Inspiration for Students of Instructional Design and Technology

Scope Creep: Why Fight It?


Scope creep is unavoidable, say our textbook authors (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008). However, it can be controlled by the project manager through a formal change control system. If the project manager, however, informally permits changes to scope, the project will be in jeopardy. Changes to scope will require extra time and resources, which require changes to the budget and timeline.

Still, if something is unavoidable, why would we try so hard to avoid it? Scope creep sometimes occurs because customers or team members identify desired improvements as the project progresses (Portny et al., 2008). It may also result from “lack of proper identification of which products and features are required” (Lynch & Roecker, 2007). Having spent many years in the IT industry supporting software development projects, scope creep has been the rule, not the exception, and it’s usually caused by one or both of these reasons. Still, I wonder: Is it realistic to think you can perfectly design any project up front—be it a software product or an e-learning course?

Is scope creep a failure to plan, or is strict adherence to the original design a failure of imagination?

I once supported a project that delivered a hardware and software solution to our customer. We had project managers on our side and theirs. We had business analysts who tediously compiled a requirements document that exceeded a hundred pages. Yet, as the project progressed and new releases were tested, the customer realized that certain needed functionality was lacking. We were prepared and dutifully created a new Functional Specification document and a corresponding Change Control agreement. Our project followed a “waterfall” systems development life cycle (SDLC), comparable to following ADDIE in a linear fashion. Therefore, any changes were tedious, time consuming, and stressful to the team.

Instead of fighting the inevitable, why not plan for and embrace change as part of the process? That’s what an Agile development process does for software development, and rapid prototyping methodologies do the same for instructional design. With this more realistic approach, “many things that might have been scope creep under a waterfall SDLC aren’t a problem” (Yatzeck, 2012). Yatzeck describes Agile as a flexible process that starts with a high-level design and fills in the details during development. The plan includes a 20-percent contingency for “unknown unknowns,” and swapping out one thing for something else of comparable impact to the project is OK.

Yatzceck (2012) sums up the difference as follows:

An agile project is actually much less vulnerable to scope creep than a waterfall project, simply because it is built to support the need for change. Agile requirements are pointed towards “what the business will need at delivery time,” where waterfall requirements inevitably point back towards “what the business thought it needed at project charter time.” (para. 12).

So, how does Agile apply to instructional design? At last year’s ASTD International Convention and Exposition, I heard Michael Allen present his model for developing instruction. In his book, Leaving ADDIE for SAM: An Agile Model for Developing the Best Learning Experiences, he describes a successive approximation model (SAM). This model adopts prototyping and iterative cycles in the design and development phases and avoids the “analysis paralysis” that plagues the traditional linear version of ADDIE.


Source: Neibert, J. (2012)

So, fellow IDs, why not toss those Change Control forms and accept change as not only an inevitable, but valuable, part of the instructional design process?



Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge.

Neibert, J. (2012, September 19). Book Review: Leaving ADDIE for SAM, by Michael Allen with Richard Sites. 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.

Yatzeck, E. (2012, August 14). How to control scope creep in Agile. Retrieved from

Communicating Effectively

This week, we viewed the multimedia program “The Art of Effective Communication” in which the following message was delivered in three ways: email, voicemail, and face-to-face.

Jane's email

Although the words were exactly the same, the message came across differently in each modality. These were my impressions.


My impression from this message is that Jane feels:

  • Frustrated because she has tried to get this report from Mark before.
  • Desperate because she is about to miss her deadline, and it’s all Mark’s fault.
  • Not really concerned about Mark’s busy day and expects him to drop everything and get it done.

Although written communications provide an efficient manner for delivering facts, the author cannot “pick up nonverbal signals that suggest an audience’s reactions to the message” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 358).


After hearing Jane’s tone of voice as she delivers the message, my impression changed slightly:

  • Jane needs the report ASAP, but it isn’t quite as urgent as the email indicated.
  • Jane isn’t mad at Mark, nor does she blame him for the report that is missing, but she does expect a prompt response.
  • Jane appreciates Mark’s help because he’s busy.


In the final modality, the addition of facial cues along with voice tone give yet a third impression.

  • Although Jane needs the report soon, it’s not urgent.
  • Jane doesn’t blame Mark for the missing report but sees him as someone who can help her out of a bind.
  • Jane is trying to sweet-talk him because she knows he’s busy.
  • Mark could probably put her off for awhile.


In our business and personal lives, we rely more and more on email and text. In the “Communicating with Stakeholders” video, Dr. Stolovitch reminds us that communication is not just about words, but also “spirit and attitude, tonality, body language, timing, and personality of the recipient” (Laureate Education, n.d.). Not only are those cues hard to convey in writing, but I believe we sometimes say things from a distance that we wouldn’t say in person. Complicating this issue, as we send more of our messages via mobile devices, we tend to be brief and to the point, omitting the social niceties of face-to-face discourse. As a result, the recipient may find our messages to be abrupt, bossy, or rude.

A project manager should ask stakeholders and team members what form of communication they prefer. Most people will chose email, which, as this assignment proves, is the most likely form to create misunderstanding. As a remote worker, I find this particularly challenging because I can’t drop by someone’s office or pass them in the hall. Those casual meetings often reveal important information, and they can build rapport. Since completing this assignment, I’ve been more sensitive to my emails and found myself picking up the phone more often.


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, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with Stakeholders [Video podcast]. Retrieved from

Project Post-Mortem

For two decades, I worked as both a technical writer and an instructional designer in the IT industry. My projects always supported a hardware or software rollout, rather than being the core deliverable. Rarely have I seen a project completed on time. Typically, the rollout is late and fraught with problems. Gartner Research, noting that “failure” is a subjective term, puts the failure rate for IT projects at 24 percent (Handler, 2011).


One particular project involved rolling out a hardware and software solution for a large retail company. I was responsible for writing the product documentation, developing a series of e-Learning modules, and creating and teaching instructor-led training (ILT) at the pilot store. Within two months of the pilot, the equipment was pulled out and the project went back to the drawing board. This occurred for two reasons: (1) rejection of the new concept by a large number of the store’s customers and (2) buggy operation of the hardware and software.

Project planning

Both my company and our customer had project managers carefully overseeing the project. They produced all the typical documentation, schedules, and contracts. The customer’s PM and business analyst developed a detailed requirements document that laid out exactly what the product should do. Changes in scope, of which there were several, were agreed to in carefully written change requests. When it came time for the pilot, all the hardware and personnel arrived on time. For my part, I worked with the account executive to submit SOWs for the e-Learning and ILT. These documents outlined deliverables, scope, risks and assumptions, a timeline, and costs. Although the project was eight months behind schedule, overall, the PMs did their job by the book. So, what went wrong?

Needs analysis

This project introduced a new self-payment process at a retail store. Although the store touted the benefits of the new system with colorful signs and banners, the actual business goal was to reduce labor costs. The new payment method might very well have appealed to a younger demographic. However, on the day of the pilot, we (including members of our customer’s team) were all surprised to see a much older group of people walking through the door. These customers were highly displeased with the new system, and, quite frankly, many of them found it physically and mentally challenging.

Projects often fail because of “unrealistic and mismatched expectations” (Krigsman, 2012, para. 10). The project initiation phase should include building a business case, which may include a market analysis (Zaval & Wagner, 2011). Our customer clearly overlooked their customers’ needs in pursuit of cost savings. At the very least, they did a poor job of selecting a pilot store.


Although I blame our customer for the rejection of the new system by the store customers, the hardware and software problems were clearly the responsibility of my company. Murphy (1994) emphasizes the need for senior management to allocate adequate resources to a project. Success would have potentially opened up a new market for my company, but our group was understaffed all along. Nearly half of our small team resigned just as the project began, and we did not replace them. Most notably, we lost a QA person at a critical phase in the testing.


Adding to our woes, our customer demanded that we follow a “waterfall” method of software development and testing, which is equivalent to ADDIE in the instructional design world. West (2013) suggests that the model “is risky and invites failure” (para. 3). Unlike Agile methods, our process was linear and time-consuming, injecting redundant work and delays into the QA process. In the end, the released product was fatally flawed.


If senior management has a flawed vision or declines to allocate adequate resources to a project, it will fail despite the best efforts of the project manager.


Handler, R.A. (2011, September 11). To Improve IT Project Success, Focus on Partnership, Requirements and Resources. Retrieved from

Krigsman, M. (2012, April 16). Who’s accountable for IT failure? (part one). Retrieved from

Murphy, C. (1994). Utilizing project management techniques in the design of instructional materials. Performance & Instruction, 33(3), 9–11.

West, R. (2013, March 17). Everything you think you know about Waterfall development is (probably) wrong. Retrieved from

Zaval, L.K., and Wagner, T. (2011). Project manager street smarts: A real world guide to PMP skills (2nd ed). Indianapolis, IN: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

This is a just a quick post to welcome my EDUC 6145 blog group.

For those of us taking EDUC 6135, Distance Learning, the last eight weeks have provided an opportunity to reflect on the educational format that we selected by enrolling at Walden University. As instructional designers, we have a stake in this topic since many of us will likely be involved in developing online courses in the future. The following are my responses to the reflection questions.

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

The 2011 Sloan Online Survey reports that 6.1 million students are taking at least one distance class, and online enrollments are growing at 10 percent a year, compared to less than 1 percent for traditional higher-education classes (Allen & Seaman, 2011). Additionally, of the chief academic officers surveyed, 65 percent believe distance education is a critical part of their long-term strategy (Allen & Seaman, 2011). In a different survey, 83 percent of business executives expressed a favorable opinion of online courses (Zu, 2010). Furthermore, students now entering higher education have a “neomillennial learning style” that favors the use of Web technology in all aspects of their lives (Dede, 2006, p. 7). They expect student-centered, rather than instructor-centered, learning that is interactive and engaging (Siemens, 2006).

Although much skepticism still exists about the quality of distance education, I believe that a significant shift in public opinion will occur in the next 5-10 years. In the next 10-20 years, I believe hybrid and fully online curriculums will be the standard rather than the exception.

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

We can improve the perception of distance learning first by designing excellent courses in accordance with the principles we learned in EDUC 6135. Most importantly, we must develop engaging courses that are student centered, not instructor centered (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). We can also improve public perception of distance learning by participating in professional associations that promote our field and provide continuing educational opportunities.

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

I am currently a member of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), the eLearning Guild, and several LinkedIn groups related to instructional design and organizational performance improvement. I believe in the principle of lifelong learning and, after receiving my degree from Walden University, I intend to continue expanding my knowledge through courses, workshops, and other resources.

Prior to enrolling at Walden University, I held many of the common misconceptions about distance education. Those of us in the field of instructional design, having experienced the benefits of distance learning, must be patient and understand that attitudes will not change overnight. As adults, in our lifetimes, we’ve all observed tremendous changes brought about by technology. Public opinion has shifted to accept many new activities resulting from technological innovation. Undoubtedly, we will also witness a growing acceptance of distance education in the coming years as it too becomes commonplace.



Allen, I. E. & Seaman, J. (2011). Going the distance: Online education in the United States, 2011. Babson Survey Research Group. Retrieved from

Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles. Educause Quarterly, 28(2), 7-12.

Siemens, G. (2006, October). Connectivism: Learning or management systems? Retrieved from

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

Zu, R. (2010, March 29). Employers on online education. Retrieved from

For this assignment, I created a best practices guide for someone wanting to convert an instructor-led training (ILT) course to a blended learning format. This guide covers developing a plan, transforming old course activities, rethinking the instructor’s role, and encouraging communication.


For this week’s assignment, we were tasked with reviewing an open courseware class and judging it against the standards specified in our course textbook. I chose the Human Memory and Learning course, which intrigued me because we learned about this topic in an earlier Walden class. The course link is:

MIT Open Courseware InitiativeThis course is part of MIT’s Open CourseWare Initiative program, a “high-profile open courseware project” that promises to “greatly expand the number and range of instructional resources available to instructors teaching online” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 141).The following are my answers to the assignment questions.

Does the course appear to be carefully pre-planned and designed for a distance learning environment?

No, this course is merely an upload of lecture notes. When designing a distance learning course, teachers should resist the urge to simply upload their course materials to the Web, creating “shovelware” rather than a true distance learning experience (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 134).

Does the course follow the recommendations for online instruction as listed in your course textbook?

No. Clarifying the organization and requirements of a course is a fundamental feature of online teaching (Simonson et al., 2012).The online version of this course does provide a syllabus, calendar, and list of assignments. However, these items are for a face-to-face class, not an online class. I still thought I might receive value from the posted lecture notes. However, I found them to be nothing more than a brief outline of topics. In addition, I followed links to the course readings, but discovered only abstracts. The full texts were viewable for pay only. When designing for online learning, the instructor should focus on the visual presentation of materials (Simonson et al., 2012). A few other courses that I browsed included videos of class lectures, which would have been more beneficial than the lecture notes provided in the course I reviewed.

Did the course designer implement course activities that maximize active learning for the students?

No. Instructors teaching a distance course should plan activities that “encourage interactivity” and “allow for student group work” (Simonson et al, 2012, p. 153). Although one of the course assignments was to lead a class discussion, this was only in a face-to-face setting.


After reviewing the Human Memory and Learning course on MIT’s Open Courseware site, I was perplexed about its purpose. This course certainly did not fit my idea of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) as it obviously was not a real distance learning class. Perhaps an instructor wanting to teach a similar class might be able to use the syllabus as a starting point. However, as someone wanting to learn more about memory and learning, I came away empty handed. I briefly perused some other courses on the MIT site, and it seemed that many of them were simply materials for a traditional class that had been “shoveled” online.


I also looked at, and I suspect the open courses on that site may fit the definition of distance learning. With coursera, you sign up for a class starting on a designated date in the future, and there is an actual instructor. For example, the E-Learning and Digital Cultures class lists videos, readings, discussions, and collaboration under the class format. Upon completion, students receive a certificate but no college credit. Unfortunately, since this course starts in January of next year, I could not review it for this assignment. Although open courses are becoming popular and hold the promise of “democratizing higher education” (Lewin, 2012, para. 4 ), this assignment left me wondering if you don’t, in fact, get what you pay for.


Lewin, T. (2012, March 4). Instruction for masses knocks down campus walls. The New York Times. Retrieved from

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

Scenario 3: Asynchronous Training. In an effort to improve its poor safety record, a biodiesel manufacturing plant needs a series of safety training modules. These stand-alone modules must illustrate best practices on how to safely operate the many pieces of heavy machinery on the plant floor. The modules should involve step-by-step processes and the method of delivery needs to be available to all shifts at the plant. As well, the shift supervisors want to be sure the employees are engaged and can demonstrate their learning from the modules.

Among online learning’s many advantages, asynchronous courses have the additional feature of being “available 24 hours a day, at the learner’s convenience, and are time-zone independent” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 125). However, some may question whether distance education is appropriate for workplace safety training. The WorkSafely Web site debunks this notion, listing it among the Top 10 Training Myths for workplace safety (WorkSafely, n.d.). Instead, they say training comes in many forms, and online learning is becoming more commonplace. For the scenario in question, I would recommend video podcasts and mobile learning.

Video podcasts

Video podcasts are quite commonplace these days thanks to popular sites like YouTube. These videos have more than entertainment value, however. For example, the City of New York uses video and audio podcasts for their new teacher training (Learning Times, n.d.). In similar fashion, the biodiesel company in the example scenario could deploy narrated, video demonstrations of safety procedures. The videos could be embedded in eLearning courses, with test scores reported back to an LMS for compliance reporting. One advantage of podcasts is that they allow a long session to be broken into smaller chunks. In a previous job, I worked for a company that sells compliance training materials to the process manufacturing industry. Among their products are CBTs, which include videos on safety topics. A Google search for “osha training videos” brings up a long list of vendors offering similar products. The company in the case study would probably be able to purchase suitable videos to get their training program up and running quickly. These videos would resemble the following example, available free on YouTube, which demonstrates a lesson on tool safety.

Mobile learning

Not as commonplace as video podcasts, mobile learning delivers training via smart phones, tablets, and the Web. Cisco Systems predicts that in 2012 mobile devices with Internet connections will surpass the number of humans on the earth (Oakes & Polaschek, 2012). Ambient Insight predicts that by 2015, 300 million PreK-12 schoolchildren worldwide will have mobile learning devices (Oakes & Polaschek, 2012). Even if these projections are optimistic, it seems obvious that mobile technology will have a significant impact on distance learning in the next few years. Calling mobile learning the “rising star” of distance education, the following YouTube video compares mobile learning to eLearning:

Although use of mobile technology for enterprise learning is still a new idea, some industry leaders are already embracing it. Qualcomm, a global company employing 22,000 employees, is currently rolling out a major eLearning project that uses mobile technology to distribute enterprise knowledge (Oakes & Polaschek, 2012). Forbes recently published its list of the top 50 iPad rollouts. I’ve included the top 10, shown below. Among them are high-tech companies, K-12 schools, and government.

Top 10 iPad rollouts


So, how would our biodiesel manufacturer in the case study put mobile technology to good use? Employees and shift supervisors could access training and reference materials on the plant floor using the company’s wireless network. The training could be designed in small modules for just-in-time reference—much more effective than going back to an office to find a book or load a training video. Furthermore, the GPS feature available on most mobile devices could be used to deliver training based on location. For example, the user might only see training for the equipment found in their current location.

I believe the combination of video podcasts and mobile learning would transform the biodiesel plant’s safety training, resulting in fewer accidents and fines.


Lai, E. (2012, April 25). Top 50 iPad rollouts by enterprises & schools. Forbes. Retrieved from

Learning Times. (n.d.).Case study: New York City new teacher training. Retrieved from

Oakes, K., & Polaschek, J. (facilitators). (2012, July 10). Mobile learning: Delivering learning in a connected world [Webcast]. Retrieved from

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

WorkSafely. (n.d.).Safety training: Top 10 training myths that stand between you and your goal of zero accidents. Retrieved from

While introducing myself to other members of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) who shared my table at a recent dinner meeting, I mentioned that I was pursuing a master’s degree in ID from Walden University. One woman furrowed her brow and asked if I was happy with my experience. She seemed skeptical of my positive review of Walden’s program because she’d had a bad experience taking an online course 20 years ago. Apparently, her class had too many students for the instructor to manage. Unfortunately, many e-learning users who’ve had a bad experience assume that all e-learning “is like their personal experience: weak” (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008a, p. 71). This was certainly true of my dinner companion who had dismissed distance learning as ineffective.

Chiming in to support my viewpoint was a third woman, a consultant to global companies who has taught online courses through the University of Phoenix. She insisted that she hadn’t found many topics—face-to-face sales and negotiation skills, mostly–that she couldn’t teach online. I’m not sure if we convinced our skeptical colleague that today’s distance education has evolved in the past 20 years, but I hope so for her own sake.

Like most of you, my higher education began in a traditional brick-and-mortar university. Detractors of distance education often complain that an online course cannot duplicate the classroom experience. However, this is faulty logic. The two environments require different models for instructional delivery (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008b). Some believe that the immediate exchange provided in a classroom discussion is superior to the online course’s asynchronous discussion. The counter argument is that students and instructors in the online course have higher quality discussions because they have time to contemplate and formulate their responses (Moller et al., 2008b). My own experience at Walden supports that viewpoint. How many of you have ever spent an anonymous semester lost among a hundred other students in an auditorium-style class? In such a setting, it’s not possible for everyone to talk, and the instructor will never be able to speak personally with each student. I think the following YouTube video effectively addresses the skeptics.

My first experience with distance education was about 10 years ago. I took an online course from a community college to learn Dreamweaver. To be honest, I just wanted the academic software discount. Although I completed the course with an enhanced knowledge of Dreamweaver, I didn’t feel that I gained anything by having a remote instructor. A book or CBT would have been just as effective. Unfortunately, organizations and IDs are often more focused on delivering training cheaply to the masses and do not evaluate whether distance training will be effective (Moller, 2008a).

At Walden, we use, books, and CBTs for our tool training, and we focus our online coursework on topics where collaboration is beneficial. To me, this is a sensible approach. Nick van Dam, author of Next Learning, Unwrapped, proposes a learning framework that achieves the best results by combining formal learning, which may include distance courses, with informal learning. Rather than forcing the subject matter to fit one model, such as distance education, the “magic is in the blend” (van Dam, 2012, p. 53).

Prior to this week’s class discussion about distance learning, my view has admittedly been self-centered since distance learning has provided a convenient way to advance my career. However, the assigned readings and class discussion this week have forced me to “think outside the box” I live in. I was surprised to learn that distance education is a growing trend for K-12 (Huett, 2008), not just higher education. Furthermore, as I contemplate how I might promote distance education at my company, I learned I should consider the need for program evaluation and recognize organizational demands for a return on investment (Moller, 2008a).

Looking toward the future, in this week’s video, Simonson predicted exponential growth for distance learning from K-12 to higher education to the corporate world. This should offer numerous opportunities for students of ID. If we take an even broader perspective of distance learning’s potential impact, it extends beyond the mechanics of education and offers a potential avenue for the world’s poor and disenfranchised people to improve their situations (Khan & Williams, 2007). Therefore, as students of ID, we can think of ourselves as ambassadors for change in our own lives, schools, the workplace, and the world.



Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5). 63-67.

Khan, H. & Williams, J. B. (2007). Poverty alleviation through access to education: Can e-learning deliver? Retrieved from

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008a). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70-75.

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.

van Dam, N. (2012, April). Designing learning for a 21st century workforce. T+D, 66(4), 49-53.

Course Reflection

Author's reflectionAs our course in Learning Theories and Instruction comes to a close, we have been asked to reflect on what we have learned and how our new knowledge will advance our career goals.

What surprised me?

Each week’s discussion brought new information and surprises. For example, I was surprised to discover that, although learning styles are popular and marketable, they are not especially effective ingredients for sound instruction (Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork, 2008). Instead, instructional designers should focus on presenting a topic in the most effective manner rather than catering to individual preferences. I was also surprised to learn about the tenuous link between short-term and long-term memory. Fenwick and Tennant (2004) contend that “learning happens only when there is reflective thought and internal ‘processing’ by the learner in a way that actively makes sense of an experience and links it to previous learning” (p. 60). I had assumed that remembering something is simply a matter of self-discipline; however, this course has taught me that instructional design techniques like elaboration, comprehension monitoring, and mnemonics can aid retention (Ormrod, n.d.).

What did I learn about my personal learning process?

This course constantly challenged us to evaluate each new learning theory in terms of our own learning experiences. The three types of learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (Gilbert & Swanier, 2008), and I definitely favor the visual style. Gardner (2004) explains that, while a learning style is an individual’s preferred method of learning, our focus should be on stimulating our learner’s eight multiple intelligences. As a technical writer, I typically work with the Linguistic intelligence, but I have found that learning through my other, weaker intelligences can be just as rewarding. MI theory states that everyone can develop a reasonable level of proficiency in each intelligence “if given the appropriate encouragement, enrichment, and instruction” (Armstrong, 2009).

Learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation–how do they all fit together?

As instructional designers, we must consider how best to develop courses that integrate learning theories, learning styles, technology, and motivational factors. It is quite a smorgasbord to choose from, and selecting the best approach may not be a “no brainer.”

Ertmer and Newby (1993) assert that “as people acquire more experience with a given content, they progress along a low-to-high knowledge continuum” (p. 67). The behaviorist approach is often used for introductory knowledge, with the learner performing a repetitive, observable action. Cognitive theory explains how learners receive and process information, much like a computer, and is appropriate for more advanced learning (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009). Constructivism asserts that knowledge is “subjective and personal” (Ormrod et al., 2009, p. 184) and “that persons, behaviors, and environments interact in a reciprocal fashion” (p. 185). Social constructivism takes the idea a step farther and contends that “meaningful learning occurs when individuals are engaged in social activities” (Kim, 2001, p. 3). Connectivism is a learning theory for the digital age, whereby learners are linked to a variety of real-time knowledge sources, both human and technological (Siemens, 2004). Adult learning theory addresses the importance of intrinsic motivation and relevancy while acknowledging the special challenges faced by learners with adult responsibilities (Conlan, Grabowski, & Smith, 2003). These theories all have their proponents, but as instructional designers we are not obligated to jump on one “bandwagon” and pledge our loyalty. Instead, I believe we should follow Karl Kapp’s (2007) advice to “take the best from each philosophy and use it wisely to create solid educational experiences for our learners” (para. 4).

As previously stated, learning styles should probably not be an instructional designer’s primary focus. However, by presenting information in multiple ways, the designer can appeal to various “styles” and “intelligences” so that learners have a better chance of understanding and retaining knowledge.

Keeping pace with technology should be a priority for any aspiring instructional designer. Today’s learners have many resources for acquiring knowledge, particularly through the Web and social learning. Siemens (2004) explains that “the amount of knowledge in the world has doubled in the past 10 years and is doubling every 18 months” (para. 3). For this reason, as the theory of connectivism explains, building learning networks is essential because one person cannot possess all the knowledge that is needed to accomplish a variety of tasks (Siemens, 2004).

Once the instructional designer has identified the appropriate learning theory, addressed learning styles, and selected the best technology for a new course, there is still one more important factor to consider. A superior design may still be ineffective if the learner lacks motivation. Keller (2008) explains that higher achievement occurs when instruction addresses learner attention, relevancy, confidence, satisfaction, and volition.

How will this course further my career?

This course has broadened my understanding of how people learn and suggested strategies for addressing various cognitive hurdles. I have come to understand that there is no one clear-cut method, but rather a toolbox of theories and strategies that can be employed as appropriate for each situation. Although this course has encouraged a great deal of self-reflection about my personal learning style, as an instructional designer, I must develop courses for learners who possess a variety of strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and experiences. The knowledge and insight that I have gained from this course has been beneficial to me in my current role as a technical writer and will undoubtedly provide a foundation for branching into instructional design projects.


Armstrong, T. (2008). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom (3rd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50–71.

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