Blog #5: Putting to Practice!

Well…after some deliberation, review of all my classmates blogs and in consideration of the past two weeks reading…I thought this was the perfect time to explore my own experiences with online facilitation over the past week!  I have the privilege of designing and facilitating 10 mandatory sixty minute webinars for over 700 staff and what was the content you might ask?  Something we have all experienced – the annual Occupational Health & Safety review!  Human resources was of course the subject matter expert and delivered most of the content themselves with my support however the experience was timely in light of everything we’ve been discussing and reading as of late.

Let’s start with the planning required for these webinars.  Not only did extensive scoping of the content and building of the presentation take place but the administration setup was equally extensive.  To build the webinars, polling questions, survey and market the education occurred over 4 weeks with goals of ensuring the session would be learner centred, relevant and meaningful.  Also included was practice time with HR to not only review the content but practice navigating the technology as ‘presenting’ not only includes the virtual presence but also knowledge about how to switch screens and control muting.  Added onto this was a request for me to mentor a staff on my role as organizer, which of course I was happy to do.

But the best part for me came in trialling a webcam for first time!  Only a few staff in the organization currently have this capability and although I had to ask IT to purchase me a portable set, it works perfect.  A little daunting to project yourself into the screen however I was really pushing to try and create some sense of social presence in a short session and already evaluation is revealing that staff wish they could see all the presenters, which is a great first step… identification and validation that it is helpful to receive those visual cues which display emotion and tone of voice.  Each session provides immediate assessment in the form of a survey and it is used to guide/revise ongoing sessions.  Upon completion of all the webinars later this week, I will provide a full analysis of the data to HR who will use it to document baseline knowledge and align against organizational goals.

One interesting note to share is that a staff contacted me this week and indicated she had watched the webinar from her ipad; this was extremely exciting as staff do not have ipads however this individual herself decided to engage with her own technological devices; to expand her own knowledge of learning with innovation.  Although we were able to identify webinarsome challenges with the ‘app’ she used, I am planning now to further test this myself as I believe this presents opportunities in the future to expand the delivery of our organizational learning.

What a timely experience for me to ‘put to practice’ our recent learning’s and I am looking forward to the next opportunities for online learning in my organization where hopefully I can promote more effectiveness and engagement of learners through innovative and interactive strategies.


Blog #4: The Journey Continues!


What exactly is instructional design and what are the practices that need to be in place to make learning efficient, effective and appealing?  I think this an age old question considered by all educators; whether the learning is taking place in a classroom or workplace.  My interpretation is that instructional design is a systematic process of determining learning needs and goals and developing the most effective delivery system to meet those needs; however I would extend the meaning to include theory and science as all units of learning must be considered.

But let’s take a moment and talk about learning itself; learning is continually happening as we take in new information, explore and solve problems.  We learn all the time; we cannot turn that part of our brain off.  So what exactly does good instructional design do?  My take – it supports the natural learning process and helps us to learn more efficiently and effectively.

I appreciated Branch’s (2009) description in this week’s readings that “effective instructional design focuses on performing authentic tasks, complex knowledge, and genuine problems”.  My own organization began to make the shift to online learning through a provincial learning management system (LMS) four years ago.  With a workforce that is predominately decentralized and virtual, eLearning began to peak interest with senior management as they recognized fiscal savings from travel and a new learning delivery system that offered flexibility.  Adobe Captivate was purchased as the eLearning authoring system and I was asked to begin exploring how some traditional face to face content could shift to online delivery; a task that I very quickly discovered was not only daunting but required a new way of thinking as designer.  How could I create content that embodied active engagement and wasn’t simply a ‘tick the box’ read only course.

I’ll be honest; the first courses created were primarily text based with a few clip arts thrown in.  Move on three more years and now the eLearning includes avatars, royalty free images and better use of the system such as branching in hopes of providing the learners with more decision making and transfer-ability to their roles and the organization.  However I was so glad to read in the Conceicao, S., & Lehmann, R. (2009) article the impact of workload on the instructor with online learning; the fact that teaching online can be ‘time consuming’.  The planning is significant and in my organization requires constant communication with stakeholders who own the content; to ensure the design is meeting the desired outcomes.  I also think about the technology itself and ‘challenges’ it can throw at you as designer; suggesting a close working relationship with IT departments.  A strategy that is often used is to pilot the elearn content with a small group of learners; to test if the navigation works, if learners can connect the learning to their roles through case studies and if the intentional activities provide authentic learning.  In terms of design, Conceiscao & Lehmann (2009) also referenced ‘course tasks’ as being helpful strategies (loved table 3.1 pg 53!)  Over time I found myself getting very muddled in navigation elements, content and the need to achieve the desired outcomes; eventually I designed my own blueprint template or storyboard as a tool that captured all the succinct points and content required plus it could be shared with stakeholders as support.  Both strategies have been helpful for me.

Whereby eLearning is used as asynchronous learning in my organization, I believe the more support learners can receive with navigating the technology and sense a virtual presence; when “the instructor places the learner at the center of the online course development and creates the course for that learners….” (Conceicao, S., & Lehmann, R.,2009),  the learner is being set up for success.


Branch, R. (2009). Instructional design: the ADDIE approach. Athens, GA: Springer

Conceicao, S., & Lehmann, R. (2009). Managing online instructor workload: strategies for finding balance and success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Blog #3: Defining the Landscape

On a personal note, I love to run.   I love the running community.  Individuals who come together to share, nurture and support each other on those days when it’s hard to get started or simply keep up.  My community is informal but we share a similar passion, identity and focus.  We learn from each other, with each other and value our relationships.

It was exciting when I read that online communities of practice were part of our focus this week!  How are they built and how are they sustained?  I often think of a community of practice as something that is living and organic in nature; constantly evolving and changing in response to the practice.  Not only is a group of people coming together with shared interests (like us in this course!) but it also needs active participation; sharing, asking/answering questions, listening and connecting on a social level with each other.  For me this translates to an old saying “just because you have built it doesn’t mean they will come”; it takes time.

With today’s web 2.0 technology, information can be accessed quickly and efficiently.  I can honestly say that I historically considered communities of practice as something very formal and very scholarly.  However now consider social websites such as Pinterest or other forums where learners are coming together and sharing similar knowledge; my beliefs have shifted immensely.  As a member of Pinterest I am amazed by the scope and depth of information, ranging from recipes to classroom learning activities.  Check out these stats from 2010:

  • 70 million users
  • 80% are women
  • 35% mobile visitors only
  • 500,000 business users

I am struck that 80% of users have been identified as women; one thought I have is the visual layout with less text than some other sites; I am certainly drawn to pictures before vast amounts of text.  Of interest, Hanson-Smith (2013) cautioned that although the ‘casual socialization’ found in the web 2.0 social applications doesn’t always relate to a community of practice, the capacity of the same applications is important in contributing towards and developing online communities of practice

A final thought centres on Etienne Wenger, a social learning theorist, who was instrumental in carving out the domains of community of practice. He describes how we need to ‘walk the landscape of practice’ when engaging in communities of practice; to know and to identify.  As humans, we have the ‘choice of how much we want to engage in communities”.

Whether that community of practice is being engaged personally or professionally, I believe with the right nourishment, the collaboration possibilities are endless.  Once we ‘know’ as Wenger suggests the ability to impact learners in the workplace or the classroom is limitless.


Digital Marketing Ramblings. Retrieved electronically 21 September 2013 from

Hanson-Smith, E. (2013).  Online communities of practice.  In Chapelle, E (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics.  Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Blog #2: It all begins in the roots…

Thought I’d try something different this week and strive for an analogy…

Sitting by my kitchen window I can see the leaves beginning the change to beautiful fall colors, reminding me of the similarities between the ecosystems of learning and of trees.  Just as trees can evolve and change, so can learning.  Consider a tree that has a strong root system and trunk, does it not then form healthy branches and leaves when nurtured by the very environment inTree which it stands?  With proper care, sun and rain the tree will flourish and withstand harsh elements but remove these sources and the tree may wither and not sustain.  Just like learning, without the right consideration for how and why learning occurs, we potentially set learners up for failure and disillusionment with the learning process.  As educators, we teach to promote learning and inspiration with the highest of quality.  My belief is that it all begins in the roots and that in a world of online learning, there is a responsibility and accountability to ensure the roots are strong and grounded in theory.

I was intrigued to read that Ally in Anderson (2008) offered “no one school is used exclusively to design online learning materials”; a statement I would agree with.  We live and work in a knowledge era; workplaces must be able to shift and adapt rapidly to change and healthcare is no different.  Cognitive and connectivism theories subscribe that learning takes place through internal processes which I believe can influence and impact on knowledge and community building; structures that are needed in these new workplace environments.  In my workplace of primarily decentralized staff, it is imperative that new and innovative ways of learning be supported that can contribute to the success of inquiry and knowledge sharing.

A personal favourite theory of mine involves motivation as adults require intrinsic motivation to learn within an online environment. The ARCS theory by John Keller proposed that attention/relevance/confidence and satisfaction can promote motivation by using the right strategies and tools to grab attention, helping to contextualize, encourage and provide feedback all of which can contribute to creating a meaningful authentic learning experience.  This is further supported by Malcolm Knowles who described the assumptions that describe the key attributes of adult learning including motivation and that internal priorities are more important than external motivators (Stavredes, 2011).

One final thought that I offer when considering the roots of online learning is the technology itself and the ‘how’; is the learning being enhanced and guided by the technology or is it being constricted and being made to ‘fit’ the technology?  I recently encountered an experience in my workplace where a stakeholder made a decision to use technology first before considering how the learning would occur and what types of nourishment were needed; all because of the need to ‘save travel time’ of staff.   As you can imagine, this plan was not successful and the learning withered as the learners were set up for failure.  Internal motivation was lost as learners were overwhelmed, could not relate to the information and the duration was far too long.

Ecosystems of learning are precious and require care and feeding; with strong roots grounded in theory….I think the opportunities presented can be very exciting!


Anderson, T. (2008).  The theory and practice of online learning.  Edmonton AB: Athabasca University Press.

Stavredes, T (2011).  Effective online teaching: foundations and strategies for student success. Hoboken NJ: Jossey-Bass

Assignment One: My Introduction

Hi everyone – greetings from Ontario!

My name is Kathy and I live in Newmarket (just north of Toronto) with my husband and 13 year old daughter. 

It is thrilling for me to share that this is my final course in pursuit of my MEd with a specialization in the Workplace & Adult Learning (WAL) program. I have always been drawn to the art of teaching and learning within online environments so am naturally very excited to be a part of this course!

Professionally, I am a registered nurse and currently work in Organizational Development (OD) for a Community Health Care organization funded by the Ministry of Health.  I have worked in my organization for sixteen years in a variety of roles however the past seven in Organizational Development and Quality.  In my role of OD, my responsibilities include designing and delivering workshops, providing in-house consultations of learning strategies and more recently the online learning portfolio has been assigned to me including role of LMS administrator, implementing and moderating webinars and administering/creating eLearning.

This course is of great interest as I seek to understand more deeply how to create and stimulate engaging online learning experiences that promote collaboration and community.  Healthcare is constantly undergoing change in response to global trends and shifts; accordingly my belief is that workplaces need to more deeply leverage technology in a way that creates knowledge building/sharing and sets up learners for success.

My gravatar is from a trip this past August to Prince Edward Island…an amazing place to take part in many of my family’s favourite activities such as biking, hiking and simply enjoying lots of great food!