What Hawaiian Quilting Taught Me About Distance Learning

August 20, 2011 at 8:50 pm 2 comments

A few years ago, I took a Hawaiian Quilting class from Quilt University. While I had been quilting for a few years, this was my first quilting class. It

Hawaiian Quilt Block

I learned to Hawaiian Quilt online.

was also my first experience with distance learning since Quilt University is a wholly online quilting school. Each week, I would download a detailed lesson from the instructor and complete the work at my own pace. I would post pictures and receive feedback from the instructor and my classmates. There was also a threaded discussion board for the class where we would work through problems, swap tips, and learn from each other. By the end of the course I successfully produced a Hawaiian quilt block and learned to do needle-turn appliqué. The course also introduced me to the potential that lies in distance learning.

Over the next 5 to 10 years, I think perceptions of distance learning, particularly online learning, will begin to shift and people will expect to be able to access learning at any time and in any place. Many people are being exposed to distance learning – good and bad – in their workplace as organizations more towards more online learning (Moller, et. al., 2009). People are also casually learning online as they look up how to put together a bike on YouTube©, use a QR code in the store to learn more about a new product, or tap into their social network on Facebook© or Twitter© to solve a problem. Increasingly, knowledge and information are distributed across networks instead of being concentrated in one place (Siemens, 2008). Learning is becoming less about knowing the answer, and more about knowing how to find the most current and most relevant answer when it is needed. Mobile access to information means that people are becoming less tied to computers. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 35% of American adults own smartphones and 25% of those people say they prefer to use their phones to go online instead of a computer (Smith, 2011). In 10 to 15 years, learning will be everywhere.

Of course improving the perceptions of distance learning is dependent on the availability of quality learning experiences. This does notComputer button that says Distance Learning mean putting content on YouTube and making handouts readable on a mobile phone. It means developing distance learning experiences that are built on the fundamental principles of effective education and learning theories. I returned to Quilt University for three other courses after my first experience, not because it was online but because it met my needs as a learner. The skills taught in each course were broken down into meaningful chunks which students could work through at their own pace (Simonson, et. al., 2009). Adult learning principles were used as the facilitator provided a supportive learning environment that included clear descriptions, learning objectives, resources and timelines (Simonson, et. al., 2009). Scaffolding was also used to help students move from basic to more complex skills, and feedback was provided to help learners refine their skills and stay motivated. Consistent with Hilary Perraton’s theory of distance education, learners participated in frequent, regular activities beyond reading course materials, and group discussion was effectively used to facilitate learning (Simonson, et. al., 2009). I could be a successful distance learner at Quilt University because it was structured with my needs as a learner and the learning outcomes in mind.

Moving forward, instructional designers can continue to improve the field of distance education by staying focused on the needs of the learners and grounded in theory. Instructional designers will need to continuously reexamine existing theories in light of how technology and communication evolve over time. New theories may emerge to better predict how people learn in this environment, and it will be necessary to continue to learn about developments in this area. We need to understand more about how people use emergent technologies to process, store and retrieve information (Moller, et. al., 2009). This will provide the necessary frameworks to develop effective learning strategies (Simonson & Saba). New technologies and new theories may mean new approaches to designing and facilitating instruction (Beldarrain, 2006). We must be prepared to apply new tools and techniques, and manage shifting roles and responsibilities. Instructional designers will also need to look at how learning outcomes are assessed in the online environment and how the impact of distance learning is evaluated (Moller, et., al., 2009). Again, this may require adapting existing assessment and evaluation methods, and possibly developing new ones. If distance learning does not work, it will not continue to be adopted. We need to develop and apply methods to measure learning outcomes and the transfer of new knowledge and skills to performance (Moller, et. al., 2009). As instructional designers, we can continue to improve the distance learning experience by remaining lifelong learners who continuously evaluate our work and put what we learn into practice.


Moller, L., Foshay, W., and Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional designe on the potential of the web. TechTrends, 52(3), 70 – 75.

Siemens, G. (2008). Learning and Knowing in Networks. Presented to the ITFORUM for Discussion.

Simonson, M. and Saba, F. “Theory and Distance Learning”. Walden University.

Simonson, M. Smaldino, S., Albright, M., and Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and Learning at a Distance (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Smith, A. (2011, July 11). “Smartphone Adoption and Usage.” Pew Internet and American Life Project. Retrieved August 18, 2011 from http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Smartphones.aspx.

Untitled image of distance learning button. Retrieved August 20, 2011 from http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=learning&ctt=1#ai:MP900387761|mt:2|

Currie, K. (2011). Hawaiian Quilt Block. From personal collection.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dbgregory  |  September 11, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    I am looking forward to following your blog as we learn together in our project management course. I enjoyed reading this article and found the idea of learning how to quilt online fascinating!


  • 2. Celia Wilson  |  February 29, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Hello Alexis:

    I am following your Blog per our Walden Training and Development class instructions.

    Queens of Training,


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