Adult 640 #8: Learning Module(s): Avoiding the Kudzu…

Pretty creepy, yes?  I’m trying to keep it all balanced and with a clear end in sight.

We have all heard the saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees.  After much thought and consideration, what I initially proposed for my project is a task that I will complete outside of this course. While what I learn from it will certainly influence how I approach my project, the route that I propose provides a medium through which to engage adult learners in the learning objectives of this course.


The modules that I will create for individuals who provide education to adult learners will include Andragogy, Cultural Literacy, Lifespan Issues, Creating a Flipped Classroom and Feedforward.  Two components will comprise each model, one for training and resource for the adult educator as personal development. The second section for integration of learning into teaching and resources for the adult student as professional development.  The division of each component into learning, teaching, and resources should allow participants to complete sections To comply with the outcome objectives for this project, each section is approximately 30 minutes in length, with each module 90 minutes in length.  Sections can be completed and considered as a stand-alone and able to be engaged prior to use of those which follow.

The objectives identified are drawn from the Workforce Integration Opportunity Act (2014) (WIOA)  In a nutshell…

The term “workforce preparation activities” means activities, programs, or services designed to help an individual acquire a combination of basic academic skills, critical thinking skills, digital literacy skills, and self-management skills, including competencies in utilizing resources, using information, working with others, understanding systems, and obtaining skills necessary for the successful transition into and completion of postsecondary education or training, or employment.


Adult Educator:  TSW-

  • develop awareness of and the academic understanding of andragogy,
  • use critical thinking skills for planning and education purposes

Adult Student: TSW-

  • describe self as an adult learner
  • develop self-management skills
  • utilize resources for learning
  • apply skills for transition to post-secondary, training and future employment.

Activities: YouTube Videos, Podcasts, Readings & Asynchronous discussion

Assessment:  Learning Needs Resource Assessment (pre), Quiz,

Framework:   Knowles: 5 Assumptions of Adult Learners, 4 Principles of Andragogy

Cultural Literacy

Adult Educator:  TSW-

  • define culturally responsive teaching
  • explore own possible cultural biases
  • identify dimensions of equity

Adult Student:  TSW-

  • exhibit competencies in working with others
  • develop skills necessary for successful interaction with culturally diverse groups as one transition into post-secondary, training and employment

Activities:  YouTube Videos, Podcasts, Twitter Lists, Digital Role Playing, Blog Reading

Assessment: Pre and Post Assessment correlates with the objectives stated above.


Ready for Rigor: a framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching Dimensions of Equity

Lifespan Issues

Adult Educator: TSW-

  • build an understanding of learning styles, behavioral and educational needs of diverse learners
  • engage assisted technology for instructional use
  • exhibit practice with career readiness and workplace skills

Adult Student:  TSW-

  • learn self-management skills,
  • show understanding of diverse learners in the work setting
  • use assisted technology for learning
  • plan for transition from post-secondary education to training to the workforce

Activities:  Microsoft Windows 10 Assisted Technologies, Closed Captioning, subtitling, Creation of YouTube Accounts, Let Me Learn

Assessments: Let Me Learn Inventory, LRNA (Learning Resource Needs Assessment-Pre/Post), Asynchronous Board Discussion

Framework:  Workforce for adults with disabilities

Flipped Classroom

Adult Educator- TSW:

  • Define a “flipped” classroom
  • Explore examples of classrooms
  • Participate in a mock classroom setting
  • Acquire skills to create and manage a classroom

Adult Student-TSW:

  • Show competencies in utilizing resources
  • Develop a working relationship with peers
  • Use digital skills to acquire information

Activities: Create a screencast, explore professional learning community, read blog posts to create Community of Practice, develop YouTube channel, readings of the theoretical basis

Assessment: Learning Needs Resource Assessment (LNRA-pre/post), participation in Flipped Learning Activity, Analysis of Flipped Learning Lesson, think-pair-share, pre-recorded lecture

Framework:  Boom’s Taxonomy-(remembering, understanding-at home/applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating-in class).


Note:  This is a new concept and one that I am currently exploring.  I will certainly flush it out with time. Feedforward, as opposed to feedback, which comes after work, is submitted for evaluation.) 

Adult Educator:  TSW-

  • learn feedforward as a mechanism to impact future student growth
  • develop skills to coach adult students
  • coach adult students in-goal setting and self-evaluation strategies

Adult Student:  TSW-

  • engage in activities to develop critical thinking skills, measurable outcomes
  • develop self-management
  • use knowledge gained through coaching to inform transition from post-secondary, training, and employment

Activities:  PODcasts, Blog reading, engaging Twitter accounts, join Adult Education Community of Practice through a Tweetdeck

Framework:  The Community of Inquiry model is suitable for this module of learning. 

Something to Chew on…

What I’ve outlined about could become mini-courses. While it seems overwhelming, adult educators should be able to access the components that are of value to them at the moment.  It’s not quite a “grab and go” method of learning, yet chunking it will make it manageable.


Brame, C., (2013). Flipping the classroom. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved [June 14, 2018] from

College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education. (2017, May 10). Retrieved June 14, 2018, from





Adult 640 #7: Connectivism-I am a node

Connectivism puzzle
Connections are like the nodes of a puzzle.

A discussion of learning theories is an essential component of the Adult 601 course.  Students cluster into small groups when asked to explore and present each theory. Presentations culminate in a rather loud discourse as to the merits and value of each theory.  It’s common for several students to swell as peacocks when asserting, “I am a constructivist.”  This display of pomposity deflates when learners recognize that something may extend beyond the traditional set of five (5) learning theories. Enter the theory of “Connectivism.”

The comprehensive guide, Learning in Adulthood (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner) showcases the Five Orientations to Learning as Behaviorist, Humanist, Cognitivist, Social Cognitive, and Constructivist. Connectivism is similar to each of the five (5) theories in that it has (p.p.295-296) learning theorists, a view of learning, a locus and a purpose for learning. The role of the instructor, as well as the way in which learning manifests for adults, is also similar to that of the other five (5) orientations.

  • Learning theorists:  George Siemens, Stephen Downes (primary)
  • View of the learning process:  informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning and occurs in a variety of ways (i.e. personal networks), is a continual process, lasts for a lifetime.
  • The Locus of Learning: the concept of a “node” where learning can be fields, ideas or communities, learners face a challenge to recognize patterns that might be hidden, learning can reside outside of humans
  • The Purpose of Learning: learning is required in a knowledge economy
  • The Instructor’s Role: the instructor can be technology, which rewires the human brain, human instructors, to help the learner recognize and adjust to pattern shifts
  • The Manifestation in adult learning: capacity to form connections create patterns, chaos can be a new reality of individuals as knowledge workers,

However, Connectivism is not considered an actual learning theory by all in the field of adult learning. Testing, evaluating networks, the application of chaos and self-organizing theories, according to Siemens, occur in a rapidly changing environment. The ability to make a decision about the way in which learning proceeds is a principle of connectivism.

There are several distinct elements of this course, Adult 640, which I perceive as components of connectivism:

  • I know that the members of this class have diverse opinions.  They may need time and a feeling of safety in order to surface more fully. Others may not share these opinions as a result of personality, cultural or situational learning.
  • We’re all considered nodes of information, individuals who are able to share their knowledge with others in the class as well as to provide connections that may support the program module of learning each is developing.
  • The non-human appliances that we use such as the class blog, our own blogs, and Twitter accounts are a source of learning.
  • I can assume that as a group we have the capacity to learn moreDavid Weinberger, a Senior Researcher at the Berkman Center for the Internet & Society suggests that “As knowledge becomes networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us…” “The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room and connects to those outside of us (p. xiii).”       
  • The class site joins all of us together to share the ideas that we have gathered through our use of the net and though our weak links.  We are not lectured by someone standing in front of us.
  • The nurturing and maintenance of these connections occurs when those in the class read, react and respond to blogs and tweets.
  • Information flows from the class blog to those in the community.
  • As learners, each person in the class has selected a project that engaged decision-making. What we “think” at the beginning of this study of e-Learning may shift dramatically as a result of learning.

In terms of the project that I have selected, I am a little apprehensive about how the concept of connectivism will unfold.  I have a tendency to become very excited about new technologies and ideas that surface as a result of my learning.  I have been described as someone who gives you “a run for your money.”  This uber-enthusiasm has caused difficulty in the past.  With this knowledge of myself, I will exercise caution when creating the module.  What I would provide is detailed examples of how specialists can supplement the learning in the module when interacting face-to-face with the learners for this module.  A primary obstacle may lie in the descriptor provided to me of the “typical” educator who will complete the module.

The module that I will create will certainly be a non-human appliance that will store knowledge for the adult learners in this program. It is possible that the learner’s capacity to gain greater knowledge may be enhanced through hyperlinks or provisions for additional learning and resources.  Links for discussion boards may be opportunities for educators to share success stories thus becoming both nodes of information as well as weak links to support others in their own decision-making.

The obstacles that may surface could surround the level of experience of those who interact with the module.  The desire to use a digital format as opposed to that of a face-to-face instructor controlled format may present challenges.  In the absences of nothing, one can only speculate as to the level of engagement on the part of the learner.

In the TEDxNYED presentation, there are many powerful ideas that will certainly impact my practice as I move from infancy to maturation.  Several thoughts which resonate with me at this point in my learning are:

“The act of showing others how we are learning is an instructional task.” (11:14)

“Every expression is an opportunity for connection in a digital space.” (11:23)

“Problems can’t be solved by an individual. They can be solved by a network.” (14:16)

Lab chewing a bone
Something to chew on…

What resonates with you from Siemens’ talk?  Where are the challenges and struggles for you at this point in your learning?


Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2012). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. John Wiley & Sons.

Pazdzion, A. (2017, October 11). Connectivism. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International journal of instructional technology and distance learning2(1), 3-10.

Siemens. (2010, April 13). TEDxNYED – George Siemens – 03/06/10. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from

Adult 640 #6: Learning Module(s)-Revealing the topic

valrc_logo          The Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center is an organization housed within Virginia Commonwealth University.  Specialists provide face-to-face, online training as well as individual support for Virginia Adult Education trainers. VALRC partnered with the Virginia Literacy Institute in 2003 to form an organization to support Adult Educators in both the private and public sector.

The topic that I have selected for this project is two-fold.  The first component is to review, evaluate and update the Career and College Readiness Standards (CCRS) for English Language Arts and Mathematics.  The online module begins with an introduction to the program. The standards are written for the education of adults who have either not earned a high school diploma. An additional component, English Language Proficiency Standards is a new component of the online program which will be included in the overall module. Many of the adult learners are individuals for whom English is not their first language. The transition for this program is a move from calling the program a General Equivalency Diploma program (GED), to one which engages learners with preparation for either a career or further education after successful completion of the program.  When students complete the current GED test, the score indicates if the student is prepared for community college or a four-year academic program.  The module training will reflect this change in philosophy.

GED transitions to become CCR

The current module uses the platform, Storyline, and was last created approximately (3) three years ago. The organization desires to have the two existing programs, along with the introduction, updated. There are individual activities for participates to complete which introduces Adult Educators to the Career & College Readiness Standards. The inclusion of English Language Proficiency (ELP) to the Standards training provides a more complete image of the expectations for both educators and learners.

Individuals who provide adult education instruction are expected to participate in this training. Training partners may include community colleges, public school systems, correction institutions as well as nonprofit organizations. Trainees are identified by managers or administrators. Participation may be a prerequisite for an individual who transitions from one component of a program into one which educates adult learners.

Many of the adult education instructors are retired K-12 instructors who wish to teach 1-2 classes per week. Others work full-time positions and provide CCR instruction in the evening.  A common misunderstanding regarding CCR education surfaces with those who have taught in a K-12 setting.  The educator is well seasoned in their discipline and in how to educate learners in their previous setting.  The methods and practices of andragogy, are often unfamiliar to those with experience in working with children. A transition from the simple completion of a GED to that of preparing for a career or college is an important component of adult education. Many adult educators are Caucasian, in their mid-50’s, moderately well-educated and find digital technology challenging.  Those who have experience in public education may have a bias against the concept of “standards.”

Learning through this module provides physical, digital and possibly generational distance. The lack of physical presence on the part of the facilitator, the natural progression of an electronic module (i.e. “clicking” through a program)  coupled with the individual frustrations with technology impact the Transactional Distance of learners. Educators who lack familiarity with a learning management system, or who may live in an area with limited bandwidth also find the completion of a module an impediment to understanding CCRS.

Education specialists have struggled with how to unpack the standards in such a way as to make it as relevant and as balanced as possible in a digital setting. Through a conference call, they expressed to me that the delivery of the standards is found to be clunky. They expressed that when planning for the revision of the three (3) modules and the creation of the fourth (4th)  is that participants are not able or willing to provide an extensive amount of time to complete the modules. It’s important for me to understand that the current length appears suitable. They desire that what is presented to adult educators be meaningful as well as provide ways in which to engage learners in thinking more critically about the standards, how they impact the facilitation of learning and preparation for a meaningful career.

When I work through the current model, the graphics of the Community of Inquiry (COI) model, (SP, CP, and TP along with Perception, Deliberation, Conception and Action) will be an important lens with which to view the current training. The continuous movement of arrows and circles suggest that there isn’t an ending.  One’s presence in an educational experience should be fluid.  It will be my challenge to discover how to infuse COI to best support and enhance the participant’s learning experience. While I assume that the module will include components of the COI coding template, it will be interesting to see which digital tools are used and which might be of value to the learning. I may find it useful to enhance the template for descriptors.  COI coding template

I’m really excited about the opportunity to work on this learning project for VALRC.  Several of the specialists in this facility have matriculated through the Adult Learning program at VCU.  The interim director has taken this course in the Teaching and Learning with Technology track.  When discussing the learning in the first three (3) weeks of the course, we were able to discuss the module using the nomenclature of e-Learning!  The specialists who spoke with me on the conference call have provided a wealth of materials for me to use as a starting point for this project.  I have received permission to access the training this week.  I will have an abundance of support, encouragement, and enthusiasm for this learning module. Most importantly, the module is of use and support for literacy across the Commonwealth, which is of great importance to me as an Educator.

Lab chewing a bone
Too much to chew on…

I wish that I had an audio recording of the conference call.  While I took a wealth of notes, I am now worrying that I may have omitted something of importance.  I won’t sweat it too much. I’m sure that there will be multiple opportunities to blog about this project.


Adult 640 #5: Rubric-I can write a blog…

Writing a blog…what a daunting task. Sure, I have thoughts, just like Julie Powell. What does one say and how does one know if anyone will read it or care? Prior to my engagement with the Adult Learning program, I knew little about blogging except what was referenced in popular culture.  With little direction or guidance regarding how to create a blog, I was told to simply blog and comment on the writing of others. Sixty-five blog posts later and the task has become less daunting than when I first began in 2012.  I still procrastinate and find that I write my blog in my head before I sit down at the computer.  While the process works for me, it’s still a process which engages an extensive amount of thought.


I love the idea of a rubric.  Tools that allow the student to understand what is expected of them also requires the teacher to provide transparency when evaluating work.  As a teacher, I know that the chasm between what the instructor expects and what the student must demonstrate can be rather wide.  One’s familiarity with the value of using a rubric when planning for a learning event provides the medium whereby students are able to cycle through the integration and resolution stages of learning.

When considering the (3) examples of a rubric used for assessing blog writing the following ideas surfaced:

A Rubric for Evaluating Student Blogs was rather procedural in nature.  This is what you do and this is how you do it.  The emphasis seemed to be on grading as opposed to the blog as a component of one’s learning. Establishing a word-limit for a response to the weekly reading, in my opinion, is perfect for one who is high in precision and sequence.  It shows a lack of value for those who are more technical in their thinking and writing. One of my former blogging partners composed the shortest blog posts that I have ever read.  When I learned that she was a banker with a computer science background, I understood her penchant for tight, technical responses. Those who are high in the areas of confluence love to think outside of the box, see the blog as a less formal way of expressing ideas and synthesizing their learning. This individual might score high in the “Use of Enhancements” category but may need to be reminded to consider the community of readers who are expected to respond to the writing.

Assessing a student’s blog in 1-2 minutes shows little or no respect for the time necessary to reflect on the weekly reading assignment. Commenting on 1-2 blogs in a semester of writing engages the “git-er-done” philosophy of grading. I followed through several of the hyperlinks as well as the responses to the original article. I assume that the creation of an individual blog is considered to be the traditional hub-and-spoke model of blogging? Acquiring a sense of ownership is what one does when creating and aggregating all of the work for an academic program. Developing a sense of an audience is a pedagogical concern expressed by the author, Mark Sample, in a response to a query by a reader. However, he did not include it in the “Rating Characteristics” section of his article.

His suggestion of the assignment of blog roles for each week is an interesting concept, but not one postulated in the original reading. My overall impression is that this rubric scoring system resembles mass, generic grading of busy work.  The publication of this article is 2009. I can assume that within the last nine years that the engagement and evaluation of blogs have shown evidence of learning on both the part of the instructor as well as that of the owner.

Dr. Karen Frankler’s A+Rubric is a rather tight, precise way in which to consider the quality of a blog entry. While I consider myself to be high in both precision and sequence, I have several concerns about what she has created. Moving from unsatisfactory to exemplary seems counterproductive to me.  While providing examples of what something “is” and “is not” is of use for the learner, there are still too many gray areas which lend themselves to overt subjectivity.  For example, the idea of comprehensive insight and the cohesive viewpoint may be defined differently from one instructor to another. While I struggle with the percentages provided to each category, I do value the transparent concept of what makes writing exemplary and what makes it unsatisfactory.  While it has been my experience that many adult learners struggle with writing, in a graduate setting, writing should be as natural and automatic as breathing.  (Who hasn’t left graduate school feeling like a writing machine?) This form of rubric would be sufficient for the evaluation of my work with corrections to the format and the scoring. Percentage points are subjective and are ones that I would ignore.  At this stage of my career as a student, I am far more concerned with the learning than the grading.  I would expect that the inclusion of as an annotation of the scoring would justify the score.  It would allow me to understand the thinking of the evaluator and provide a point from which to make improvements to the quality of my work.

Something I would consider…Mark Sample, in an August 14, 2009 response to his article suggested that in a large group setting the roles of a student who is a 1st responder, a commentator and then a synthesizer be assigned.  This is an interesting idea and one that would be of use to me as a semi-experienced reflective blogger.  Students who are comfortable might find that this next level of engagement to be an indicator of collaboration through group cohesion and social presence.

Tim Horgan’s Blogging Rubric is more concise.  At a glance, I would place work that receives a score of “4” first as that it should be the ultimate goal of both the learner and the evaluator.  Learning to create a piece of writing that exhibits original ideas in a manner that’s easy to understand should be the goal of the writer.  Providing learning opportunities to grow one’s skill should be the goal of the instructor. This is a graphic consideration, and one that may seem overly trite, but I like to use keywords and bullets as opposed to lengthy descriptors when creating a rubric.

I assume that as I move forward in this learning experience that my work should show evidence of previous learning from class discussions? The Community of Inquiry Coding Template provides indicators for categories that correspond to each element, or presence. A component of the rubric, for me, might include several of the indicators. For example, open communication through risk-free expression might be a component of the rubric which supports the framework. In the community section, I would consider how this section enhances one’s “Social Presence.”

Each member of the community has the ability to blog and most certainly has something of value to add to the conversation. Rubrics should guide both the reader and the writer to achieve higher levels of presence in their interactions with others.

Something to chew on…

After reading this entry, which components do you think I may have overlooked?  Which components of the (3) examples would you suggest that I consider when preparing for and evaluating my work? 







Adult640 #4: Transactional Distance-Is anyone there?

Anyone who has spent time in public education during the last decade can count on both hands the number of times the descriptor, “Engaged Learner” is referenced by the administration in a single conversation. What was significant in terms of the planning and delivery of instruction is so overused that the value of one’s presence in learning has become lost in the context.

Consider Ben Stein’s portrayal of the teacher in the film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  The classic responses are ones that transcend generations and give viewers a common understanding of the plight of learners in a traditional setting.

The distance between the learners in this video clip, the content and the delivery method is rather wide.  While exaggerated for comedic effect, it’s certainly useful in providing a mechanism to hold the attention of the student., i.e. “The Hook.”

As a learner in both a traditional and online setting, the transactional distance I experienced was significant when attempting to develop as a reflective practitioner through blog writing. With great regularity, fellow graduate students would lament the lack of interaction between blog partners and professors.  Reflection sans interaction resembles floating aimlessly in space.  When classmates and professors not only react but respond and reply to blog posts and comments, a dialogue occurs.  Such dialogue tethers me as a learner to the content.

My social presence is felt by those with whom I am learning. In their introduction, Garrison, Anderson, and Archer suggest that “we need(ed) to connect the human issues around online, text-based communication…(p.5).” One of my “human” issues with blogging is that I need to know if anyone is actually reading and thinking about what I am writing.  More importantly, I need to be challenged through the conversation of those who are reading and writing as well.

3 legged stoolThe analogy of the (3) legged stool resurfaces again when considering the importance of balance between Cognitive, Social and Teaching presence.  I was particularly moved by the reflective nature of their observation, “Looking back on the Coi seminal paper, some of the language we used perhaps elevated cognitive presence to a higher status within the Coi than it should have had (p. 6).” From the perspective nature of public education, the social presence of learners is not one in which conversations occurred between staff and administration. The relative stability of the (3) presences should guide my perspective on how I approach online learning.


How can this framework be utilized to shorten transactional distance?

The adult learners in the module that I will create for this course are those individuals who provide College and Career Readiness learning for students who do not hold a high school diploma from the United States.

Setting Climate: (Social Presence) Group cohesiveness, learning, and a shared identity are crucial to the experience of the learner. It is my hope that at the conclusion of this e-Learning course that the climate which surrounds me as a learner is one in which I have shared learning experiences, challenges, and excitement surrounding online learning.  To the best of my knowledge, each participant in this group  (Adult 640) has done so willingly.  No one is participating under duress. When postulating ideas, concerns, and challenges, it is my hope that I may do so comfortably.  What we did NOT do in establishing this climate is to create ground rules as a learning community outlining the expectations that will support cohesiveness and learning. Just a thought.  Not a criticism. 

When creating and making revision suggestions to the CCRS modules, the individuals who will engage with them do so at the request of a manager or administrator.  Understanding the standards created by the VDOE are essential for all adult instructors to understand.  How they interpret and engage them, may become part of the instructional design. 

Selecting Content: (Cognitive Presence) The activities in the module strengthen the social identity of those who wish to implement the CCRS as opposed to those who wish to strengthen their interpersonal relationships and personal identity. The subject matter for this module is determined by the Department of Education.

The challenge for me as an instructional designer is how to create a learning environment which seeks to create a balance between design and direction and facilitation and direction. I have gathered, from a recent conference call with the client, that selecting content which engages learners in discourse will present a challenge to me as a designer.  This will be an opportunity to use my classmates as a source of knowledge and authority as I have no previous experience in this area. 

Structure Presence: (Teaching Presence) In the absence of experience on my part, I offer a rather sad, but comical anecdote shared by a family member.  This individual lamented the disappearance of a professor who became AWOL for nearly three weeks of an online course (UC Davis).  The discovery of a dead body on the professor’s extensive property was far more enticing than his presence in this management course. While this example is rather extreme, I would speculate that both the physical, social and cognitive presence of the teacher may resemble an active intervention. A teacher is essential in order to achieve positive learning outcomes ((Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, Archer p.5). When considering what makes learning meaningful to a student, timely feedback, an opportunity to link professional, work and educational experience with content are suggested by students in an edition of Faculty Focus (March 14, 2016).

How I will mediate all of the components of an online learning model will be the result, I expect, of the culmination of course readings, the interaction of web modules, discussions with classmates and my interaction with the existing modules and tools provided by the VDOE.

When perusing the COI website, I noticed that the discussion threads were rather old and lacking multiple threads of dialogue.  Perhaps this is due in part to the dispersal of the original research team?  Perhaps the conversation has moved to a larger venue on the web?

The transactional distance between me, as the individual creating the content of an asynchronous, text-rich course, is one in which I might find the words, “Is anyone out there?” a regular utterance if not for the Community of inquiry framework designed by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer. The framework is a visual reminder of the importance of balance when designing instruction for learners. The elements of the COI framework can certainly be utilized to shorten the transactional distance between the learners and teachers in both the module that I will create as well as this course.


Something to chew on…

When the teacher asks probing questions, a model for cognitive presence is presented in a social format.  When responding to a classmate’s blog, I ask questions, but rarely disagree in a public forum.  How do you participate in discourse with civility 


Anderson, T., Liam, R., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context.

Bigatel, P. M. (2016). Student engagement strategies for the online learning environment. Faculty Focus: Higher Ed Teaching Strategies from Magna Publications.

The Community of Inquiry. (n.d.). Retrieved June 08, 2018, from


Adult 640 #3 e-Learning- an epic win

College visits are a natural part of family life for those whose children wish to extend their learning beyond grade 12.  Touring a campus and asking questions is part of the exploration.  At one point in the parent tour, a mother asked quite seriously about her son’s ability to bring and use his gaming system at this university.  Glancing at the faces of the parents, I noticed snickers, the nodding of heads and the snarky comments of a few. While I love board and card games, I am not an electronic gamer.  Facebook friends ask repeatedly for me to engage with them. I always decline.

If you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, you’ll recall the episode, The Barbarian Sublimation, where Penny geeks out and engages in an orgy of online games.  Did you laugh along with the audience?  Did you say to your child, partner or friend, “See, this is why I don’t ‘Do’ online games?”

Penny Online Gamer
An Epic Win?

Many of the terms in the reading about E-Learning Generations were familiar to me as a result of my experience with MOOCs, Digital Learning and Social Media for Adult Learning. This experience was referenced in the introductory post.  The one area of the current, as well as those Generations 6+, is gaming as a way in which to learn. The term, Games Based Learning wasn’t directly mentioned in the reading.  (It appeared to be a very broad overview given at a conference.) I have made the leap to assume that it would be a component of “gaming.”

At the risk of falling into the rabbit hole, I’ll limit my reference to the article, Game-Based Learning for Adult Learners, Stephen Downes’ Conference Presentation and Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk, Gaming can make a better world. (If not, we’ll both be overwhelmed and you might not read until the end of the blog.)

I found the ideas in each reference to be rather helpful to me as a non-participant.

TakeAway-logo-350x280     A few of the take-aways ideas: 

“Game-based learning requires learners to think differently about concepts and ways of knowing than traditional learning has required. Games connect people together (ie. building networks and facilitating connectivism, the participants guide their learning.”

TA:  Asking students to think differently develops critical thinking skills. Building networks are essential for a PLN, personal learning network. Connecting learners, ideas, and events in an enjoyable way build schema.  

“Learners are able to make mistakes and take risks in a safe protected environment surrounded by others who support them and can offer assistance.”

“The educator/mathematician, Jo Boaler, in her work Mathematical Mindsets, asks learners to think of their brain without mistakes as a blank, smooth sheet of paper.  When mistakes are made, learners grow a synapse. When the brain makes a mistake, she suggests that conscious attention is made to the error.”  I’ve used this analogy with students. Children enjoy coloring the creases. For adults, I’d color them in and hang both sheets of paper side-by-side. Brain growth is like a sheet of paper crumpled into a ball.  The metaphor is powerful. 

“Educators are able to supply students with direct, immediate feedback to learners as the game proceeds and everyone can reflect on the learning that occurred during the process.”

TA:  Adults have been socialized to believe that making a mistake is horrible. It makes the learner vulnerable to criticism. As a designer of eLearning, providing an instance to take a risk, make a mistake where a network of learners can provide support could help learners to be more self-directed.  In terms of psychological distance, communicating trust and a secure safety net of weak links might reduce TD.

“The games are complemented with discussion boards, models of game systems, maps, and narratives. This kind of interaction requires the learner to read, write, research, analyze, and implement many of their ideas for others to see and helps create self-awareness, reflection, and a concern for accuracy.”

TA: I love the variety suggested in the above idea.  When something new is added, learners pay attention. I like variety in my own personal learning, which is why I chose to use a variety of digital media tools.  Understanding the tools that are of greatest interest and use to my students, in my opinion, may provide structure as well as dialogue. Transactional Distance, through the manipulation of gaming as a communication model, may be reduced

Gaming can make a better world, Jane McGonigal’s 2010 TED Talk, is an interesting look at the myriad of learning, problem-solving and collaboration which occurs in gaming. The blissful productivity which happens when one works hard produces “super-empowered hopeful individuals.”  An “Epic Win,” according to McGonigal, is one in which a gamer receives better feedback, greater rewards, and strong connections made with others who are interested in supporting the gamer.

TA: What I loved about the games that she discussed was how the game would adjust to the skill level of the player. As a former public school teacher, it was heartbreaking to see the number of uni-sized programs thrust on learners. When learners didn’t succeed, blame was administered with regularity. What if the learning event modeled the strategies employed by gamers?  

The “Epic Win” for me occurred in the last several minutes of McGonigal’s presentation. The ability to see actual learning games that she created as part of her study provide clarity for me as a reluctant learner.  Engaging in World of Warcraft is still probably not something that is of interest to me, but the transfer-of-learning is of great possibility.  Her talk is now 8 years old.  It would be of interest to me to learn how the research supports her theories. 

etmoocThe digital tools described in e-Learning Generations was posted over 6 years ago.  While the historical components are still relevant, it would be useful for me to explore other work published after 2012. While the reading was rather dry, in my opinion, I was pleased to recognize a name referenced in the talk.  Dr. Alec Couros spear-headed the #etmooc learning experience in 2012.  While primarily for the K12 community, it was an amazing example of the ways in which people you hardly knew were so readily willing to help with the learning of educational technology.  He is certainly someone to follow on Twitter.  It was a revival of connectivism at its best!

My child won’t learn of his housing arrangements until July 31.  I can assure you that both a gaming station and a comfortable futon from which to connect with others on his campus are on his “to pack” list.  Our texts and phone calls will now include a conversation about how Game-Based Learning is used in his courses and the ways in which students are connecting with each other.  Perhaps I can lurk on his platforms and gather some ideas for learning experiences that I’m designing in the future? (Having a mother who is both a teacher and student can sometimes be a real drag.)

While I have no personal experience with gaming as it relates to adult learning and human resource development, I’m open and interested in learning about possibilities that others in the class have experienced. My graduate track was Human Resource Development.  Placing e-learning games for teaching human resource development in the search bar yields 355,000,000 hits.  A little overwhelming and certainly in need of reformatting. This short exploration provides me with something to consider when creating my online lesson for this class. 


Lab chewing a bone
Something to Chew on…

What are the Game Based Learning programs that you have used in your coursework as either/or a learner or instructor?  How did you respond?  How did your students respond?


Anderson, B. O., Anderson, M. N., & Taylor, T. A. (2009). New territories in adult education: Game-based learning for adult learners.

Boaler, J. (2015). Mathematical mindsets: Unleashing students’ potential through creative math, inspiring messages and innovative teaching. John Wiley & Sons.

Downes, Stephen (2012). e-Learning generations. Retrieved from

TED Talks (Producer)  (2010, February 15). Gaming can make a better wold. Retrieved from



Adult 640 #2: Transactional Distance-Easy Operator Positioning

3 legged stoolThe concept of a 3-legged stool is an analogy that surfaces in many fields of study. As of this writing, Google indicates that there are 103,000 hits for this analogy. The concept that practice/teaching, research, and community service is a difficult act to balance. In some institutions of higher education, one area often takes precedence over another. As a public educator, this stool was not a component of my practice. As an adult educator, Michael C. Moore’s Theory of transactional distance is a 3-legged stool that will now become an essential component of my practice.

All teacher-learner relationships experience components of distance.  Space and time, when learning is conducted in a network environment, can present additional challenges. As a learner, I’ve participated in just two distance learning experiences. In both, the opportunity to participate in a face-to-face course was not available to me.  As an educator, I have not had an opportunity to design a learning experience.  My motivation for taking this course correlates directly to my desire to expand my practice to distance education.

The knowledge of a theoretical principle as essential to program planning is important to understand and consider when planning for learners.  When Moore states that there’s room for more than one theory, it ensures that the learner’s background, skills, and motivation for learning can be addressed fully. Life and learning are comprised, in my experienced, of more relative or gray areas as opposed to those that are absolute, right and wrong, black and white.  There is no one-size fits all for learners.  When Moore suggests in his seminal writing that some theories of TD are more global than others, it provides for me a “safer” place in which to consider how to plan for a learning event.

My thoughts about this 3-legged stool…

The cluster of dialogue 

  • It’s purposeful, constructive, and valued by each party.  As an instructor, it is my responsibility to describe or even model what this means particularly in an age of instant communication. 
  • Understanding how the educational philosophy of the organization/institution, instructor and the individual should contribute to the design of my course.  Discovering the philosophy of the learners is an important tool for instructional design. (However, no one has ever asked this of me in a DE setting.) 
  • The opportunities for the use of communication media seems to grow every day. While the tools cited by Moore are now outdated, he does suggest that the interactive nature of the environment is crucial to the level of dialogue which occurs. Correct tool+nature of the event doesn’t always =success on the part of the dialogue. The influence of my personality as the teacher, the personality of the learners in the program and the content contribute to a highly dialogic programme (Moore’s wording).

The cluster of structure-

  • The processes suggested are familiar to me as a former public educator.  The naming of the categories may be different, but the intent is the same. Students in a K-12 setting, my previous work setting,  are not accessed for motivation. Asking for and supporting adult learner motivation is an essential component of self-directed learning.  The structuring process is a good starting point in planning for learning.
  • Understanding how and where to provide more or less structure will mean collaborating with colleagues who have greater experience with Distance Education. Assessing student experiences through dialogue, I assume, may help to realize where physiological distance my develop in a course. 
  • Moore’s contention that, “Since learners are such important actors in the teaching-learning transaction, the nature of the learner-especially the potential to undertake autonomous learning can have an important effect on the transactional distance in any educational programme,” is the bow on the package.  All of the work that I will do as an instructor will be without value is I fail to keep learners at the center of the learning event. 

The cluster of learner autonomy-

  • Just as there is diversity in student population, there is diversity in a learner’s level of autonomy.  Students cannot be fully autonomous in determining the goals, learning experiences and evaluation process. Institutions have expectations that must be met.  Through dialogue, student needs can be addressed and incorporated to infuse greater degrees of autonomy. It is my responsibility, according to Moore, to assist the learners in my program to acquire skills to become autonomous.


Moore’s Theory of transactional distance makes the operator’s ability to offer instruction transportable.  When coupled with the ever-changing world of technology and tools, the possibilities are endless.

Something to chew on…

What are some of the tools that you have used or wish to use to help facilitate student autonomy?


Moore, M. G. (2013). The Theory of Transactional Distance. In Handbook of distance education (pp. 84-103). Routledge.

Adult 640 #1: Going the Distance

Hello, everyone in cyberspace!  In my “brief” introductory blog I shared a little bit about my background in with the Adult Learning program.  My transition from 20 years as a public school educator to that of an adult educator began well before starting the MEd program at VCU.  Through a myriad of volunteer experiences, Cub Scouts, Virginia Master Gardener program, Literacy Volunteers, UVA Art Museum Docent, UVA Hospital Volunteer and Auxiliary President, I have coached and instructed adults informally.

My elearning experiences are rather broad from that of “über” professional quality presentations to those that are cheesy and of poor quality. I’ve engaged in classes as both a peripheral learner as well as an engaged participant. I’ve completed four (4) MOOOCs:  #edcmooc-University of Edinburgh, #etmooc-University of Regina, one through the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMA) and one through the University of Virginia, The Kennedy Half-Century.  The two (2) elearning content courses were exhilarating.  It was so much fun to see how excited educators and learners from as close as VCU to those around the globe engaged in elearning and digital experiences.  Learning how to navigate time zones outside of the USA to participate in “Quad-Blogging” Google Hangouts was a little bit of a learning curve, but certainly well worth it.  The #etmooc exemplified how weak links are really willing to be helpful to virtual strangers.

I have taken one (1) course that was entirely online and have a son who participated in a Virtual Virginia AP course.  Both were a disaster and left a true distaste for distance learning.  My participation in this course occurs after three (3) years of healing.  My son has sworn to never take another online course.  I am willing to put the past behind me and give this method of instruction another try.

My goals for the course, in addition to becoming a convert to distance learning, is to be exposed to the seminal work of the distance theorists (if there can be any in such a short period of time) and to engage the goals for the course with my learning  through Adult Literacy & Diversity, Design & Delivery of Adult Learning Programs as well as those in Lifespan Issues of Adults with Learning & Behavior Issues.  Phew…

When I have free time I love to go to museums (DC), knit, garden, bake and read.  Much of my time during the last fifteen (15) years has been spent being a soccer parent and all that it entails.  I’ve volunteered in many aspects of the area where I live.  I enjoy giving my time and talents to others.  Most recently, I began volunteering at the Adult Learning Center in my hometown.

My impressions of the reading selection sans blogger overload

Historical and Conceptual Foundations: 

  • I assume that this course will have a high degree of transactional distance.  Will other tools in addition to Blogs and Twitter be employed to permit multiple perspectives to be seen at one time and in one location?
  • I “think” that the Community of Inquiry Framework is new for me.  I love frameworks and the use of a lens as a tool for how to consider events, theories, learners, and experience.
  • Connectivism is very powerful and one that I experienced first hand through two (2) MOOCs. It was not a learning theory presented in my Adult 601 course in 2011.  I hope that it is now included.

Current Trends in Distance Education:

  • When referring to a current trend, will technological pedagogical content knowledge place the knowledge in the center with the learner on the outside?
  • When a Distance Learning instructor employs the lens of self-regulated learning theory, does the instructor do so with universal standards?  Does the learner know what it means to engage self-regulation?


  • TPACK-  this phrase is one that I will use and probably talk about in my sleep.  My expectation is that the instructors of this course are well versed in TPACK and will model their specialized knowledge so that I will have scaffolding in place for me to be successful. Scaffolding is my “thing.
  • As a gardener I was taught, “Right plant, right location and the plant will thrive.” As a distance educator, I expect to follow this maxim when considering the best tool for the learning event that I am creating.  No “grab and go” here. I want my students to thrive.
  • Helping learners to develop a sense of agency along with the necessary executive functioning skills to complete a task independently is a head-scratcher.  There is no one concise answer, but one that I know will be of importance to the learning event that I’ll create for this course.

Double Loop Learning


  • Group development through distance education sounds challenging.  I am wondering if Schwarz included this concept in his Field Guide for Facilitating groups?
  • SRL-SELF-REGULATED LEARNING (yes, I’m shouting) How will the learning event provide for those with varying intellectual abilities?
  • Educator as the Reflective practitioner, where have seen this phrase before-Oh, all over Oliver Hall.  Welcome back an old friend from Org Learning, Chris Argyris and Double Loop Learning-how can I engage distance learners to consider their own beliefs and assumptions about the learning event?

Future Directions:

  • Distance Learning appears to have hit the floor running and is just now stopping to take a breath. In the future, will time and attention be given to how the key components of Teaching and Learning with Technology can reflect the needs of the learner with those of both the institution and the workplace?

This week’s activities:

  • Blogging is expected by those into the Adult Learning Program.  It has the ability to transform learning, discussion, and thinking.  It is valuable when individuals are willing to participate, including the professor.  A blog isn’t a place for professorial writing.  It’s an opportunity to engage your thoughts with others.  I find video footage and links useful ways to filter in a greater amount of content that I may not have considered.  Sometimes the presentation of questions or a topic by the instructor is a useful mechanism for those who either find it difficult to write or for those who suffer from digression.
  • Twitter can be very useful when I remember to open it up. I’ve found that individuals follow me when I use the tools and tags correctly.  The social scientist Brene Brown suggest that one “Have a strong back, a soft front and to be civil” when encountering those who have differing opinions and values.   I value civility and feel that it’s essential to the practice of inclusion and diversity.  I don’t have time to follow individuals, regardless of their academic or cultural worth, who use the tool irresponsibly.



Lab chewing a bone


I think that a screencast of how to establish a blog or Twitter account would be useful for those unfamiliar with those platforms. It’s a marvelous tool for this learning experience. I’m a visual person and scaffold, as you already know, is my favorite learning word!  How do you learn best? 


Adult 640 Intro

Hello, everyone

My name is Laurie Niestrath. It’s been quite some time since I’ve blogged about anything academic.  I completed the Adult Learning program in 2016 in the Human Resources Track.  As par for many aspects of my life, I took the Adult 641 class without the benefit of taking the first course.  I loved every moment of Social Media for Adult Learners.  The clocked seemed to move at record speed as the topic engaged me.

I am an “early adopter” in my thinking and philosophy. I consider myself to be a digital resident, have a digital footprint, use digital tools with confidence.  I look forward to understanding the theory and philosophy behind e-learning, andragogy and the design of digital learning experiences for adults.


Adult 688 #5: All it takes is one…

Task:  for the final reflection, what are your reactions to this course.I believe

To assert that a course can change one in a profound way is a rather affected way in which to consider this learning experience.  It is utterly true in the case of this lifespan issues course. On numerous occasions, I have maintained a sense of perpetual catch-up in comparison to others in my adult learning courses who possess a business background.  It was a fallacious assumption that my teaching experience in the public sector would better prepare me than my peers for the content of this course. I have a very basic understanding of learning and behavioral disabilities, yet was woefully unprepared by my undergraduate work to educate adults who learn differently from their counterparts.

Several components that provide a different lens through which to consider adult learners:

Shelter vs Supported employment is an interesting way in which to consider how society has moved from containing adults with intellectual and learning differences to a more progressive movement which embraces inclusion.  I was vaguely familiar with organizations in the communities where I have lived which trained, employed and produced products in a sheltered environment.  To embrace the philosophy and model of support, means to be more keenly aware of the unique ways in which adults contribute to the workplace.  I have recognized such an individual in a local organization where I volunteer.  I just learned last week that this organization supports his engagement as a support organization.  To understand the value and role that a job coach plays when assisting adult workers embraces the idea that there is a role for everyone in society.

In reality, the rules of the above organization, which remains vague in order to maintain privacy, find my manner of working unacceptable. The more complex an organization. the greater number of rules. I have an affinity for risk-taking when it means an opportunity to explore different ways to learn or assess.  As an adult educator, I am now able through training experiences to provide alternative ways in which to consider the services that an organization provides.

The new lens of lifespan issues asks me to re-frame not only the way in which I perceive the structures within my organization but to consider if I am paving the way for individuals with disabilities to become allies as opposed to passive receivers.  On numerous occasions during this graduate program, I have referenced Carol Dweck’s research.  In order to engage what’s best about the medical model with what works for this segment of the population, the minds of those within my organization must be willing to experience growth.  A growth mindset considers a variety of accommodations as tools to enhance the productivity of the individual and the success of a workplace.

The narratives in the book, Learning Disabilities & Life Stories are written from the heart and must be consumed in small segments; they are nothing less than heartbreaking.  If children with hidden disabilities can be so scared by a system charged to educate them what incentive do they have to divulge learning or behavior disabilities to an adult educator in a training setting?  Rodis suggests that the autobiographies help readers to understand what it means to be an expert in learning and behavioral disabilities from real life as opposed to expert knowledge through institutional learning (Garrod, Rodis & Boscardin, p. 194).  The insight and wisdom reveal through heartbreak and suffering are the stories that I will remember when working with adult learners. The narrators so candidly reveal the pain and isolation experienced in public education.

To consider that there are seven stages of identity formation for those with a learning disability, I must recognize that an adult may actually find relief with a diagnosis. Understanding that adult learners in my organization do not matriculate through identify stages by age, but rather at the time of diagnosis. When planning for and creating learning experiences for adults, I must consider that the schema may have relevance for those in my training and development.  If nothing else has touched me in this course, it is the necessity for adults to provide a more inclusive, loving and supportive place for those with hidden differences.  If I can begin by working with one educator or with one employee who attends a training, I can make a difference. All it takes is one.



Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.


Garrod., Rodis, P., & Boscardin, M.L. (Eds.) (2001). Learning disabilities & life stories.

Allyn and Bacon.