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Online Learning and Enlightened Leadership

beautiful sunset sky with glowing horizon

I’m writing this blog post on the eve of one of the most significant days in American history.

Whatever their political beliefs, Americans feel that the future of our country depends on what happens on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. And people all over the world are also concerned about the outcome of the 2020 election.

The purpose of education is to empower people to live better lives. Are Americans living better lives today than we have in the past?

This article from the New York times says no:

Americans of all political stripes are concerned about the future, not so much for themselves personally as for the country as a whole.

And I know from speaking daily with students, clients, colleagues and friends all over the world, that people in other countries are very concerned about our election as well.

What can you, as an online educator, do?

Appreciate the importance of the work you do every day. 

The world around us may be a swirling chaos…

but within that sea of chaos, we each have the opportunity to create a focus of stability, order, and inspiration

 for the online learning communities we serve.

In order to learn effectively, people have to first feel safe.

But many people around the world today do not feel physically, let alone emotionally, safe. 

The biological threat of the pandemic, the economic threat of diminished work opportunities, and the social threat of enforced isolation, are taking a long term toll on everyone around the world.

If your country, on top of all that, is immersed in an atmosphere of contentious division, it becomes hard to find a solid footing on which to stand, or a way to envision a better future, let alone achieve one.

This is where we, as an online educators,  come in.

Taking, or teaching, online classes is the one thing people CAN do right now.

For many of us, it’s pretty much ALL we are doing, all day long.

We can make our online learning communities safe, warm, and welcoming spaces where people do feel safe to envision a better future and achieve their goals.

In the introduction to my book, I wrote that one of the reasons for learning how to teach well on line is 

“To save civilization from the darkness that is closing in all around us"

As an educator, you are a point of light, drawing your students towards a greater light.

Here's the extended quote from my book's introduction. I feel it's important enough to be worth repeating, especially right now:

"The soundness of your instructional design is what determines whether your students will be able to reach that greater light of new skills, new opportunities, and new understanding… or not.

The difference between light and darkness is a properly designed electrical circuit.

When you design instruction, you are in fact building a circuit through which information can flow from your mind to your student’s mind.

If the circuit is built right, the information will flow and the light will go on.

If the circuit is built poorly, nothing will happen (or worse yet, you will create a short circuit through information overload). Your student will get burnt out from trying to make the light switch (your course) produce understanding that is simply not happening.

Eventually your student will give up and walk away.

If enough students do that, people all over the world will say, “Online education doesn’t work. I tried it but I didn’t learn anything. It’s a waste of money and time.”

If people give up on education, the lights will go out... all over the world.

It’s happened before. It’s up to us not to let it happen again.

So yes, I am being melodramatic-- because the stakes really are that high.

The future of civilization depends on the transmission of knowledge.

The transmission of knowledge is happening, to a greater and greater extent, online.

You, as an online course designer, are the one making this transmission happen.

You need to design your circuits properly so the lights can go on in your students’ minds."

---Rebecca Frost Cuevas, Course Design Formula: How to Teach Anything to Anyone Online, pages 34-35

Beautiful morning sunrise in New Mexico with sun rays shooting into the sky and silhouetted trees,

We all live and work in multiple overlapping and intersecting systems.

 In this maelstrom of competing forces, your online course is also a system: a microcosm of its own.

YOU (as we’ve discussed in an earlier blog post) are the central sun of that microcosm.

You, the teacher, provide the light and life that keeps your online students in orbit as they gather the momentum needed to go off on their own.

So regardless of the level of leadership that either may, or may not, exist “out there”, either now or in the future, one thing you can do is provide enlightened leadership within your own small universe.

Give your online students something positive to focus on.

Help keep them moving forward in taking whatever effective action they can take, to make their lives and the lives of those around them, better.

Here are some practical suggestions for how to keep your light burning bright:

  •  your physical Body

  •  your Emotions

  •  your Social Connections

  • your Higher alignment

Take care of your physical body

  • Rest
  • Eat right
  • Exercise

 Once you’ve taken care of yourself  

and strengthened your alignments

 both vertically (with  your higher purpose)

and horizontally (with your support community),

reach out to your students, clients, and prospects to see how they are doing.

You can’t control events in the larger universe, but you can build your own smaller universe in the form of an online course community fueled by wisdom, excellence, and love.

You are important. What you are here to do is important.

Your life’s work holds the answer to other peoples’ dreams. 

Your online course, academy, or program (whether it already exists or is still in the process of becoming), can be a place of transformation and grace for the people you serve.

So get out there and be the ray of light that you are.

You be you.

Shine on.

Stay fabulous.

And thank you for all you are doing to make the world a better place.

You are invited to continue the conversation in the Facebook group,

 and at the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting next Saturday.

I hope you can join in and share your thoughts.

What is YOUR deep purpose for teaching online?

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, November  7th, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Getting the Support You Need

staircase of wooden blocks upheld by various types of supports

Looking at your life as a whole, as an educator and entrepreneur…. where is your zone of genius? 

And what areas of your life and work need strengthening to support that? 

What areas of life feel unbalanced for you now, especially in light of the restrictions and changes imposed by the pandemic?

And, most interestingly, how has the pandemic actually helped you to bring more structure, balance, and order into your life… if it has?

How, in other words, have the challenges posed by the pandemic helped you grow?

We’re all acutely aware of the negative pressures exerted on everyone globally (though not on everyone equally), this past year. From ecologic upheaval to political uncertainty, this year has really been a doozy.

None of us, personally, has control over the pandemic, the economy, or the environment.

But what about the areas of life you DO have control over?

How are you using this time…which may be a very extended period of time indeed… how are you using this time of forced seclusion, inward-turning, and retreat from the types of interactions we have all taken for granted our entire lives?

Woman organizes clothes in living room of her home

What are you focusing on now that you didn’t have time, energy, or interest in focusing on before?

I hope that committing to your course design and development process will be one of those things. 

There has never been a more appropriate time to develop online learning.

People all over the world need to learn how to do things, right now… on all levels of life ranging from physical survival to spiritual enlightenment.

Maslow's pyramid of needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom.

What do you teach online… or plan to? 

Where does your teaching fit on the continuum of Maslow’s hierarchy?

How will your course(s), once finished and up and running, help make life better for the people you serve, in these challenging times?

What is the IMPACT that your course will make in the world?

Here's mine:

 If everyone designing online courses applied the principles I teach in the Course Design Formula® Master Course,

illuminated mind

we could light up the planet, one mind at a time.

 That’s my mission. That’s what I’m here to do.

At the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting on Saturday, October 3rd (yes, the meeting is BACK…), we talked about the shockwaves that can form when you put yourself out there on the public stage.

A man watching a 3-D television with waves startling him by surging forward out of the TV screen

When you do something that makes a difference, things start to shift. Things start to change.

While creating transformation is our goal, it’s not all sweetness and light when that happens. 

Some of the shifts and changes we make reverberate, making waves that can blow back on US.

Part of becoming a changemaker involves learning to strengthen and hold our center

 so we can withstand the impact of the changes that we, ourselves, create.

We also need to build capacity into our businesses (and our lives) to enable us to DELIVER on what we’re offering.

Some ways of increasing capacity that we discussed last Saturday include:

  • Working on ourselves (to correct any areas of imbalance, and strengthen any areas that need it)
  • Valuing what we do (appreciating the value of our mission and life’s work)
  • Creating relationships (with prospects, clients, customers, and peers)

What’s your unique process, method, insight, procedure, attitude shift, or way of understanding the world?

 How will the world be different when your course is up and running at capacity?

And how can you increase the capacity of your course and business, so you can serve more people?

One way to increase capacity is to optimize the SYSTEMS that make your business work.

At the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting on Saturday, October 10th ,2020, we'll be treated to a presentation by Mary Williams,  Chief Technology Therapist at Sensible Woo.

Mary  teaches people how to be their own best tech guru.

(And isn't that just what we need, especially after our collective discovery the other week  that technology itself is often the main thing that gets in the way of  technology-based businesses?!)

Mary is an accredited librarian with her Master of Science in Information from the University of Michigan School of Information, and started her career as the digital archivist for Disney Animation Studios.

She has developed a system she calls Digital Feng Shui, to help her clients master milestones in their business so they have more time, energy, and revenue. 

Next Saturday, Mary will  help us understand and identify business bottlenecks

 as we explore how to gain clarity and ease in understanding

 business workflows and optimizing tech-based backend systems.

If you crave greater flow and organization in your business -- and more supportive tech-based systems to help you get your message out there into the world -- you won't want to miss this meeting! I hope you can join us!

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, October 10th,  2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Turning Points

Footpath winding through colorful forest

For the past six months, almost since the pandemic began, a dedicated group of Learn and Get Smarter community members have met every Saturday for two hours or more, to discuss how to survive and thrive during these unprecedented times.

We shared our personal reflections and professional expertise to gain deeper insight into what works when dealing with high levels of uncertainty and risk.

This past Saturday for the first time in six months, only two people in addition to myself attended the meeting. I had received thoughtful emails in advance from several community members, explaining that they wanted to come but needed to be at a conference, a study session, or an event of some kind.

The thought that occurs to me is that as a group, we may have reached a turning point. Maybe people weren't coming to talk about how to survive and thrive during these times, because they were just too busy out there actually thriving.

It's fall and a turning point feels underway. People are settling in to this new reality, whatever form it takes for them, and thinking about how they want to learn and grow in the weeks and months ahead.

Falling Autumn leaves before sunset

This feels like a time of transition.

🍂Some processes that have been in the works for a long time, are coming to completion and winding down.🍂

🌱And at the same time, the seeds of new growth are quietly germinating, as yet unseen, underground. 🌱

mug with autumn squashes

The most recent cohort of the Course Design Formula® Master Course has completed learning the steps of how to design a highly effective and engaging online course.

Now  that group has moved on to Course Crafters Camp™, our hands-on workshop-oriented community for Course Design Formula® Master Course graduates..

 This past week at Camp (it's a virtual learning space, not an actual physical place), Rhonda Anderson Lauritzen of Evalogue.life workshopped a presentation on storyboarding.

It was so meaningful to experience Rhonda's  masterful teaching informed by instructional design best practices.

Rhonda had us all in the palm of her hand with her mesmerizing presentation. Tapping into the power of story was a profound experience.

Rhonda offers a variety of courses including memoir writing and writing about sensitive subjects. If you have been thinking of writing your life story, I recommend her courses very very highly.

Seeing students successfully put into action the skills and abilities they've learned in  your course,

 is a powerful moment for any teacher.

Productivity expert Chris Bailey points out that  it's important to take time to both rest and celebrate after completing a big project.  Teaching your online course, publishing a book, or any large creative project would fit into this category of life events.

Woman relaxes on mountain lakeshore at sunrise

For me, there is so much joy in the journey, 

that I feel a bit of sadness upon actually reaching the destination.

 I don't want the journey to be over!

And of course, it's not over...it's just turned a corner and entered a new phase.  

Internet communities can have shifting identities, like tide pools... springing up suddenly as the need arises, and then changing again when conditions change. 

It's possible that the sparse attendance at last week's community meeting was just a fluke... and we'll pick up again next week.

 It's also possible that the need for the community has changed, in which case, time will tell.

If that's the case, I'm thinking of making the Saturday  morning time slot into my weekly "office hours" ... when anyone in the community can stop by to ask questions about instructional design or course creation.

Colorful Starfish in Tide Pool

So here are my turning points:

  •  I'm getting ready for the January, 2021 cohort of the Course Design Formula® Master Course. 
  • I'm working on various aspects of my business: from honing my products and services to delivering private coaching to amazing clients.
  • I'm quietly taking the pulse of the times to get a sense of where people need help creating powerfully transformative courses that really teach, at a deep level.
  • I'm watching with gratitude and awe as colleagues, students, and friends take off on their own journeys, and achieve success after working so hard for so long.

I'm thankful to be part of this moment in history, together with all of you.

 I really can't think of a more exciting time for us all to be working together to shape the online learning space.

What turning points are you experiencing in your business and teaching practice? 

What's new and coming up for you?

 I'd love to hear about it ...in the Facebook group or via email at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com. 

And of course, I hope you will join me next Saturday at the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting, so we can continue the conversation as a group, if that's what the group wants to do.

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, October 3rd,  2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Novel Solutions to a Novel Crisis

Person enjoying online group cal from home

What do you do in a totally unprecedented situation, when there are no answers?

One thing you can do when you don't yet have answers is focus on asking more effective questions.

Another thing to do is to reach out to others to create communities and networks that can provide resources, guidance, and support.

None of us has all the answers, but together, we can move closer to asking the right questions.

That's what our Learn and Get Smarter community has been doing for the past several weeks, and our collective efforts have been yielding powerful results.

At last Saturday's Learn and Get Smarter community meeting we put together our work from earlier meetings to set up a cognitive strategies ("learning how to learn") course.

We decided to call the course

"Novel Solutions to a Novel Crisis."

cognitive strategies course screenshot

Individually and collectively, we were impressed with what we came up with as a group, because none of us alone could have created what we all created together.

I want to extend a very special thank you to everyone who has been part of this process. If you haven't been able to participate so far, come next time and contribute your ideas!

At next week's community meeting we will start to plan and develop the media needed to build the course (media such as PDFs, Word Docs,  interactive elearning activities, and PowerPoints.) 

I hope you can join us to add your wisdom, insights, and perspective!

Join us on Saturday

many people online in a conference call

We'll start planning and developing our actual course media!

To develop the course content, we'll draw on the question banks we came up with in previous weeks, relating to attitude adjustments, practical skills, and learning strategies that can help us cope with this unprecedented situation.

  • Attitude questions

  • skills questions

  • Learning questions

What mindset changes do we need to make?

After exploring helpful mindset adjustments we can make, we realized that mindset change is only PART of what we need to focus on. We decided that our course will not be a mindset course, but it may have some mindset change components in it.

trello mindset course screenshot

The process we are using to develop this "crowdsourced" learning experience, differs in important ways from the process you would use to create your own individual course in your own area of expertise.

The pandemic is an area in which none of us has expertise. Even the experts in global health don't yet have the full range of expertise needed to handle such an unprecedented situation effectively. We are all participants in a global learning experience in which the stakes are as high as they can possibly be, for everyone involved.

Learning is always about adapting to one's environment in ways that promote survival. But the stakes are not usually as clear and as stark as they are now.

As experts in our own fields who are interested in developing transformative online courses, the pandemic provides an opportunity to learn about learning itself (and online learning in particular) in ways we have never seen before.

In your own area of expertise, you can use the Course Design Formula® as a set of guidelines to structure your extensive prior knowledge in ways that help people benefit from what you already know.

But when, as in this situation, no one yet has the right expertise, we must instead rely on unguided discovery learning

We are feeling our way in the dark, and finding out where the limits and edges are by running into them. Working together as a community, we can find those edges faster and bring our collective wisdom and energy to bear on a problem that impacts us all.

Join us next Saturday

to continue this journey of exploration!

Developing a cognitive strategies course

People untangling a ball of yarn together

At last Saturday's community meeting, we discussed the questions can we ask ourselves, that will help us survive and thrive under all conditions, and especially, the conditions we are all dealing with now in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.

We decided to use the questions we came up with, to develop a sample cognitive strategies ("learning how to learn") course as a group. That's what we will work on at next week's community meeting.

With profound thanks to everyone who attended for their participation and insightful contributions, here are some of the important questions we came up with as a group:

  •  How can we have  balanced healthy lives under any conditions?
  • How can we have thriving businesses that support our lives in a way that is balanced?
  •  How can we allow equal time for ourselves and the people that we're here to serve?

We decided that we will now ask ourselves the following powerful question:

How does my mission continually align with my clients’ desires and what they are willing to pay for? 

How do I ensure this going forward under all conditions?

Finding effective answers to such questions, especially under conditions of uncertainty such as we are facing now, is not an easy task. This is deep work, the work of learning at the most fundamental level.

(Remember that learning means adapting to conditions in ways that promote and optimize well-being and survival).

The stakes are very high: for ourselves, our families, our communities, and the planet as a whole.

Come help us develop effective learning strategies that can help us find answers to these and other important questions.

Join us next Saturday!

many people online in a conference call

We will start to actually BUILD our group

 cognitive strategy ("learning how to learn") course

In a complex and unprecedented situation where no one has all the answers (or sometimes, ANY answers), working collectively can help us find solutions we would not have been able to find on our own.

I'm creating a Google doc with the questions we came up with at last week's meeting, and will share it via email with those on the Learn and Get Smarter email list. We can keep adding questions to consider, as we think of them.

You may enjoy this enlightening article from Harvard Business Review, on how businesses can approach decision making when faced with complex, unpredictable, and unprecedented systems.

People untangling a ball of yarn together

For the next few days, think about  questions to ask yourself in YOUR business, that will help you adapt to a complex and unpredictable environment.

Then come join us next Saturday as we start exploring answers in the form of a cognitive strategies course we can create together!

Creating Community Online

People connected by online learning even though they can't shake hands in person

How are you feeling right now?

What changes have you had to make to adapt to the coronavirus threat?

Do you find yourself suddenly needing to take programs, meetings, clases, processes that work well in the physical world, and put them online?

Would you like some guidance and help in figuring out how to do that, effectively and fast?

At a time when staying separate in physical spaces  protects our physical health, meeting together in online spaces can protect our social, emotional, financial, and even spiritual health.

In these unprecedented times, where things are unfolding fast and in unpredictable ways, community support and helpful guidance can ease the burden we may otherwise be carrying alone.

That's why, starting this week,I’m inviting the Learn and Get Smarter community to come together, to meet face to face (on Zoom).

I’m hosting a live group meeting  this Saturday, March 21st, at 9 AM Pacific/ Noon Eastern time.

If you live in a different country, you can use this international time zone converter to find the time to log on.

The purpose of this meeting is to start to get to know each other as a community  focused on creating effective learning online in ways that make the best use of all our resources: time, brainpower, energy, and ideas.

What challenges are you facing now in terms of taking great offline learning experiences, and getting them online?
How can I support you in getting that done?

I'd like to start having weekly office hours/workshops where you can share your course design challenges and we can find creative solutions together.

If this sounds like something that would be helpful and interesting to you, please register for the meeting (below).

After you register, you'll receive a confirmation email with the meeting link.

If you have a course design challenge or situation you'd like to discuss, you are welcome to email it to me at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com.

Here's the link to register for the meeting this Saturday.

(After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.)

We'll be meeting live on Zoom, which is a fantastic platform for online meetings and live course sessions.

You may already be an expert at using Zoom, or you may not have used it before.

 (If that's the case, it's very easy to use. All you have to do is go to the link you'll receive in the email after you register, at the designated time).

Here's an article that Zoom just shared from their blog, on some really fun and creative ways to create a sense of community and connection in online meetings.

 I hope you enjoy it!

arrow pointing towards call to action from the right

Zoom shares some great ideas for creating connection online

Check out this wonderful post on Zoom's blog, about fun ways to create connection and community at a distance. 

My goals for this first meeting are for the community to get to know each other, and for me to learn the kinds of course design challenges that you are facing right now, and how I can be of service to you at this challenging time.

If there is interest and the group finds this format helpful, we can continue the meetings weekly in order to create ongoing synergy, community, and support.

How do you feel about this? Do you like this idea? Do you have any comments, suggestions, or requests?

Email me at Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com to let me know how I can help.