportunities regarding what went well with the project, and what could have been handled differently.   As an instructional design and technology student without real-world instructional design experience, I have wracked my brain all week trying to recall any project experience that would be suitable for this assignment.  Perhaps this one will do.  A couple of years ago, I performed some side jobs for a publisher in which I calculated the nutrition analysis of the recipes in a variety of cookbooks.  After having completed several of these jobs, I was brought into another book project as a technical reviewer.  This was a nutrition-related book written by an author with no nutrition-related credentials so the editors needed the expertise of a dietitian to ensure that the information in the book was current and correct.  Since I had never worked in the technical reviewer capacity before I asked several questions to clarify the expectations or scope of my part of the project and how this was to be done.  Knowing that this was within my ability to do, and excited about this new opportunity, I agreed to take the job.  From my previous experiences I knew that publishers/editors always seem to be in a crazy time-crunch, and this job was no different.  The timeframe to complete the technical review was very short for the amount of work to be done.  I knew that once I received the manuscript I would be in for some very long hours in the evenings after work and all weekend.  They gave me two weeks to read the entire manuscript in detail, research all of the information provided therein, provide suggestions, and make corrections to the manuscript where necessary.  Whew.

When I received the manuscript I wasted no time getting started.  I was quickly surprised at the high number of problems I encountered.  Not just incorrect information, but also outdated information, unsupported nutrition claims, etc.  But worst of all, some large sections of the manuscript seemed to misplaced and some were missing completely!  The majority of the manuscript was topic content, but there was also a recipe section which was organized according to various types of diets, e.g., low carbohydrate, vegetarian, diabetic, macrobiotic, and several others.  Even the recipes were jumbled about, with non-vegetarian recipes listed under the vegetarian section, or recipes with dairy products listed under the dairy-free section, and menu plans were incomplete.  It was a hot mess.  It appeared to me that the author of this shoddy manuscript had simply dropped the ball on the project.  So the manuscript I had been given was nowhere near ready for the contribution I was hired to provide.  When I notified the editor of my findings she seemed to confirm that the author had no interest in completing the manuscript.  It was then that I experienced the phenomenon that I now know to be scope creep (Portny et al, 2000).  Massive scope creep.  The editor asked if I would “fix” the manuscript.  When I hesitated (because it was a daunting task) she offered to increase my compensation by a couple hundred dollars and give me a few more days to do the work.  I reluctantly agreed, so my project role changed from technical reviewer to that of a seriously underpaid ghost writer.  It was during this portion of the job that I discovered several sections of content that had plagiarized…as if there weren’t already enough problems to handle!    Well, I did my best to “fix” the manuscript, essentially reorganizing and re-writing a large amount of the content.

Shortly after I submitted the final manuscript, exhausted and sick with the flu, scope creep reared its ugly head a second time when the editors asked me to create additional menu plans.  It was nearly 11:00 PM and they needed to have the menu plans done by morning when the manuscript was to be submitted for proofreading.  There was no more wiggle room for time.  I was worried that denying their request would harm my relationship with the publisher but I just couldn’t do anything more.  I was too exhausted and too sick.  I imagine they were probably up all night working to finish.  Fortunately, my relationship with the publisher was not damaged and I think they appreciated all the work I did.  And sometime after that, they hired me to write my first cookbook, and then a second.  Those experiences are stories in their own right.

So, what could have been handled differently?  Well, scope creep is a common occurrence in most projects (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009) and with more experience I would have known how to handle the situation without feeling like I had little choice.  Perhaps I could have negotiated for better compensation to complete the additional work.




Laureate Education Inc. (Stolovich, H.). (2009). Project Management Concerns: Scope Creep. [Media].

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E.

(2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken,

NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


This week, I have been asked to utilize what I have learned in EDUC 6135-Distance Learning along with my powers of prognostication in an attempt to predict the future of distance learning, and while I am not confident that I have yet achieved the competence with which to peer into my crystal ball and foretell this future, I do have some distinct impressions that I can share related to the following proposed questions:

  • What do you think the perceptions of distance learning will be in the future (in 5–10 years; 10–20 years)?
  • How can you as an instructional designer be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning?
  • How will you be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education?

In formulating my responses to these questions, I have been asked to also consider my readiness to perform the duties as outlined by a university job posting for an instructional designer, so I will attempt to intersperse comments regarding my perceived readiness to take on this role where they seem most applicable.

What do you think the perceptions of distance learning will be in the future (in 5–10 years; 10–20 years)?

Presently, acceptance of distance learning is growing as people gain experience with digital tools and increasing use of online communications (Siemens, n. d.).  Over the next 5-10 years, I think we will likely see this acceptance continue to grow with increasing rapidity as more universities incorporate online programs and as the approach to the marketing of distance learning improves (Gambescia & Paolucci, 2009).  Gambescia and Paolucci examined how universities are marketing their online programs and were surprised to find approaches that were less than effective, suggesting perhaps that those responsible for marketing were making mistakes in their approach by focusing on less important attributes of the program (convenience, flexibility) instead of major attributes (quality faculty and curricula), or that some universities may not yet have enough confidence in the fidelity and integrity of their distance programs to risk associating them with the standing reputation of the university.

Unfortunately, it seems that the acceptance of distance learning is not only an issue with the public and prospective students.  Allen and Seaman (2013) reported the findings from their results of a decade-long survey of online education in the U.S. that suggest that a significant obstacle to the widespread acceptance of distance learning is presented by the failure of faculty to “accept the value and legitimacy of online education” (p. 6), as evidenced by the limited change in the rate of acceptance noted across the observation period and punctuated by an actual decrease in faculty acceptance over the last year of observation.  For this final year of observation, researchers reported that “only 30.2% of chief academic officers believe their faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education” (p. 6).  Researchers reported additional barriers to widespread acceptance including the need for students to be more disciplined, the perception of the majority of academic officers that online courses have a higher attrition rate than traditional courses, and the perception of academic leaders that degrees earned via distance learning are frowned upon by potential employers.

A personal observation of mine is that once I began to research programs for my own educational pursuit, I was surprised at how many people I knew who were already involved in distance learning programs.  I had the impression that distance learning was still not very common.  In addition, I had the impression that many distance programs lacked credibility.  This made me very nervous as I was fearful of selecting a diploma mill program or at least one that might make future employers scoff, so accreditation and rigor became the foci of my search.  Through my research, I learned that there are many accredited programs, a fact which helped me recognize and accept that distance learning was reputable.  Over the next 10-20 years, I suspect that we will see enrollment in distance learning programs begin to exceed that of traditional programs as universities improve their marketing approach and as distance learning programs continue to demonstrate their worth through their adherence to high standards of quality education.  In addition, we must give a nod to the impact that technology will have as distance learning “…will undoubtedly be shaped to a great extent by technological advancements and refinements” (Tracey & Richey, 2005).  This is an advantageous time to work as an instructional designer as distance learning is just beginning to blossom.

With regard to my readiness to work as an instructional designer as outlined by the university job description provided by my instructor for this course, I would have to say that although I have learned a tremendous amount in the last year, as a novice I feel that I am far from prepared for such an undertaking.  Unfortunately, the totality of my experience in ID is limited to my coursework at Walden University, so I feel that I will need a practicum of some sort where I can work closely with a mentor.  Fortunately, according to (2013), the demand for instructional designers is expected to increase annually over the next few years by approximately 3.5 percent which may give me plenty of opportunities for a practicum, side work, volunteer work, or apprenticeship hours as ways for gaining the necessary experience.

How can you as an instructional designer be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning?

This is an interesting question.  What can I do?  I believe that I will have the most impact as a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning by effectively and efficiently creating quality work.  As long as I apply the principles of sound learning theory (Simonson et al., 2012) and ID that I have learned through my courses, the quality of my product and the results of its implementation and continuous improvement will speak for itself.  As a part of that work, I will be involved with networks of people to whom I will always be selling the value of sound instructional design, the results of which will repeatedly justify the approach.  I intend to hold myself, my team members, and my learners to a high standard.  Wherever I am able to provide input into the marketing of distance learning programs, I will consider the findings of Allen and Seaman as discussed in the previous section.

How will you be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education?

            I think there are a few ways to be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education.  One way is to stay abreast of the current research related to the field and implement this information as applicable.  The second way is to consistently provide ample peer-reviewed evidence to support my work at every phase.  Lastly, I think that being able to demonstrate how improvements will benefit stakeholders and academic leaders/institutions/corporations will play a key role in obtaining the necessary approval and resources for improvement efforts.

Final thoughts:

I would like to say just a few words about my experience in EDUC 6135 Distance Learning.  As I said earlier, I learned a tremendous amount in this class…a TREMENDOUS amount.  This class also kicked my arse.  Admittedly, life threw me a couple curve balls over the last few weeks which interfered with my studies but even without these problems/stresses I still would have had a difficult time.  I was ill-prepared for the pace and demands of the coursework. The only experience I have that relates to this course is through my prior Walden courses and my 18-year career is neither in the field of education, nor technology.  There were moments of legitimate doubt as to whether I would be able to complete the course.  Yet, as challenging as this course was for me, it was also amazing and I believe that I have Dr. Ron Paige to thank for this.  Your generous efforts, sir, are considerable and appreciated.



Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2013). Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States. Sloan Consortium. PO Box 1238, Newburyport, MA 01950.

Career outlook for instructional designers and technologists. (2013). [Web page]. Retrieved from

 Siemens, G. (n. d.). The future of distance learning. [Video presentation]. Laureate Education Inc. [Producer].

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson, Inc.

Tracey, M. W., & Richey, R. C. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17-21

Our challenge this week was as follows:

Converting to a Distance Learning Format

Consider the following scenario: A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.

With this scenario in mind, and taking into consideration your Learning Resources, reflect on the following:

  • What are some of the pre-planning strategies the trainer needs to consider before converting his program?
  • What aspects of his original training program could be enhanced in the distance learning format?
  • How will his role, as trainer, change in a distance learning environment?
  • What steps should the trainer take to encourage the trainees to communicate online?

Based on what you have learned thus far in this course, formulate a best practices guide for this trainer to follow when converting his program to a distance learning format. Include ideas and tips that could assist the trainer in facilitating communication and learning among his students. Be sure to support your ideas with documentation from your Learning Resources.


A blended, or hybrid, learning environment refers to a learner-centered combination of both face-to-face and online content delivery and activities.  By definition, the online portion of the content delivery comprises 30-79% of the course, with the remainder taking place in the traditional classroom setting (Simonson et al., 2012).  Several learning theories are applicable and supportive of the blended format creating a sound foundation on which to provide the learner with a rich, interactive, and engaging learning experience including Knowles’ theory of andragogy and Holmberg’s theory of interaction and communication.  The blended format is guided by constructivist philosophy and principles which put the focus on the learner, in contrast to the typical teacher-centered approach taken in tradition classroom settings (Ormrod et al., 2009).  The increased autonomy of the learner is supported Wedemeyer’s and Moore’s respective theories of independence, while Moore’s theory of transactional distance addresses the gap between the student and the instructor in the online setting (Simonson et al., 2012).

The trainer in this scenario has a made a good decision in choosing to convert this training into a blended learning format as this approach offers enhancements to the traditional face-to-face environment where he has concerns about the trainees’ quality of communication and will provide him with a great way to make course materials available to students at all times.  However, there are several considerations that must be made in converting his face-to-face course to a blended format, including those listed below.

  • The trainer will need to use a systematic approach such as, ADDIE (Morrison et al., 2011 & Simonson et al., 2012).
  • The trainer will need to know his learners (Morrison et al., 2011).
  • The trainer will need to consider which content will be best delivered online
  • The trainer will need to engage students with activities carefully selected to meet learning objectives using multimedia tools and methodologies (Wedemeyer, in Simonson et al., 2012).
  • The trainer will need to carefully select and be familiar with, the appropriate instructional media (technology) tools to be used, ensuring that trainees have access and the knowledge to use them (Simonson et al, 2012 & Piskurich, n. d.).
  • The trainer will need to ensure that other facilitators are also trained (Moller et al., 2008).
  • Students will need an orientation to using the online environment (Simonson et al., 2012).

My approach to developing a trainer’s guide was to create an interactive presentation with, something I have never used before.  This was no easy task and took far longer than I had anticipated! But I am proud of the result.  Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions so that I will learn even more from this project.

Well, here it is…check it out and let me know what you think…


Durrington, V., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006). Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment. College Teaching, 54(1), 190–193. Retrieved from

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70

Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. M., Kalman, H. K., Kemp, J. E. (2011). Designing effective instruction (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Ormrod, J. E., Schunk, D. H., Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (custom ed.). Laureate Education, Inc. Boston, MA: Pearson, Inc.

Piskurich, G., Facilitating online learning. [Video Production]. Laureate Education, Inc. [Producer].

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance; Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson, Inc.

Piskurich, G., Facilitating online learning. [Video Production]. Laureate Education, Inc. [Producer].

I was excited this week to have an opportunity to explore open courseware (OCW).  As explained by Simonson et al. ( 2012), open courseware is “the publication of on the Web of course materials developed by higher education institutions and shared with others” (p. 141).  The Open Courseware Consortium indicates that OCW is free to users and offers a more specific definition, stating that “OpenCourseWare is the name given to open educational resources that are presented in a course format, often including course planning materials, such as syllabi and course calendars, along with thematic content, such as textbooks, lectures, presentations, notes and simulations” (“What is OpenCourseWare?”, n. d.).  According to MIT School of Engineering Professor, Dick K. P. Yue, “The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone” (“About OCW”, 2001-2013).  My excitement about OCW is based upon the opportunity to have access information in a course format that I can study at will and at my own pace.  The course I chose to examine as an example of OCW is MIT’s course titled, Kitchen Chemistry (MIT, n. d.), which was originally taught in the spring of 2009. 

In this self-paced format, OCW courses are presented to a large degree within the context of Charles Wedemeyer’s, and Michael Moore’s respective theories of independent study (Simonson et al., 2012), with a significant difference being that there is typically no instructor with whom the student can communicate.  As a result of the lack of access to an instructor, the second part of Moore’s theory which is a measurement of the degree of student autonomy based on the gap between student and teacher (transactional distance), becomes a moot point.  Since OCW is not typically associated with credit earned or certificates issued, the student is simply self-directed in accessing and consuming course materials, and completing assignments (which are not submitted for grading).  .

            My excitement in the beginning to explore the offerings of a free course related to the science of cooking quickly turned to disappointment as I perused the site and discovered that while there were some course materials available in the form of the syllabus, readings, assignments, and related resources, there were no lectures, lecture notes, or course presentations!  The textbook was not provided but was available for purchase through a link and assignments consisted of a list of the recipes used for each week.  Kitchen Chemistry was not so much a course, but rather a skeleton of the original, containing no actual content.  In addition, while there may have been some learner analysis performed in the instructional design of the live course, there is certainly no learner analysis done for the distance learning version.  MIT has simply made elements of the course available for interested individuals however incomplete the offering may be.



About OCW. (2001-2013). Retrieved from

MIT. (n. d.). Kitchen Chemistry [Web course]. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson

What is opencourseware? (n. d.). Retrieved from


For this blog entry I am responding to an assignment for my Distance Learning course, EDUC 6135.  The scenario I chose to address is listed below.

            Example 2:  Interactive Tours

            A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display.  Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art.  As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance.  In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?

            Identifying distance learning technologies to meet the needs of a particular situation requires much research and careful thought as to the best solutions.  In this scenario, a distance education technology solution is being sought for a specific lesson in an otherwise traditional classroom.  For this activity, the curators will take the role of distance educators and the students will become distance learners.  According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012), “The instructional environment should be viewed as a system, a relationship among all the components of that system—the instructor, the learners, the material, and the technology.” As I looked for possible solutions that would address the need for the ability to tour two different museums and their exhibits, synchronous access to the museum curators, and tool to allow students to group critique four pieces of art.  I spent some time searching for individual technologies for each individual activity and even as I considered technologies that I thought might work I could not see how the various technologies might all work together in concert with the instructor, curators, materials and students as a system!  With each component working separately it seemed too cumbersome coordinate and likely to fail.  I was flummoxed.  I knew I needed to take a different approach, to change how I was thinking about the problem.  I thought about some of the trainings I have attended through my department and tried to recall some of the functionality I had observed during these web conferences.  This led me to my eureka moment.  On a web conferencing platform, the virtual museum/exhibit tours could be played as PowerPoint or other multimedia presentations and the curators could be present to interact with the students synchronously via voice-over-IP, and web cam.  An example tool that I found was Blackboard Collaborate, which offered this multimedia presentation explaining the capabilities of the platform specifically for web conferencing.  Blackboard Collaborate allows for two-way communication, built-in voice-over-IP for up to six speakers, video of the person speaking, live chat, whiteboard area for content sharing with the ability to draw and write on the content.  In addition, there is a cool feature referred to as follow-the-speaker-video which automatically shows live video of the person who is speaking at the time.  Blackboard Collaborate offers a free 30-day trial which may be sufficient for this singular virtual field-trip, however there is a cost consideration if more access time is required.

            Next I had to consider the need for students to be able to provide group critique of four individual art pieces.  I decided that a Web 2.0 tool that allows for collaboration would be an effective solution. seemed like a perfect choice. Simonson et al. (2012) describe wikis as “an excellent tool for collaborative online writing assignments and group activities compiling information in a single online resource.”  Wikispaces provides a “classroom workspace” instructors and students can work on projects collaboratively and they are available for free to teachers and students! Take a look at this introduction page for examples of what can be done.  Wikispaces provides students with online, interactive collaboration experiences.

            When examined according to, the use of the web-conferencing and Wikispaces together provides a rich and engaging learning experience that is both synchronous and asynchronous and comprised of audio, video, collaborative, and interactive components.  In case you might be interested in seeing how a Wikispaces page might work, I located this 8th-grade U.S. history class site as an example of a successful Wikispace page for students.  And here is a video by Blackboard Inc. in which a variety of K12 educators provide testimonial regarding the successful use and cost savings of Blackboard Collaborate.



Blackboard Inc. (2011, August 26). K12 schools save time and money with Blackboard Collaborate. [Web page]. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance; Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson, Inc.

Welcome to Mr. Armstrong’s U.S. History Wiki. (n. d.). [Web page]. Retrieved from

Wikispaces classroom. (2013). [Web page]. Retrieved from

We are tasked this week with discussing the evolution of our personal definition of distance learning.  While correspondence courses began as early as 1833 (Laureate Education, Inc., n. d.), in my lifetime one of the earliest distance learning programs that I recall as a child of the 1960s is the drawing program offered through the Art Instruction Schools. Originally called Federal Schools, the school was established in 1914 and by 1931 the name was changed to the more familiar, Art Instruction Schools (“Timeline,” 2013).  During the 1950s, they began their famous “Draw Me” advertising campaign.  I remember several of the cartoon-style characters, including Spunky, Tippy-the-Turtle and the pirate (pictured below), that were placed on matchbooks, in magazine and comic book advertisements, and on television commercials inviting the prospective artist to submit their own drawing of the character to the school for consideration of a scholarship award for the correspondence art program.  I was also exposed to the concept of correspondence courses and possibly audio courses through references made to them in television programs and movies.  For these reasons, my earliest definition of distance learning was simply, taking a course by mail which means that the student is separated from the classroom and instructor.

draw me turtle and pirate

Image credit: Spunky

Images credit:

For the sake of clarity surrounding the evolving definition of distance learning, I would suggest that it is necessary to specify that we are talking about formal education rather than informal.  The term distance learning is a general term which could encompass learning of any kind that occurs when there is distance between the instructor, the student, and the classroom.  Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek discuss at length components of distance education including “…the concept that distance education is institutionally based (2012),” which separates formal distance education from self-study.  Without this distinction, even how-to programs such as televised cooking or do-it-yourself shows could fit the definition of distance learning.  My personal definition of distance learning now includes the separation of the students from the classroom and instructor which can be completed via correspondence and televised lectures, and that there must be a connection to a formal institution of learning.          

The point at which my definition of distance learning began to evolve and expand beyond the concept of learning through correspondence was in the early 1980s, when I attempted a televised course offered through my community college.  I remember this being the new wave of education and I was excited to take a class where I watched a recorded program at home.  I was not successful however, as the ability to be in front of the television at the right moment and on the right channel eluded me.  Without an instructor and classmates, I found the overall experience to be confusing, boring, and isolating so I it was not long before I dropped the course.  My definition of distance learning now included tele-courses, but I was not impressed.  Fortunately, personal computers such as Tandy machines, Commodore, and Macintosh were beginning to make their appearance in my life so I had high hopes for the education opportunities of the future.

As the personal computing industry began to blossom in the 1980s, the ability to communicate on bulletin board systems (BBS) and then the introduction of interactive sites like Compuserve and of the internet presented the most exciting time period of technological advancements I had ever experienced in my life.  These and other advancements in electronic media technology would eventually allow for what Simonson et al. referred to as “interactive telecommunications,” allowing for synchronous communication between teachers and students (2012).  However, Simonson et al. referred to the argument by Garrison and Shale during the time period of the late 1980s that most of the communication that was taking place was “non-contiguous” and that distance education “must involve two-way communication.”  My own definition must also now be adjusted to include a reference to interactivity through technology.

It is with my experience at Walden University over the last year that my understanding of distance learning expands dramatically and my definition nears its completion, at least for the time being.  Through my classes I have been exposed to a learning management system which incorporates a variety of electronic media options for synchronous and asynchronous communication including multimedia presentations, discussion boards, email, announcements, and chat rooms.  In addition, I have been exposed to other tools of distance learning including blogs, vlogs, voicethreads, and MOOCs, and I will soon begin to explore how to develop and place a training design onto a learning management system.  I feel that my distance learning experiences are now juxtaposed with my unfortunate tele-course experience of the early 1980s.  Distance learning has come a very long way in the last 30 years!  And so has my definition of distance learning.  At my current experience level, I would define distance learning as the acquisition of knowledge and skills through a formal, institutionally-based program in an environment where the teacher and students are separated by space and sometimes time, and where the separation is bridged through interactive technology which allows for rich synchronous and asynchronous communication.

As part of this assignment we have been asked to consider the factors that impact the always-changing definition of distance learning as well as the influence of a person’s profession or degree of technical knowledge.  In my mind, it is obvious that an individual’s exposure to technology either personally or professionally, and their knowledge of technology will influence their own definition of distance learning.  Therefore, I can only speak to this topic as it pertains to my own experience and suggest that technology has been the most impactful factor in the evolution of my own definition.  As the technology advances, more possibilities and more opportunities arise.  In the article title, The Evolution of Distance Education (2005), Tracey and Richey stated that “To a great extent, the evolution of distance education has paralleled advancements in technology, but its development is also a reflection of changing educational values and philosophies.”  Since humans and human learning theories do not change or evolve as rapidly as the technology, I suppose a case could be made for the need to study learning theory as it relates to each new technological advance and the use of that technology in distance learning.  This idea is supported and expounded upon by the following passage on distance learning by Tracey and Richey (2005):

“The evolution of this phenomenon, as well as its future growth will undoubtedly be shaped to a great extent by technological    advancements and refinements.  These innovations, however, must be matched by research and theoretical explorations of those distance education methods that promote not only student engagement in the learning process, but an inquisitive, skilled and intellectually-able population.”

With respect to the future of distance learning I suspect that the possibilities are only limited by technology, innovation, and imagination.  Being in the public health dietetics profession and with only limited experience with current technologies, my limited Walden education experiences are the most relevant to me in considering the future of distance learning.  As such, it is difficult for me to imagine the path that the evolution of distance learning will travel.   I can only hope that the skills that I am learning in the field of instructional design will afford me the ability and opportunity to participate in the process as the field of distance learning continues to unfold.

~Lorena, the aspiring technophile

Lorena’s Distance Learning Definition Mindmap

Distance Learning


Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n. d.). Distance learning timeline continuum. [Multimedia presentation]. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundation of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Timeline. (2013). Retrieved from

Tracey, M., & Richey, R. C. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17-21. Retrieved from

Hi everyone!

I look forward to working with you in this class!


baking kitty

The introduction to Learning Theories and Instruction (EDUC 6115), gives us a basis for the purpose and intent of the course.  As a result of rapidly changing and developing technologies, the implementation of learning theories is also changing as instructional designers are challenged to incorporate “educational technology into instructional practice (n.d.).”  I do not know if this is an advantageous or disadvantageous time to be a new learner in the field of instructional design.  What I can say is that the time is an exciting one!  George Siemens acknowledged this technology boon when he said, “…we’re seeing a significant explosion in how we start to connect with other people but also how we connect with data sources (2005, April 5).”  Instructional design is not my present occupation, nor my prior training. While I have had some exposure to learning theories and styles through college psychology and nutrition counseling classes, and minimally through my department’s inservice presentations, my knowledge was largely incomplete and outdated.  Through this course I have faced the challenges of recognizing and understanding theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, social learning, adult learning, and connectivism, in addition to learning styles and strategies, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, as well exploring how emerging technologies can be incorporated into effective instruction.  I was also asked to blog and tried to make sense of mindmapping techniques.  Finally, I was tasked with attempting to explain how motivational strategies could be utilized in an online education environment using Keller’s ARCS model.  And all of this has taken place in only eight short weeks.

In these eight short weeks, I found a few things to be quite striking.  First and foremost was that while I anticipated that understanding the various learning theories would be simple, I actually had no idea just how confusing and confounding they would be to me.  For example, just when I thought that I had a good grasp on the concepts, suddenly I would be hard-pressed to differentiate clearly between cognitvism and constructivism.  Of course, now I understand that the learning theories are not mutually exclusive and bleed over into each other in various ways. As stated by Braungart and Braungart (n.d.), “…learning theories should not be considered to be mutually exclusive but rather to operate together to change attitudes and behavior.”  Braungart and Braungart seem to be in agreement with Bill Kerr who said, “…each _ism is offering something useful without any of them being complete or stand-alone in their own right.”  Secondly, I was surprised by Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  I had limited exposure to these ideas once or twice in the past, but I did not realize their real value until this class.  I am especially excited that Gardner indicates that the learner can work to improve upon deficiencies of any of the intelligences should he or she desire to do so (Gardner, 2003, April 21).

My understanding of my personal learning process has changed to the extent that I can see more clearly the aspects of the learning theories and learning styles and strategies at play. I recall that in the first week of the semester I posted in the discussion group that I had always found it difficult to determine my primary learning style because it appeared to vary according to what I was learning.  I was presented with terms, definitions, and a learning theory matrix which describe my personal learning processes, and which work together to create a framework which when I apply to my personal learning processes, indicates that I utilize a combination of theories, learning styles and strategies.  My experience was confirmed later in the course by the suggested practice of including exposure to activities in instructional designs addressing a variety of learning styles to reflect the fact that people learn differently depending on the content (Armstrong, 2009). I see just how complex and complicated learning is and how challenging it will be to create fantastic instructional designs.

Because people do learn differently depending upon the content it is critical to have a good understanding of the differences and connection between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation.  Learning is a complex phenomenon that is not yet entirely understood.  Brain-based research and the lively discourse about learning theories gives us a glimpse but there must be so much more to discover and know.  After applying the Five Definitive Questions, I can see that while learning theories have major differences, they also have similarities and factors that connect them all (Ertmer & Newby, 1993).  Learning styles, such as visual, aural, and kinesthetic are pretty distinct, however this is an instance in which a learner’s preferred or chosen style of learning will often vary depending on material to be learned or the task at hand.  When we combine this knowledge with competence in educational technology and incorporate motivational strategies the learner will benefit from a tremendous learning environment that is designed with his or her needs in mind.

This knowledge and experience I obtained from this course will be of great value as I continue through the program to graduation, as well as in the workplace.  Having this basic understanding will allow me to create instructional designs that successfully meet the needs of learners and facilitators alike. This will benefit my current department in the event they wish to utilize the skills I am working to acquire.  A revelation I had during this class was that I discovered that my real-world experience seems insufficient in activities related to instructional design leaving me with a small, but real fear that I have little from which to draw upon as I move forward in classes.  Hanson states that, “Many technological education teachers have a life and work experience base from which to draw when designing learning activities (2000).”  Fortunately, though my future classes look daunting, my experience so far in my Walden classes has boosted my general confidence in my ability to perform at an acceptable, or better, level in my future classes.  Through this course I have not only had the pleasure of exploring the learning theories, styles, strategies, and many other facets of learning already mentioned in the introduction to this reflection paper, I have also gained a useful and applicable understanding of them and their use in instructional design.  More importantly, I became excited.

Learning about motivation theory and Keller’s ARCS model for incorporating motivational activities into instructional design ignited some sparks for me.  Because adult learners are self-directed and relatively autonomous, our job will not be to fill them with information.  Our task will be, through our designs or by being the actual facilitator, to inspire motivation and then to help keep our learners motivated.  On a web page of his, Keller has posted a few quotes, including one by the poet Robert Frost about the “the road less travelled”, and one for the Star Trek mission statement.  Keller asks the reader to consider what it is that the quotes have in common.  Keller says, “They evoke fundamental qualities of human motivation and persistence: the desires for adventure, for explorations into the unknown, for expanding our boundaries of knowledge, feeling and understanding, and for having the persistence and courage to conquer personal and world obstacles that might otherwise impede these quests (Keller, 2006).”  My favorite mission statement is the one used by the United States’ National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) from 2002-2006.  NASA’s mission statement read, “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers…as only NASA can (Revkin, 2006).”  The wording, tone and spirit of NASA’s mission statement is not lost on me in its relevance and similarity to Keller’s statement.  After all, what is education and learning about, if not knowledge, feeling, desire, adventure, exploring, expanding, courage, quest, conquering, understanding, seeking, motivation and inspiration?  As NASA’s mission statement suggests, people who live these words will inspire the next generation to do the same.  It is not just our learners who will be impacted by the influence of our instructional designs. The potential exists for our impact and influence to be carried forward to our learners’ children, families, friends, and colleagues.  How exciting is that?!  That will be my, indeed our, legacy.


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     The course that I am about to complete has introduced me to a broad continuum of learning theories and learning styles.  Prior to taking this class, my understanding of learning theories was limited and was not aware of how they interconnect and overlap to a large degree, none of them being distinct, finite constructs. Even when I looked to individual theorists, such as Piaget and Vygotsky, I was hard-pressed to find a way to put each of them in a box of their own.  They are just not mutually exclusive.  Concepts of behaviorism bleed over into cognitivism, which bleeds into constructivism, which bleeds into social learning theory, which bleeds into connectivism, which bleeds into adult learning theory all in a rather linear fashion, but with non-linear connections, as well.  For example, there are elements of behaviorism present in all of the learning theories!  Similarly, while there are a number of learning styles that learners utilize and even identify with it is apparent that most individuals apply different learning styles according to the nature of the material to be learned, or the task at hand. 

     At the beginning of the course we were asked to discuss the methods by which we learned most productively.  In my response to this question I stated that, “I have always found it difficult to determine what my primary mode of learning was because it seemed to vary depending on what I was attempting to learn.” When I made that statement I was worried that it might be a “wrong” answer on some level, but I see now why I found that to be case.  And I like to think that while based on my year of birth I am technically one of Marc Prensky’s Digital Immigrants, that my early and continued exposure combined with conscious effort may allow me to become a crossover Digital Native! And I have to say that I am rather excited about the fact that I can actively work on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences to improve those that are not strengths of mine. 

   Presently, I find that connectivism goes a long way to explain how I learn these days, with Google, YouTube, facebook, blogs, Twitter, listservs, Skype and other online resources that I can access with my computer, laptop, iPad, and smartphone at will. Colleagues and friends are constantly amazed at how quickly I locate information. I am looking forward to blogging more and continuing to learn how to use technology in my future courses for the purposes of creativity and organization.


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The theory of learning called connectivism, reflects the exponential growth and access of information in this digital age.  George Siemens (2005, April 5) writes that, “…technology has reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn.”   It seems to me that technological advance has given way to a massive freedom of information.  The advent and progression of home computing leading up to the tablets and cell phones we have today has dramatically facilitated my learning.  There are variations on this quote and I do not know who expressed the sentiment first, but lead character Dr. Stephen Franklin from the sci-fi show Babylon 5 said it well when he said, “He who controls the information, controls the world.”  According to Siemens,

Where connectivism shares in the social history of other learning theories, where it shares in the emphasis on knowledge being distributed, there are still a few distinct points, and the most critical point is—a sequence of critical points. One would be abundance. Information abundance requires that we offload our cognitive capacity onto a network of people and technology. Secondly, the recognition that technologically, our networks are incredibly rich now, whether it’s a mobile phone, whether it’s a computer, whether it’s access to a database, but we’re seeing a significant explosion in how we start to connect with other people but also how we connect with data sources.

The abundance of knowledge and the ability to access it are a huge boon to learning today.  I am a huge Google fiend.  Google is my friend.  How times have changed!  I remember poring through my family’s copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica as a young kid, perusing those thin, gilded pages for information for both fun and for homework assignments.  I also remember how exciting it was when I learned the dewy decimal system and could easily find what I was looking for at my grade school and public libraries.  After that came the confusion of using the university library systems to find periodical and peer-reviewed journal articles for my college work.  Then along came Google.  The veritable universe at my fingertips!  It is mind-blowing to me even now, how amazing it is to be able to type anything…ANYTHING…in that search box and almost instantly have access to enumerable links which may or may not be what I need, but which nonetheless often lead me to fantastic places.  Google actually allows me to practice some mental creativity!  As an example, a number of years ago I was very active on myspace…remember myspace?  I wanted to find some colorful, cool images to add to my page and I was not sure how to find what I thought I had visualized in my mind.  I did not know exactly what I wanted.  I did not know what kind of art it might be, I did not know the method used in its creation, and I was not familiar with any artist names.  I had tried several searches but was not really finding what I saw in my head.  Then it occurred to me to start combining words that described the sort of images I was hoping to find.  I used terms like rainbow and whale, or glitter and dolphin, or metal and prism.  Every time I hit enter I was presented with a multitude of very cool images and gifs that were exactly the kind of art I wanted.  To this day, I often type a couple of seemingly random words into that Google search box just to see what comes up.  A few days ago, I was wondering what a Basset Hound and Scottish Terrier mix would look like.  I had never seen nor heard of one, but I thought it could be an entertaining sight and there just might be one in the world somewhere whose humans felt motivated to post his or her little comical canine mug shot on the internet.  I introduce you to Gracie May, the Bascottie dog.  Hi Gracie!!!  Isn’t she adorable?!


I found just a few Bascottie dogs.  The point is that from my perspective, one moment there was not even a concept of Bascottie dogs, and the next moment not only did they exist but I am in love with them!  All on a whim!  Just now I tried rainbow goat and purple ferret and guess what?  They exist too!  Of course this is all playful and fanciful but absolutely translates to that which is more serious, useful and necessary.  The possibilities are endless!  I believe that Google has had the single most impact on my learning in the last decade and is a great example of connectivism tenets.  Steve Wheeler (2012, October 26) states in an article on connectivism, that, “…learning is lifelong, largely informal, and that previous human-led pedagogical roles and processes can be off-loaded onto technology” and that Siemen’s argument in contrast to behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism, is that with connectivism, “…through the use of networked technologies, learning can now be distributed outside the learner, within personal learning communities and across social networks.”


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