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My Ruminations on COVA + CSLE

What is COVA + CSLE?

Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, and Cummings (2018) advise educators to “create a significant learning environment (CSLE) in which you give your learners choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning opportunities (COVA) that equips them to learn how to learn” (p.9). This means offering your students multiple ways in which they can demonstrate their learning in your classroom breaking the mold of a teacher-centered classroom and shifts it to a learner-centered classroom where students have more control over how they learn and the way they present their newly acquired knowledge.

Throughout my coursework with Lamar University in the Digital Learning and Leading (DLL) program, all classes were permeated with the COVA + CSLE approach to learning. This environment is amazingly freeing to a labeled “Gifted” learner which thinks outside of the box, loves to create and visualize her learning in a myriad of ways. My greatest fear as a mathematically minded person was all the papers I just knew I would be required to write as I pursued my Master's. I was pleasantly surprised in the first class when we learned about COVA and that we would have complete control over the form of our assignments. If I wanted to create a video to demonstrate my learning, I could and so I did! When we were informed we were to write for a publication in EDLD 5317, I was worried! I did not want to write for a journal besides, who would want to publish me? Then I remembered Dr. Harapnuik’s comment that producing a podcast was a form of publication, so I could develop a podcast for my publication assignment! It was during my fourth class when it completely sunk in that I could take any and every assignment I was given, except for the literature reviews, tweak it so it would fit my personality. If it wasn't so time-consuming to put on makeup for the camera and editing the video, even this could be a video post! Instead, I'll probably record it as an audio file and add it to my podcast.

It was interesting to see my classmates' reactions to the COVA + CSLE approach as we progressed through our courses, many students are so used to looking for the checkboxes to check when completing the assignments that we would ask many questions of the professors and still we would search the internet looking for examples so we could model our product after theirs. After all, if someone else was successful doing it that way, why not use the same model? I remember asking for an example of an “A” assignment. By the third class, I stopped looking for examples. I wanted my work to be unique so I was constantly looking for ways to mix it up and push myself outside of my comfort zone since that's where learning truly happens and I learned may new tech tools as I traveled through my edventures.

Discussion posts are the bane of most college students' existence. It seemed as if it was always a post-by-Thursday-reply-to-two-people-by-Sunday box to check. Yet, I was able to put my personal touch on the discussion posts as well! I started like everyone else, typing out my discussion post and making sure everything looked just right before I clicked submit. I hated it! By the third or fourth class, I decided to start recording my discussion posts as a video. We were supposed to be discussing these topics, right? I wanted to talk about them and have a true back and forth discussion but seemed as if no one wanted to reply to my posts. I know I was asking questions for people to answer; maybe they just wanted to read a post and comment “great job”, “awesome idea”, or “that sounds great”. It was disheartening to have so few replies to my posts, but I made sure to respond to everyone who responded to me. I would have loved to use Flipgrid for the discussion post so that we could record videos responding to each other's post and carry on authentic discussions.

My favorite assignment throughout this whole program was for EDLD 5304 Leading Organization Change, my 4DX Plan. We were to present the plan for initiating our Innovation project and my professor, Dr. Harapnuik, did not think a video would work for this assignment, I was up to the challenge! I created an infographic of the steps of the plan, then I recorded myself walking through the plan and showing the different parts of the infographic as I addressed them. My work showed so much of my personal touch that I will never forget it nor his praise of how I was able to surprise him and take it outside of the box, truly showing what I learned. That experience lit a fire in me towards my Innovation Project that I shifted to incorporating COVA+CSLE into personalized learning for the technology training I facilitate with my teachers.

My use COVA + CSLE within Professional Learning Opportunities

My learning philosophy is “To Do is to Learn” and COVA + CSLE fits within my learning philosophy perfectly. The DLL program and experience mirrors my learning philosophy. When giving learners choice, ownership, and voice in authentic learning opportunities, they internalize their learning which merges with my core belief that real-life experiences are key to learning. Throughout this program, we were encouraged to accept and respond to the feedback which matches another of my core beliefs that you don't have to know everything, you just need to know where to look to find the answers. Collaboration with my classmates helped with my classwork and supported my third core belief that anyone can learn with proper support.

Now that I have an official term for my learning philosophy (COVA + CSLE), I have research to back up the way I will teach others. I have already changed the way I deliver professional learning, no longer will I have them check off a set of tasks to accomplish when learning new technology; I will ensure that their final product reflects not only their learning but will be relevant and authentic tasks that they can use in their classroom. The only limitation I'll have to set is the tool that they use since it needs to be the one I'm trying to get them to use. For example, if I'm modeling Edpuzzle, then their final task will be to modify a video by incorporating questions for an upcoming assignment that they would share with their students. Not just a generic here's a video now let's incorporate some questions sort of task.

The best way to show the effectiveness of COVA + CSLE is to model it for my learners (teachers). From modeling, I will graduate to promoting and presenting COVA + CSLE at my district’s annual Know Your Impact conference and other educational conferences I attend. The greatest challenge I think I will have to face is developing the presentations on COVA+CSLE, it's hard to present COVA on its own without incorporating other learning with it. Like my classmates and I discovered, you can read about it and answer questions, but until you truly live it and experienced it you will never fully understand it.

Thankfully the Digital Learning and Leading program through Lamar University completely envelops you in the COVA+CSLE approach to learning. You live it, breathe it, experience it, and internalized it throughout the program. Recreating that experience for my learner's in a short amount of time will be difficult, therefore my Innovation project is to personalize learning when practicing new technology and applications. By offering my teachers choice, ownership, and voice in authentic learning opportunities, I will create a significant learning environment where educators are willing and maybe even eager to attend professional learning.

See my next post for more details about my Innovation project and how COVA + CSLE is modeled within the project.


Harapnuik, D., Thibideaux, T., & Cummings, C. (2018). COVA: Choice, ownership and voice through authentic learning. Retrieved from It's About Learning: Creating Significant Learning Environments:


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