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Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Future of Distance Learning

            Over the past decade, distance learning has grown in popularity, access, and impact (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015). The improvements in and access to technology; education of instructional designers and instructors; and acceptance and promotion of distance learning by educational institutions have  brought greater visibility to the world of distance learning than at any other time in history. As society continues to become more technologically advanced, and institutions (educational and business) continue to embraces distance learning as a cheaper, equally if not more effective method of learning, perceptions of distance learning will continue to grow in positivity.

            As an aspiring instructional designer, I have an influential role in improving the perception of distance learning due to my ability to create distance learning courses that are effective (both in educational outcomes and cost) and maintain an equivalent (if not greater) experience than their face-to-face counterpart (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015). Using a strong foundation of theory, mixing principles of learning and design, and utilizing appropriate technologies (Laureate Education, n.d.), I can help to maintain and improve the perception that distance learning courses can be just as effective as face-to-face experiences. The role of the instructional designer, in both education and business, is to maintain the integrity and discipline of the profession by adhering to ethical, theoretical, and pedagogical standards of design, development and delivery.

            According to Moller, Foshay, and Huett, “Distance learning is rapidly becoming a popular choice for continuing professional education, mid-career degree programs, and lifelong learning of all kinds” (2008, p. 66) and as society continues to embrace technology this inclination toward distance learning will only increase as well. As an instructional designer, I have the ability to embrace and be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance learning by always conducting new research, whether it is theory or technology, and ensuring that my deliverables are of the highest standard.

            Working for an education institution that specializes in online learning, I know first-hand the impact that distance learning can have in the life of an atypical student. In the future, I want to embrace what I have learned in this class and apply it to my practice and deliver exceptional experiences for my learners. I’ve had the unique ability to explore theories and practices of distance learning; create an entire distance learning module using a course management system; and analyze how to effectively facilitate distance learning courses while supporting the diverse and unique needs of the learners. Although instructional design lends itself to both in person and distance learning experiences, the exponential growth of distance learning in the near future that will become integrated in all learning environments (Laureate Education, n.d.) will certainly present an opportunity for instructional designers to have a drastic impact on the improvement and  societal perception of distance learning.


Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Distance education: The next generation [Video file]. Retrieved from

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Theory and distance learning [Video file]. Retrieved from

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

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., &  Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Information Age Publishing, NC.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Distance Learning Best Practices

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.

Based on the scenario above, the following Best Practice job aid was created for trainers and instructors who wish to transfer their courses to a distance learning format. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Scope Creep

                Scope creep is when a change, either an update or addition, happens as part of a project and alters the original scope of work and initial request (Stachowiak, 2014). Scope creep can happen as part of a request by the client to add new features or because of poorly outlined initial requirements and project planning. Currently, I am working with a project team to design and develop training materials for our upcoming technology launch in November. The business had previously decided to roll out the new technology in January of 2017 but then decided to change the plan and finalized the November 2016 launch; here in lies the source of my current scope creep situation.
                When I was designated as part of this project team, we were under the impression that we had until January of 2017 to conduct our analysis, design and development of the training materials. After presenting our initial project plan to the steering committee we were given the go ahead to continue with our outline. We took our time laborious conducting a thorough needs analysis, learner analysis, and task analysis to determine the foundation of our design. About 2 months after being told that we could proceed with our initial plan, the announcement was made that instead of January we would go live in November and the users needed to be trained accordingly in advance. The training plan called for 2 months of prior ongoing training before the actual implementation. That brings us to today, August 4 and we have exactly one month before we have to start implementing the training that hasn’t even been storyboarded yet. Queue the mini freak out session!
                Not being the project manager, I am at the mercy of what I am told to do. Although I have a very strong voice as both a SME and an instructional designer, the deadline is not moving. Had I been the project manager, I would have ensured that we had a scope of work document signed and agreed upon by the stakeholders (Portny et al, 2008) and project drivers ensuring that we would be afforded the amount of time necessary to produce an effective training. When the steering committee and stakeholders decided to change the date of the launch, I could have provided the signed and agreed upon document and fought for the time needed to complete the project. Also, with the pushed up date, came updated requirements which have altered the amount of resources needed to complete the work. As the project manager, I would have drafted a change of scope document requesting additional man power hours and outlining the change in timeline and budget in order to receive the necessary resources (Laureate Education, n.d.)
                Lastly, as the project manager, I would start to provide weekly project status reports giving detailed information on current timeline status (Harned, 2015). This critical communication will inform the steering committee and project drivers of any potential need to delay the launch due to the scope creep issues forced upon us by the decision to change the date.
                Scope creep is inevitable and usually controllable by the project manager. Detailed planning, careful communication, and documented agreements can contribute to successful scope creep prevention and management. Project managers should act as gatekeepers and cheerleaders to monitor, manage and report on any potential scope creep issues.


Harned, B. (2015). Taming the scope creep. Retrieved from  

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.). Monitoring projects [Video file]. Retrieved from

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.

Stachowiak, S. (2014). Scope creep – the two dirtiest words in project management. Retrieved from

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Art of Effective Communication

                Effective communication is dependent on a number of variables and considerations. Of key importance, according to Dr. Stolovich (Laureate Education, n.d.), are avoiding ambiguity, considering tone, timing, personality of the recipient, and documentation. After reviewing the “Art of Effective Communication” (Laureate Education, n.d) I have made some interpretations about the various modalities of communicating; written, verbal, and face-to-face.
                Written – This form of communication has its pros and cons. First, I will discuss the drawbacks. Written communication allows for misinterpretation of the senders tone and friendliness. Even if written with these considerations, the reader cannot always accurately interpret the tone of the email, text, or letter. Another drawback of written communication is the possibility of typographic errors and unprofessional language. Use of written communication also doesn’t allow for immediate clarification and feedback to and from the sender. A positive use of written communication is that it is documented and clearly defined for future purposes. In considering using written communication as a mode of interaction, it would benefit those involved in the project to be mindful of tone, language, professionalism, composition, and formatting. In addition, using written correspondence is often better in more formal situations and to relay information to large groups of individuals.
                Verbal – Similar to written communication, verbal communication is great when used appropriately. An initial drawback to verbal interaction is that there is no formal documentation of the exchange. Portny, et al (2015), cite documentation as being critical to the success of any project as it creates an official record of all correspondence. In verbal communication, such as the voicemail in the “Art of Effective Communication” multimedia piece, there is again a tendency for the listener to misinterpret the meaning of the message because of the lack of cues from body language. While verbal communication is better than written communication, in some instances, the speaker needs to be sure that they consider their tone, friendliness, volume, and professionalism.
                Face-to-face – Is, to me, the most dynamic and effective means of communication. In a face-to-face setting the receiver is able to interpret the communication by means of visual and verbal cues from the speaker. In addition, the face-to-face setting allows the participants to elicit clarification of things they didn’t clearly understand and receive immediate feedback to mitigate any confusion. The speaker is able to clearly convey their spirit and attitude, which may or may not be a good thing for the listener; however it does ensure little misinterpretation. The drawback to face-to-face communication is that, again, there is no written documentation of the exchange unless transcribed at a later time. Something to consider with this type of communication is the personality of the recipient and the speakers’ body language.
                Ultimately, communication in any form is meant to support and enhance the project management process. This exercise showed me the pros and cons of each type of communication and provided me with direction about how to utilize and implement each modality effectively. For future purposes, I will consider the manner in which I communicate with project team members and utilize a strategic mixed method approach to communicating effectively and timely. There is no formula for how to communicate correctly since each project is dynamic and presents its own set of variables however a project manager can use best practices and proven theories to guide their professional practice.


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.
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders [Video file]. Retrieved from
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Practitioner voices: Strategies for working with stakeholders [Video file]. Retrieved from

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Learning from a project "Post-mortem"

                Recently, and by recently I mean within the past year, my partner and I purchased our first home. It’s a beautiful split level in a rural part of Maryland with a large back yard, pool, screened in porch and a fireplace. We love it. It’s a perfect first time home for our little family of four (us and two fur babies). The house was practically move in ready with the exception of some cosmetic painting that needed to get done before we could unpack and decorate. The previous owners loved, and I mean LOVED, Pinterest and you could see examples of that all over the house. They weren’t bad, per se, but not our style. There was, however, one huge eye sore that needed some love and attention now that the weather was nice; the shed.

                This became my Fourth of July weekend project. I had been thinking about updating and painting the shed for about two months and finally found the time to get it done. It’s old, pieces were falling off, the handles were rusted and sharp, and the sides had turned green from years of neglect and pollen. It was, for lack of a better term, hideous and I had to do something about it. So I went to Home Depot and I picked out a color sample. I brought the sample back and painted a swatch to see if it worked, which it did! Before returning to Home Depot I measured the frame of the door and the molding around the doors themselves to determine how much wood I would need. I also measured the flashing on the sides of the shed so that I could replace those as well.
                I went back to Home Depot, bought a gallon of blue paint, a quart of black and a quart of white. I grabbed a pack of rollers, two new handles, a latch, the new flashing and some black spray paint for the hinges (I planned to reuse them). I had also planned to buy ten 1x3’s to frame the door and add the molding back to the doors themselves but they didn’t carry pressure treated 1x3’s so I settled with 1x4’s instead. That was all the planning and preparation I did. Looking back, this was where my headache started.
                I got home and began to take the hardware off the shed, carefully prying the molding off the doors so as not to ruin them since I had to put them back up I began to realize the extent to which this shed had aged and been exposed to the elements. The door bottoms were almost completely rotted and had very little consistency to hold the screws in place, let alone friction to unscrew. Once I had all the hardware and molding off, I proceeded to power wash the entire exterior of the shed before applying the paint. As I finished, my partner began applying the blue paint to the crevices of the wainscoting while I began to measure and cut the 1x4’s for the door frame and doors. My headache gets a little stronger here. I don’t own a table saw and decided that it would be okay, for this project, to use my circular hand saw to cut the pieces in the lawn.
                 I used my lawn chairs as saw horses while I cut the pieces. This worked okay but probably wasn’t the safest or most efficient way to accomplish my task. Once all the wood was cut, I decided that I wanted to use the shutters from the “old” shed and repurpose them into window boxes so I could plant flowers in them. Again, I used my circular saw to cut pieces to attach to the back and spent about an hour making two boxes (one for each window). I then moved on painting the shed with the roller in the blue paint. As I did that, my partner started painting the molding for the door frame and doors black and I did the edging of the shed white. I also replaced the flashing at the corners of the shed with the new ones I had bought. This brings us to about 7:30pm and it’s a perfect time to pause for dinner while the molding dries.
                At this point, I am going to tell you about the finished product and what I think could have been done better or differently to get to where we are now. First, I love the way my shed turned out but I think it could have been a completely different experience had I used my knowledge and experience in instructional design. As designers, we use a systematic approach to any learning project we create so that we ensure the final product is effective and well thought out. I should have realized that my shed project could have benefited from this same type of systematic approach. I should have started with a full analysis of the shed including an inspection of the wood, the surrounding area, the materials on hand and the measurements of everything needing to be replaced. Had I done this, I would have discovered the rotted wood, made plans to replace it and not had to improvise during the project. In addition, had I inspected all the materials that I needed compared to what I had on hand, I wouldn’t have been scrounging for nails and screws in my tool box and would have purchased new ones at Home Depot. In project management, this would have been my project initiation phase by which I would have figured out what I knew and didn’t know about the project, determine what I needed for the project, set cost and scope for myself, and determine an ultimate objective (Allen & Hardin, 2008).
                After doing a thorough analysis of the shed, I should have executed a design of what I wanted to accomplish. I had a rough sketch in my mind of what I wanted it to look like, but when push came to shove, I didn’t have the materials or ability to make that vision a reality. In project management, this would have been solved by further developing a statement of work, project objectives with SMART goals, a scope of the work I wanted to complete, accounting for unknown variables, and using some form of technology to build a blueprint for myself of what the project would ultimately look like (Portny, et al, 2008).

                If I could go back and do things differently, I certainly would. Following a systematic approach to any project makes for better outcomes, and less headache along the way. At the end of day two, our shed was finally finished, not one hundred percent to my liking, but it was certainly a huge improvement from when we started.  To anyone thinking about updating their shed, I highly encourage you to plan and use a systematic approach to your project; or just hire someone else to do it!

Best, Dennis


Allen, S., & Hardin, P. C. (2008). Developing instructional technology products using effective project management practices. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 19(2), 72–97.

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.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Greene Trainer got a facelift

Having learned a lot in EIDT 6120 about designing effective multimedia messaging, I decided that my initial version of The Greene Trainer needed a do-over to be more consistent with accepted design practices and to reduce extraneous processing for my readers. 

Let me know what you think of the new layout and design choices! 

Happy learning, Dennis

A New Definition of Distance Learning

            Having worked in distance learning for several years now, my understanding of its definition did not change much after reviewing the resources this week. I understood distance learning to be institutionally driven and dependent on the fact that the learning groups were separated by time and space. I understood that in some distance learning environments, there exists asynchronous and synchronous learning by which the learning groups will conduct their learning independent of each other or at the same time as one another.
                I did, however, learn that the terms e-learning, virtual education/schooling, and on-line learning/education are not synonymous and are quite independent of each other (Simonson, Smaldino, Zvacek, 2015). I now know that my work relates to that of an on-line learning environment under the umbrella of a distance learning theory.
                Based on my previous definition, as well as the information I obtained this week about the various aspects of distance learning, I believe that the definitive characteristics of distance learning are always evolving and slightly changing because of the nature of technology. As society moves to a more technologically advanced state, the use of such new advancements naturally changes the face of tools used to deliver distance learning programs. For example, looking back at the history of distance learning (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvackek, 2015) we can witness how new technologies advanced the impact and use of distance learning programs from correspondence study to fully on-line universities.
                The challenge with the constant change of technology is that the theories employed by distance learning practitioners must also change to support the advancements. There needs to exist a strong theoretical base by which distance educators can make decisions with confidence but unfortunately, “the changing and diverse environment in which distance education is practiced has inhibited the development of a single theory upon which to base practice and research” (Simonson, et al, 2015, p. 56). As the world changes technologically, so must distance education programs if they are to meet the needs of the demands of society.
                For this reason, and others, I strongly believe that distance learning will continue to grow and expand in influence and impact. I believe this to be due to the fact that drastic changes in society, politics and economies are impacting the need for education and training at a much faster pace and because of the flexible and quick nature of distance learning to meet the rapidly changing needs of the world (Huett, Moller, Foshay & Coleman, 2008). I also have a strong suspicion that distance learning will become more impactful at the local level to meet the needs of specific societies that have diversified more drastically than can be supported.  
Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008c). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12).TechTrends, 52(5), 636 7. Retrieved May 8, 2016 from Academic Search Complete.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., &  Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Information Age Publishing, NC.