EdTech 523: What is Innovation?

What personalized learning means to you, characteristics of innovation that you have identified and the challenges associated with thinking outside the box.


In my opinion, personalized learning is the ability for students to learn material at their own pace. Every day I work with students taking online math courses. The requirements nationally are for every student to complete Algebra 2 in order to attend (or even apply in many cases) college. But not every student can work at the same pace. The beauty of online learning, at least the platforms I chose to work with, is flexibility! If a student is struggling with Unit 1, functions, in a traditional classroom they can ask for extra help or hire a tutor but ready or not, exam 1 will be on Friday. According to Johnson and Aragon “… all learners differ in their ability to perform various education-based and real-world learning tasks. Consequently, the general abilities or preferences of the learner will affect his or her ability to achieve different learning outcomes” (p. 35). In my experience, real personalized learning allows students to learn as they are ready. Not every student is able to master functions in 2 weeks but given enough time and repetition the majority of students can master almost any topic.

Innovation takes a lot of hard work. Johnson and Aragon also state that “… educational innovations such as active learning, collaborative learning, project-based teaching, and situation learning have changed the nature of face-to-face instruction; online courses tend to build on very traditional views of learning” (p. 33).   Real innovation happens when traditional models of due dates are lifted. For years I have heard traditional classroom teachers tell me that the model of flexibility will never work because students will procrastinate then try to cram in material at the last second. Yes, some students do that, but in my last 13 years of supporting students in online learning I have found quite the opposite. The flexible deadlines allow students to review material until they are confident. They take the unit 1 exam when they are ready and the majority of the time they perform exceptional well.

While exploring the characteristics of innovation I realized that for true innovation to happen it must be effective and successful. I really liked the article by Terry Heick on the characteristics of a highly effective learning environment. The characteristics of innovation in online learning must address the needs for students and teachers to be able to effectively communicate with each other.

There are multiple challenges to “thinking outside the box.” The biggest challenge is failure. If a student takes a core class online, such as algebra 1, through a new and creative method that does not work the repercussions can be huge. For the student they would be a year behind in math but this could also affect their ability to be adequately prepared for science courses as well. It is imperative that instructors navigate the challenges that arise and try to assure student success.  Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. state, “It takes a unique individual with a unique set of talents to be successful in the traditional classroom; the same is true for the online classroom” (pp 7-8). It is also imperative that students take an active and responsible role in their own education.


Garrison, D. R. (1985). Three generations of technological innovations in distance education. Distance Education, 6(2), 235-241. Retrieved January 17, 2015 from http://www.tandfonline.com.libproxy.boisestate.edu/doi/abs/10.1080/0158791850060208?journalCode=cdie20#.VLrfGixSUlA

Heick, T. (2014, June 16). 10 Characteristics Of A Highly Effective Learning Environment. Retrieved January 17, 2015, from http://www.teachthought.com/learning/10-characteristics-of-a-highly-effective-learning-environment/

Johnson, S. D., & Aragon, S. R. (2003). An instructional strategy framework for online learning environments. New directions for adult and continuing education, 2003(100), 31-43. Retrieved January 17, 2015, from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.libproxy.boisestate.edu/doi/10.1002/ace.117/abstract

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.




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