Category Archives for society

Bridging the Digital Divide

Unconnected bridge above the Colorado River

A funny thing happened on my way to the Learn and Get Smarter Community meeting last Saturday: the electricity in my neighborhood went out.

Suddenly, instead of logging into the Zoom meeting ahead of time to to be graciously ready to greet the group, I found myself frantically scrambling to log in on my phone.

Logging in on the phone did not provide the same level of access and control that I’m used to having in Zoom meetings. I made another community member the co-host in case I got kicked out of the meeting again, and guess what, I did.

And this time I couldn’t get back on, because now I had no cached internet to show me the meeting ID and password.

(Lesson learned: write down the meeting ID and password of any meeting you’re in, on a piece of paper, in case this happens to you. Have redundant systems in place).

I was able to text a community member on the phone, and she sent me the credentials I needed to get back in to my own meeting.

After a while, the power whirred back on, and I was able to rejoin the meeting in the usual way. But this brief time of not having full access to the tools and resources that make our digital lives run smoothly, yielded many insights.

  • Keep everything charged up. I am thinking that phone and device chargers, including some solar powered ones, would make great holiday gifts for everyone this year.
  • Have redundant systems in place. Especially for those of us who are running online meetings as part of our businesses, think about how you would manage a Zoom class or client meeting if your power went out. Have more than one way to reach people. What’s your backup plan?
  • Create a strong community, and discuss how to handle this type of situation before it happens (and hopefully it never will).


Beyond the immediate practical lessons learned, though, is a much more sobering one. 

In a world where we are living, working, and learning increasingly online, what happens when people don’t have equal access to technology—not just for a few minutes on one day, but all day every day?


The term for unequal and inconsistent access to technology resources is
the 
“Digital Divide”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_divide:

“The National Digital Inclusion Alliance, a US-based nonprofit organization, has found the term "digital divide" to be problematic, since there are a multiplicity of divides.

Instead, they chose to use the term "digital inclusion," providing a definition: Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

This includes 5 elements:

1) affordable, robust broadband internet service; 

2) internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user;

3) access to digital literacy training;

4) quality technical support;

5) applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration”.

What’s the solution? Digital inclusion and digital literacy:
https://www.digitalinclusion.org/definitions/

Learn more about digital inclusion here:

https://www.marconisociety.org/digital-inclusion

and digital literacy:
https://digitalcharlotte.org/digital-inclusion-and-digital-equity/

What can you and I, personally, do about this right now?


The first step is awareness of the issue.

Until I got thrown out of my own meeting due to a power failure, I had not experienced the profound difference in how it FEELS, to lack access to the digital platforms that are everyone’s main means of connection and interaction at this time. 

It was not a good feeling.

  • I felt helpless, frustrated, and powerless.
  • I couldn’t be the gracious hostess I expect to be, in my own community.
  • I couldn’t be a community leader, and if it hadn’t been for the prompt and kind response of my community members, I couldn’t have participated in the community at all.

I am a digitally literate, digitally included, digitally privileged person. The power outage only lasted a short time. I’m glad it happened though, because it showed me what it must be like for those with little to no digital access and/or skills, who are being dragged kicking and screaming into the digital space often against their wills.

Those of us who have been here on our own volition for a long time, and see living online as a good thing, have a role to play in helping those on the other side of this divide get online and gain greater levels of comfort and enjoyment in being there.

Sometimes the difference between a good and a bad online experience, comes down to having the right tools.

Accessing a Zoom meeting on an iphone is possible, but it’s not the full experience one has accessing the same meeting on a laptop. An old ipad may work, but can lead to poor user experience if it’s not up to speed accessing websites and apps.

We need to keep this in mind as we design our own courses.

How can we make our material as available and accessible as possible, for all our learners, regardless of the devices they are using and their levels of access to technology?

(Sometimes the only way to find out that learners are struggling with digital access issues, is to hear it from them when something doesn’t work…. which is why it’s critical to build continual feedback mechanisms into your course).

computer repair toolbox

From our perspective as online course designers,

 the call for “online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration” speaks volumes. 

Creating effective and engaging online learning material is not just a learning design issue.

 It’s a social equality issue.

I’ll explore this topic in more depth in future blog posts. 

In the meantime, is there someone in your sphere of influence

 who would benefit from greater levels of digital inclusion? 

And if so, what can you do to reach out and help them?


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.


Come to the community meeting

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

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:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/01/upshot/election-democracy-fear-americans.html

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

Who are you here to serve?

Group of people on peak mountain climbing helping team work , travel trekking success business concept

In honor of Father's Day, which just passed, I'd like to send a note of appreciation to all members of the Learn and Get Smarter community who are Dads.

Fathers are powerful teachers, not only in their own children's lives but for the community as a whole, and I'd like to share some wisdom that I learned from my own father, that is relevant to the endeavor we are all engaged in: creating effective and engaging online courses that really teach, at a deep level.

My father had a reservoir of stories and anecdotes, many of which were passed down from HIS father in the form of wisdom tales, and I'd like to share one with you now. It goes like this (and please keep in mind that this is intended purely as a humorous teaching story, and not as a theological treatise or commentary of any kind).

Once upon a time in a faraway land, there was a man who, unlike all of you, did not lead an exemplary life. He wasn't like you at all, because he wasn't kind, he wasn't caring, and he didn't do good things to help others. So, unfortunately, after he passed away he ended up in... well, let's just put it politely by saying, he didn't get to go to a very nice place.

Instead,  he found himself in the nether regions being greeted by a guide who offered to give him a tour of the facilities.  

The man, however, was very surprised by what he saw there! He was expecting to see all kinds of punishments... but instead he saw a lush banquet table piled to the brim with delectable goodies.

How could this be? People were seated on both sides of the table, and in front of them was every kind of delicacy imaginable!

"I'm confused", the man said to his tour guide. "I thought that being down here was supposed to be a punishment?"

"Look closer," his guide admonished, and when he did, the man saw  that the people at the table had been given extra long forks... forks that were longer than their own arms.

Even though all sorts of delicious food was right in front of them, the people were not able get it into their mouths.

"Would you like to see what it's like upstairs?" his kind guide  asked. "You can't stay there, but you can get a quick glimpse of what you're missing."

The man was very curious, so he jumped at the chance to see what the reward of a virtuous life would have been like.  When they got there for the tour, though, he was even more surprised.

At first glance, it looked JUST like what he'd seen downstairs! He saw the same banquet table, piled high with the same delectable treats! And he even saw... the same long forks!

"Now wait just one minute," the man exclaimed in confusion. "How is this any different than what we just saw downstairs?"

"Look closer" his wise guide told him.  

And when the man looked closer, he realized in a flash what the difference was.

Here, the people were not trying (and failing) to feed themselves using those extra long forks.

Instead, they were using the long forks to feed each other across the table."

And that one difference in perspective, the perspective of focusing on serving others, was what made all the difference .


At the Learn and Get Smarter community meetings, and in this blog, we've considered how our own missions and businesses can contribute to overcoming inequities and creating a better world for all.

When I think of the people who make up this learning and teaching community, one thing stands out:

 This is a community focused on using online courses as a way of serving others. 

The courses we are working so hard to create, are our own "long forks". 

At last week's community meeting, we touched on the issue of leadership as an important factor that determines whether individuals, families, communities, nations, and our planet as a whole, can survive and thrive.

The pandemic throws these issues into high relief, creating a learning opportunity--a learning NECESSITY--for our planet as a whole.

When leadership at any level is focused in self-serving ways (trying to feed ITSELF with those long forks), not only is the result unsatisfying, but everyone ends up feeling terrible.

Enlightened leadership, on the other hand, is focused on SERVICE.


Service can include:

  • Promoting physical health and well-being for oneself and others
  • Strengthening positive relationships between individuals and among groups
  • Developing business practices that support the good of all
  • Creating opportunities for others to learn and grow
  • Building communities that enhance the well-being of all their members
  • Working towards local and global economies that sustainably meet everyone's needs

Online learning is at the epicenter of the shakeup that is happening in the pandemic's wake. Creating online learning that truly serves the communities we are called to work with, is not just a job, a profession, or a role.

Transformative online teaching is a calling, and if you're reading this, you have heard, and answered, that call.

In the Course Design Formula® Master Course this week, we will be delving into market research. One can think of market research as a way of learning more about the people we are here to serve, and how we can best serve them. Who are they? What are they dealing with? What help do they need that we are able to provide?

Whether you are in the course, or are able to come to the community meeting next Saturday, or not, let's all take some time this week to reflect on the people sitting across from us at the long banquet table of life. What can we provide them with, to make their lives better? How can we promote perspectives of service in our courses, our businesses, and in the world?

We'll continue to explore these ideas together, at the community meeting next Saturday. I hope you can join us and share your thoughts.

Come to the community meeting

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 Noon Eastern

many people online in a conference call

Click on the green button to register for the meeting.

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

Group of Multiethnic Diverse World People

Online education as an antidote to racism

White letters on black background that read

How does the mission of your business address racism?  

What can each of us do as online educators, to address this systemic problem?

At the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting on Saturday, June 6th, in the midst of one of the most tumultuous weeks in American history, we took a hard look at our businesses and our areas of expertise. And we found some surprising and encouraging connections.

For example, this article from the New York Times points out that the African American community is being affected more adversely than other communities, by the move to online learning, for reasons relating to computer ownership and internet access among many others. But while many people don't have computers, most do have smartphones.

What this means for online educators is that it's critical to make sure our online courses are mobile friendly and responsive, so that people accessing them from smartphones have the same opportunity to learn as those using computers.

One might not have thought of "mobile first" as a tool for fighting systemic racism.​

It may be a small tool, but it's an important one.

In fact, while large sweeping changes are certainly required, it may be small micro-shifts that hold the most power. As one of our brilliant community members, Janice Fingler, pointed out, " Microshifts are very valuable right now... on an individual scale. Making shifts in how we interact with each other becomes a way of slowly nudging the system."

What micro-shifts can you make in your business, to contribute to fighting racism?

What is YOUR business mission and your purpose for teaching online?
How do these promote justice, fairness, equality and opportunity for all?

Ben & Jerry's provides an inspiring (and tasty!) example of powerful business values that really pack a punch (as well as a pint). 

While remaining true to their core business focus on providing delicious ice cream, Ben & Jerry's also focuses on promoting social justice. As they explain on the "Values" page of their website, they begin their focus on values "inside the pint", by supporting local sustainable farming. 

I thought about this example with reference to my own business. What are MY main ingredients and how can I use them to fight racism?

My main supplier is my licensed image subscription. I work hard to ensure that the images of people on my website and in my courses and marketing materials represent and include all races, and not just in token ways.

Over time I've been able to train the search algorithm to show me more diverse groups of people and specifically, more African American people, so that my web page and course materials reflect the values I hold of being a place of welcome for all.

Chocolate ice cream in a cone bowl

Being mobile friendly? Showing diverse images? These are small things. These are micro shifts. But they lead to big things, because  online learning must be both accessible and welcoming if people of all races are to benefit from it.

But the big shift that my business makes is the shift to online learning that really delivers on the promises it makes. 

How does that fight racism?

Education has always been a tool in the fight against racism.

Lack of education, poor education, and education that does not contribute to the empowerment and well-being of all people, are the equivalent of missing, broken, or even dangerous tools. 

The Covid19 pandemic has adversely affected people of color more than others due to the effects of systemic racism. The pandemic has also shifted the focus of education online, much faster than would have happened otherwise.

It's critical that education delivered online be not only accessible and welcoming to people of all races, but also highly effective at actually teaching what is promised.

Parents and community members may need to step into the gap to ensure that students of all ages are able to learn as well online as they used to in physical classrooms. 

Helping my students and clients create effective online learning programs helps THEIR clients and students, who can be of any race. My goal is to provide opportunity for all through highly effective online learning that really WORKS.

My mission is to ensure that as you create your own online courses you have everything you need to provide powerful, effective tools that promote positive change and deliver real transformation for the people you are here to serve.

The Course Design Formula Master Course starts June 16th!

Make this YOUR summer to make a powerful difference for the people you're here to serve.


 If you're willing to devote 2 hours a week to class and 2 hours a week to creating your course, you'll be ready to teach online in a way that really makes a difference, by fall.

Write to Rebecca@learnandgetsmarter.com to reserve your spot!

The Learn and Get Smarter community is diverse demographically and geographically, while being united in shared goals of service, transformation, and making a difference through teaching online.

Online teaching can create jobs and promote entrepreneurship  for everyone. Being one's own boss is a great solution for anyone who faces a glass ceiling (or worse) in the traditional workplace. 

There are many role models of highly successful African American entrepreneurs in the online learning space, such as Xayli Barclay and Danielle Leslie.

There are many vibrant, dynamic and successful experts and entrepreneurs of all races and backgrounds, within the Learn and Get Smarter community.

(Perhaps some of them would like to step forward and showcase their work in this space in future weeks. That's an option we can discuss at the Learn and Get Smarter community meeting on Saturday, June 13th). 

I hope to see you there as we continue to explore our work and service in the context of these challenging and historic times!

Register for the meeting

Saturday, June 13th  2020

9 AM Pacific/ 12 noon Eastern

Many people portrait on a tablet screen