I remember reading through the program map on Dr. H’s ePortfolio when I started my first course, 5303. I cobbled together each assignment on Google Sites and didn’t even really understand the titles of the other courses that lay ahead of me. Now, looking at that list of familiar topics is astounding. 

I decided to pursue this degree plan because it seemed, in 2020, that we desperately needed help on how best to teach in an online environment. I learned so much more than I could have imagined. Learning theory, inquisitiveness, and self-directed learning I now see as obvious foundations to any education initiative. Understanding the importance of having an organizational change strategy and being prepared with quality instructional design are absolutely necessary when talking about online and blended learning, especially when doing so effectively brings change to an organization. Our innovation plans will only happen if we work within our professional learning networks initiating crucial conversations as we create new cultures of learning in significant environments that are fostered through the use of ePortfolios.  

Somehow, one step at a time, with a cohort I’m honored to be a part of, we did it. We constructed all of that knowledge. On this side of the process, it’s almost more astounding to see how it all actively fits together. Every single thing I learned fit into my personal practice, and intuitively led me to where I needed to go next with my innovation plan. The instructional design of THIS curriculum was well thought out, if only visible upon completion.

And upon completion, the learning is visible here. THIS construction serves as the ultimate Bloom’s example of higher order thinking. Here we have created, evaluated, and are now analyzing. It’s the ultimate in applying digital learning.

Usability Testing & Reflection

click image for video overview

For the asynchronous ePortfolio creation course, I asked our campus instructional coach, Dr. Marie Miller, if I could record a live zoom call with her as she worked through the first module. I also asked a former district coach to complete the course and provide written feedback (without any input from me) so I could compare. 

  • How your stakeholders/peers are able to navigate the Introduction/Overview/Start Here section of your course and how they are able to navigate to and engage in a short activity from the first module.

My walkthrough with Dr. Miller was extremely informative. To hear her think out loud through my course construction provided excellent feedback and validation for my though processes. I asked her to log on to Canvas, and follow the prompts through the course. I tried to not steer her in any particular direction, as I wanted to observe what choices she made in navigation. I told her that she didn’t need to actually complete any of the activities for this initial walk-through, just share thoughts on the directives. By watching her, I observed that she did not click on any of the sidebar menu options. Instead, she clicked strait through to “Modules”. I’m wondering if I should modify the “Welcome”. 

  • How long will your usability test last?

I anticipated the recording lasting 20-40 minutes. I knew we would only work through the first module, but I also knew that Dr. Miller is very thorough and inquisitive. The recording ended up at the 31 minute mark. 

  • What are the criteria for the activity that you want your testers to do?

I want to observe and listen to my tester as she worked through the navigation of the entire first module to ensure variety and clarity as well as depth and complexity of the subject matter.  

  • How will your testers report back?

Dr. Miller’s usability test was a recorded Zoom session. The other usability test from a district coach was written after an independent test, provided to me later. The differences in feedback were interesting. I also have a Google form at the end of Module 1 that they completed. As the course is already live for our district, I am periodically receiveing Google form submissions that will continue to inform my course corrections. 

  • What were the lessons you learned from the usability testing feedback?

From the filmed usability test, I learned that my request for users to record a welcome video or add personal information before starting the course might not be realistic. No one that has opened the course has done this, and in the recording, Dr.Miller didn’t even go to the welcome page. 

My “Resources” page might need to be rethought as well. When walking through with Dr.Miller, I was able to clarify for her that “Reading Choices” meant just that-I was providing more resources than necessary, offering choice to my learner. But when the district coach worked through the course on her own, she did not understand that. She wrote: “The participant is not guided to choose. Is the participant supposed to watch and read everything?” I am wondering if this is because she is not accustomed to having choice? Should I NOT provide choice? Should I be more clear? These are questions to which I don’t yet have answers. 

I’m excited to continue to learn with my stakeholders to improve the functionality of my course. Below you will find usability test video and written feedback.

A course on course creation

Click the above image for video.

Implementation of ePortfolios 101 Instructional Design

In this learning environment, I have been asked to create a learning environment where my learners are tasked with the same: to take a metacognitive view of their learning. This significant work can happen when we invite our learners to make choices, and take ownership of their learning. When we create a space for them to express their unique voice in ways that are authentic to their learning. 

I hope to clarify my vision of creating a significant digital learning environment using the COVA framework in this course on constructing ePortfolios. To align outcomes, activities, and assessment I am using Fink’s 3 column table, focusing first on my goal of educators investigating and constructing an ePortfolio to model its effectiveness in collaboration, reflection on growth, and developing voice. Working cohesively backwards from this goal will allow my learners to make connections with their learning. They will be able to connect the dots in a learner-centered, engaging environment.

​​What is COVA?

CThe freedom to choose (C) their authentic learning opportunity and how to organize, structure and present their learning experiences.
OOwnership (O) over the entire learning process – including selection of authentic projects and their eportfolio tools.
VThe opportunity to find and use their own voice (V) to revise and restructure their work and ideas.
AAuthentic (A) learning opportunities that enable students to make a difference in their own organizations and learning environments.
See the COVA page on this site for more information.
  1. When are lectures appropriate and how can they best be used?

Thomas and Seely Brown posit in A New Culture of Learning that in this digital age where things are constantly changing, our exclusive focus on the explicit dimension is no longer a viable model for education. So while a lecture format might be effective in short 5 or 10 minute mini-lessons, it is not where learning happens. (p.76)

It is important that my course be more than just HOW TO CREATE A DIGITAL FOLDER. I want to remind my learners of the value and excitement of learning itself. And that the construction of an ePortfolio is a vibrant experiential representation of knowledge acquisition. 

  1. What Learning Management System (LMS) or other digital sharing platforms are you planning to use? Why?

I will utilize Canvas LMS as my professional learning platform as that is something our teachers are already familiar with. Canvas provides features such as quiz creation, discussion boards, and screencasting in Studio. Also within Canvas is the opportunity to use multiple external tools such as Google forms/documents, Padlet, YouTube, EdPuzzle, and external URLs like Wakelet and Canva. 

  1. How are you introducing the course and yourself and how are you building the learning community? 

My course is introduced on the “Home” page with language on Why/How/What and goals matching the Instructional Design page on my ePortfolio. In the Discussions / Introduce Yourself page is a personal welcome video to establish Faculty Presence. Our learning community will be built within the “Discussion” pages and assignments. Video posts and video feedback will foster greater social connections and engagement.  

In this “Introduce Yourself” page, learners are encouraged to become familiar with “Studio”, record a short introduction video, and post to this page. I have posted a short “how-to” video for Studio use. 

At the top of “Modules” is another Welcome, with a link to go back to “Introduce Yourself” if it was missed. 

  1. How will you implement the Overview/Introduction/Start Here module or section of your course including videos, documents, and related resources?

The Overview/Introduction/Start Here is presented before the first Module, and on the Home page. It provides the goals and outcomes as well as a tour of the course with a short introduction and contact information. I have also provided buttons to the modules for the course, my contact page, and the course resources. My goal is to create an inviting page that is easy for even first-time Canvas users to navigate.

  1. Is this course student-centered or teacher-led?

This course is student-centered and relies on the learner to provide choice, ownership, and voice for their own authentic learning.

  1. What is the scope or range of the instructor’s role?

The instructor’s role is to be a facilitator and to help advise learners’ choices and decisions; helping them to succeed.

  1. Is the course blended or fully online?

The course at publication is asynchronous, fully online. It could also be used as a tool in a blended learning environment.

  1. What is the ratio or percentage of synchronous to asynchronous collaboration? 

At present, our teachers appreciate the ability to earn professional development hours on their own time, at their own pace. The current design allows for 100% asynchronous collaboration. The framework of the course design can easily be adapted.

  1. How will you implement the first 1-2 Modules of your course including videos, documents, and related resources?

In each module, I have provided a page containing the learning objectives as well as a page with all video and reading choices. These choices are then narrowed in further pages. In this way, learners have an initial broad choice of information, but a more narrowed focus for Discussion and Assignments. 

  1. How is your instructional design approach realized in the modules? 

The activities in each module align to the learning goals outlined in Fink’s 3-column table adhering to constructive learning. Each module is built with the same framework: Objectives/Resources/Discussion 1 & 2/Assignment of adding to ePortfolio. With an Outcomes Based model, the assessment of learning will happen with the submission of Discussion questions and the product of an ePortfolio, as well as a final Survey. 

  1. How does each module align to outcomes/goals, activities, and assessment?

Each Module aligns to outcomes listed on my 3-Column table as well as the COVA framework. 

Module 1: Aligns to the Foundational goal of becoming storytellers and collaborators while applying practical aspects of ePortfolio construction. 

Module 2: Aligns to the Human Dimension with its focus on growth mindset and professional learning networks. Learners are also introduced to the COVA concept and invited to make choices in their learning.

Module 3: Aligns to the Application goal by encouraging learners to consider ownership of their ePortfolio, and how ownership contributes to effective learning. 

Module 4: Aligns to Integration and Learning to Learn goals by identifying a “Why” statement, clarifying purpose, and defining voice. 

Module 5: Aligns to Integration, Human Dimensions, and Learning to Learn goals by finalizing ePortfolio to date and self-assessment of learning by reflecting on authenticity of the process.

  1. How will you address the infrastructure, system, and support needs and issues the learner may face?

Each module includes support guides for apps and extensions used. I am available for consultation on all issues.

  1. “Cognitive overload” is discussed in one video. What are your thoughts on addressing this issue?

In creating an online learning environment that is completely asynchronous, “cognitive overload” is prevented. In this course, learners are able to make choices in which videos to watch and when. With choice is agency, and a greater likelihood of course completion. This choice is balanced by the outcomes-based expectation in the construction of an ePortfolio.

  1. How will you use media to support and enhance learning?

Dewey says in Democracy and Education that “Every step from savagery to civilization is dependent upon the invention of media which enlarge the range of purely immediate experience and give it deepened as well as wider meaning.” (p.165)

The media embedded in my course modules will provide deeper and widened meaning, and can help provide extended learning opportunities as well as clarification about each module’s information. My goal is to choose videos that motivate and encourage learners to see knowledge acquisition in a new and exciting way. In MY using media and technology as a tool to do something I otherwise could not, THEY see how they could do the same! The technology itself disappears. 

  1. What standards for professional learning will you need to address as you develop your course?

I have permission from my school district to allow the completion of this course count towards professional development hours. The district has requested access to an end of course survey/form. 

Also adhering to district alt text requirements, all learners have access to Google Read & Write which offers text to speech and speech to text accommodations. 

Dewey, J., (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: Macmillan.

Fink, L.D. (2003) A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Harapnuik, D. (2015, May 8). Creating significant learning environments (CSLE). [Video]. Retrieved from

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

The creation of learning environments…

An alternative taxonomy to Bloom is Dee Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning. This is a non-hierarchical taxonomy that focuses on the interaction of six dimensions of significant learning: Foundational, Application, Integration, Human Dimension, Caring, and Learning How to Learn. Working through these dimensions with my PLC, we wrote a 3 Column Table for our innovation plans that starts with a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” and demonstrates project based outcomes.  I was then able to transfer those ideas to a plan for my classroom. Fink’s Taxonomy is really a picture of my learning theory. I appreciate the holistic nature of the planning process, and would be comfortable using the 3 Column Table regularly. 

Another design plan my PLC worked on together is based on the work of Wiggins and McTighe using Understanding by Design (2005). Our UbD template provides a much more detailed framework with a consideration of standards, while still allowing room for project based learning. The UbD focuses on 3 Stages of Learning: Desired Results, Assessment Evidence, and Learning Evidence.  While I was not as comfortable in the development of the UbD, and I might behave towards the product in the same way as the 3 Column Table (in that it is always okay to deviate from the plan), I must say *I* learned more about my direction from the UbD than the 3 Column Table. 

Both designs help to connect the dots of what I’m learning in Creating Significant Learning environments, therefore become a tool to help my learners connect dots as well. Both designs highlight the importance of demonstrating authentic, project based outcomes and both invite the teacher to facilitate learning rather than just deliver content, so that “…the students-no longer docile listeners-are now critical co-investigators in dialogue with the teacher.” (Freire, 1970) 


Fink, L. D. (2005). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Retrieved from:

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. 30th anniversary ed. New York: Continuum.

Harapnuik, D. (2015, August 15). Connecting the dots vs. collecting the dots [Video file]. Retrieved from

Wiggins, G.P., & McTighe, J. (2008). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Vive la Learning Revolution! Vive la Positive Rhetoric!

“It isn’t the circumstances that are crucial, it’s what we say about the circumstances that matter.” -Ben Zander

Can we create a vision for education, for our classrooms, that can spark and thrive within our current education system? In a true revolution, there is a death – so what if the death we experience is our downward spiral thinking? If we remove the binary nature of winners and losers, of passing and failing? It will still exist, as that is the reality of where we work, but we choose to view it all as what it is: and abstract! WE put value on the A. 

What if we construct a significant learning environment and do all the things we know are right, regardless of what anyone else is doing? Can we play their game, but on our own terms? Can we go an entire school year never discussing grades with anyone? 

I’m talking about declaring that we’ve already won the the revolution, because I SEE it. If we have a VISION of what true learning looks like, we can make it happen in our classrooms, and regardless of what our students see elsewhere, they thrive with us. 

TED. (2010, May 24). Bring on the learning revolution! Sir Ken Robinson [Video]. YouTube.

TED. (2012, Feb 26). Work (How to give an A) Benjamin Zander [Video]. YouTube.