Cartoon of a computer with a webcam icon on it. Wording "Webcam On or Off? The potential impact on learning.

Webcam On or Off? The potential impact on learning.


Navigating the workplace can be daunting for anyone but it is often heightened for People of Color (POC), LGBTQIA+, and neurodivergent folks.  For some, the remote work option created an even playing field and allowed many who were discriminated against in the past a place in the workforce.  However, there are MANY considerations when preparing for inclusive virtual training to ensure the safety, equity, respect, and inclusion of those involved.  

Why should we care? As instructional designers, our job is to ensure knowledge acquisition across all learners, not specific groups.  Creating environments with only one population in mind can lead to reduced retention, impact the safety of a classroom, and above all is harmful to certain individuals.  Rothwell states, “adults must feel psychologically safe to learn” (Rothwell, pg. 1716) and as learning designers, we have to ensure not only is the content accessible and inclusive but the environmental conditions are as well.  

Computer screen with a zoom call, six faces and all their cameras are turned on.One of these environmental conditions is webcam use in the workplace which has been a hot discussion since COVID began, and corporate policies seem to be based heavily on company superiors’ beliefs or own experience.  Relying on personal experience when setting policies is dangerous, we all have biases and need to make sure you are researching, involving marginalized voices, and being considerate.  After reading a fantastic article “Do you show your face in Zoom meetings? Your gender may play a role,” I was able to see a clear correlation between allowing the option for webcams and better learner retention due largely to the impact it could have on cognitive load.  This lead me down a rabbit hole of research 

Feeling Safe to Learn

The [article by Zlati Meyer] is really interesting and I encourage you to check it out, it describes the link between gender identity, race, and webcam use.  Essentially men are more likely to show their faces on webcams during meetings than their female-presenting or nonbinary peers and people of color (POC). Additionally, when discussing the numbers between genders, women were found to prepare for using a webcam or chose not to use a webcam solely based on their beliefs about their appearance.   Culturally this makes sense as we place the burden of ‘beauty’ on female-presenting AND people of color disproportionately often with very strict white hetero normative “beauty.” 

One aspect that the article didn’t mention was the impact on neurodivergent learners, when researching for this blog I came across a great [youtube video by Challenge Solutions] in the video the consultant describes how to set up for a virtual meeting as a blind person.  She gives tips and tricks, but what struck me was the prep needed to prepare for a virtual meeting as a blind person.  She recommends having a seeing person set up the computer first to make sure the webcam has the correct frame. Another thing I didn’t think about was the fact that she needed a seeing person to tell her what would be in the background. This never crossed my mind, but you can see the undue burden that requiring cameras for a neurodivergent person could cause. 

Can you imagine having to do this in an impromptu virtual meeting?  What about rushing to put on makeup, a binder, hiding children, a messy house, or “nice” clothes?  When we account for the number of steps and thoughts that it takes to just prepare for a meeting, can you imagine being ready to take in learning after that? 

How Does This Affect Learning?

This idea of cognitive load is based on the idea that working memory has a limited capacity and that the brain can only do, remember and problem solve so much before its retention is affected. The prep required for someone to be on camera, or the effects of being on camera in class are called extraneous load.  Extraneous cognitive load is simply unnecessary information, activities (even sound), or stimuli that will affect a learner’s ability to attend and retain.  With the implication that turning on a webcam takes up many different problem-solving processes, a need for remembering, and emotional labor it is easy to make the connection between cognitive load theory and its effects on a learner.  

I feel like I have said several keywords over and over; autonomy (choice), respect, safe, and inclusive.  These are all based on adult learning theory and what researchers have found adult learners need in order to be open or comfortable enough to learn. Malcom Knowles created a set of [Adult Learning Characteristics] which is a generalized list of adult learner traits.  These traits are very important when we are talking about creating learning environments.  

According to Knowles, adults crave autonomy or the ability to make their own decisions and have options in their learning.  We need to treat adults as the wealth of knowledge they are, including their experiences and knowledge is crucial.  Emotional barriers happen, such as anxiety about a subject, environment, or life event.  Adult learners have potential physical and mental limitations, our learning should not be geared towards neurotypicals nor rooted in white culture.  Adults also crave community, and building a safe and inclusive learning community is important. And last but not least, adults have outside responsibilities that can impact their ability to learn, being mindful of this and potentially reduce the extraneous load for those who may be having a difficult time outside of training.

How Can We Reduce Cognitive Load?

First, give the learner the option to turn their webcam on for as long and in what capacity they wish. We are working with adults, who are able to manage their time, work independently and pay attention.  By providing the message of respect; “I know you will be paying attention whether or not your webcam is on” you are building a foundation of trust AND respect. 

Additionally ensure that you have communicated training dates, times, and expectations clearly with enough notice to allow folks who need extra time to prepare to do so. Go the extra mile and provide an agenda ahead of time, this will allow those with children at home the ability to plan ahead, build in breaks for those who may have to take a break or medication, cognitive load theory states 7 minutes is the maximum length of attention by an adult learner. By providing time to prepare before the meeting, you are starting with respect, which is essential for building a community.   

Next, use breakout rooms to facilitate safe, small group learning, employing learner choice on group roles, webcam use, and giving a structured activity.  This will not only break up learning, and provide connection but the autonomy and community adults crave. We all should be checking for understanding throughout our courses but providing multiple modalities for response including; chat, observation, speech, etc. will provide a more inclusive and less stressful learning environment.  One of my favorite methods for this is Waterfall which asks a question to the class and asks everyone to input their answer in the chatbox but not send it until you say “okay” this reduces the stress of having to answer and with all of the answers flying at once its a lot more comfortable for learners. 

Ensure you have captioning active and are checking chat often for those participants who may not be comfortable speaking.  Additionally, ensure your mouth is visible for participants who may need to lip-read. Sending out the PowerPoint or links to activities ahead of time allowing learners to prepare is also a great idea. Providing wait time and utilizing an order for responses will be more inclusive for those with cognitive disabilities. 


Building a safe community for learning starts with very simple acts of respect, learner choice, and forethought.  As architects of learning, designing for who is coming to your building is just as important as the visual design or cost of your building. And as always, check your own biases, our learners are diverse and our methods must be anti-racist, trauma-informed, and inclusive in order to produce an even learning field for all of our learners.

Do you require webcams to be turned on? Were you surprised by the data in the article? Let me know below!


Mavilidi, M. F., & Zhong, L. (2019). Exploring the Development and Research Focus of Cognitive Load Theory, as Described by Its Founders: Interviewing John Sweller, Fred Paas, and Jeroen van Merriënboer. Educational Psychology Review, 31(2), 499–508.

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

Meyer, Z. (2020, June 23). Do you show your face in Zoom meetings? Your gender may play a role. Fast Company.

Rothwell, W. J. (2020). Adult learning basics. (2nd ed.). ATD. ISBN: 978-1950496143

About Video Conferencing – OneHE. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2022, from

Business, S. M. K., CNN. (n.d.). Stop making employees turn on webcams during meetings. CNN. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from

Challenge Solutions. (2021, March 29). Zoom Etiquette for the blind and Visually Impaired.

Characteristics of Adult Learners. (2019, September 28). The ELearning Coach.

Cheetham, J., & Thomson, S. (n.d.). Webinars: Webcams off or on? 2.

Chin, M. (2021, January 28). University will stop using controversial remote-testing software following student outcry. The Verge.

Gilmour, A. (2021). Let’s talk about webcams, and a pedagogy of kindness. Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, 14(2), Article 2.

Neurodivergence and online learning through the pandemic: What is neurodiversity? (Post 1 of 3). (2022, March 4). #ALTC Blog.

Student Video Equity Assessment – Ethical EdTech @DigCiz. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2022, from

Webcam Anxiety from a Neurodiversity perspective during Covid-19. (2020, April 7). Exceptional Individuals.

Why forcing people to turn on their Zoom cameras isn’t inclusive. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2022, from

Coffee cup with a heart inside, title of blog is Emotional Intellegience & Performance Improvement

Emotional Intelligence & Performance Improvement

A co-worker shared her recently acquired knowledge of Fika, a Swedish tradition.  Fika means “to hava coffee” and is a coffee break, commonly occurring at 10 am and 3 pm. Instantly I asked why those seemingly random times, she responded that Sweden reviewed accidents in the workplace and found that they often happened at 10 am and 3 pm.  In order to combat these accidents, Sweden implemented Fika, to not only give workers a break but encourage emotional intelligence.  

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Goleman’s theory of Emotional Intelligence is based on the idea that EQ affects personal outcomes more than IQ (Merriam & Bierema, 2013)  Bierema describes it by saying, “The premise of emotional intelligence is that IQ comprises only a small portion of intelligence and that the ability to identify and manage one’s emotions, and anticipate those of others, is a key interpersonal competency” (2008).  On the recommendation of our book I actually went to Berkeley’s Emotional Intelligence Quiz and scored above average.  What was interesting was that the test was solely on human facial expressions, I got some wrong but I ended up with 14/20.

So what do Goleman, facial expressions, and performance improvement have in common?  A lot actually, imagine a software engineer who has amazing coding abilities but struggles to work with others.  The engineer can do the job, and has the skills but if they don’t feel comfortable starting conversations or connecting with others, what happens when they get stuck on a project? Will they be able to innovate alone? 

For those who work in emotion labor positions, it is even more crucial to teach and encourage emotional intelligence. This is everything from police who must stay calm in stressful situations, or to those who must appear “authentically” happy as a customer service workers. Essentially this pretending interferes with attention and adds to cognitive load which is a “key factor contributing to job exhaustion and job satisfaction.”    


So how do learning designers include emotional intelligence in their courses?  First, check your own biases, look inward, and assess your feelings before you begin a course. Next, include a lot of space for retrospectives and feedback for both learner and instructor. Third, create a safe learning space for discourse and encourage discussion around feelings and emotions (Bierma, 2008).  And last, we often look at learner motivations with a narrow lens, I encourage you to take into consideration all feelings that a learner could have, including; fear of failure, trauma surrounding being wrong, confusion or worry, imposter syndrome to just name a few. Use empathy with your learners, encourage empathy among your learners and create a safe space for all learners to not only acquire knowledge but keep it!


Bierema, L. L. (2008). Adult learning in the workplace: Emotion work or emotion learning? New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, 2008(120), 55–64.

Emotional Intelligence Quiz. (n.d.). Greater Good. Retrieved March 30, 2022, from​

Fika—A Very Swedish Tradition—How to Fika Like a Swede. (2016, June 16). Hej Sweden.

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

Brain with arrows coming out of it with the words Experiential Learning Theory

Experiential Learning Theory

My blog has always been one of reflection. I often advocate for teachers and the hard work they put in. I try to highlight the similarities between teaching and instructional design, but this week I had a breakthrough. In classrooms, we are told what strategies and theories to use, these are often provided by the “latest” research, curriculum or a book your principal happened to read.  As teachers, we go all in, we read the books, research the theory, and put it into practice. Hattie’s work on visual learning was HUGE in my school district before I left, we were receiving training, books, and more but it was only ONE theory.    

     As I have been reflecting on what we have learned so far, I started to realize my own biases. Before today I would tell you that there are just some good teaching practices and some bad.  Being neurodivergent I often think in black and white, but learning is not black and white, corporate performance issues are not black and white!  So where am I going with this? Each learning theory I have discussed is built to tackle different learning topics or audiences, it’s not a one size fits all nor should it lend to a specific preference.  When designing learning experiences you must take a step back from your preferences and look at what the goal of the course is and find the appropriate learning theory to support this. 

It may not seem like a big deal to some, but this adds an additional step to my design process and something I have been missing for a while.  To transition, last week we discussed transformative learning theory which promotes transformative change, and community building and provides a fantastic framework for tackling hard to discuss topics.  This week we will be reviewing experiential learning, at its core is learner experience, whether that is leveraging past experiences or working through current experiences with practice and mentoring.  Experiential learning is great for job processes that may need modeling and cognitive guidance, I will expand on the strategies below. (Merriam & Bierema, 2013 pg 108)

Reflective Practice

Personally, I love the science behind learning. It’s fascinating to me how the brain works and the impact simple things like reflection can have.  Reflective practice is a strategy that can be used before, during, and after a learning experience.  This practice is something I would encourage no matter what learning theory you are using and it is crucial as IDs to include this in our professional practice. 

Recently I finished a large learning project, it spanned several months and it was a highly anticipated course.  It was also one of my first at my current employer, coming from teaching where you are often “thinking on your feet” I employ what our texts call ‘reflection-in-action’ a lot. Meaning I think about what I am doing, reflect on what I could do differently/better, and then institute those changes in live time. However, without communicating those to my team it may not seem like I learned anything from the deployment. In comes post-mortem reviews! 

The post-mortem review allows me an avenue to not only reflect and adjust but communicate to my team what was my success and areas of improvement.  Smartsheet listed some of the benefits of a post-mortem as; streamlining workflows, fostering team collaboration, improving efficiency, celebrating success, and learning from mistakes.  I have sent out surveys to all of the stakeholders and will be reviewing my process from their eyes. I am also preparing a document that will discuss my reflections and suggestions for future projects.  

Situated Cognition

Situated cognition is the idea that where we learn is significant, Merriam & Bierema mention research by Jean Lave who asked study participants to figure out what items in a store were “best buys” some participants were allowed into the store and able to see the aisles and communicate with the community within the store. (2013)  Others were asked to figure out based on paper and pencil via looking at sales, costs, etc. Lave found that those who were inside the store obtained the correct answer with 98% while paper and pencil participants scored 59% (p. 118).   This idea of situated cognition makes clear the impact of “context and social interaction” on learning versus thinking all learning happens within the brain. 

Cognitive apprenticeship is a great example of this, not only is the mentor demonstrating what they are doing but also walking their apprentice through what is happening cognitively.  This is used in tandem with faded support, meaning that as the apprentice gains ability and knowledge, the master teacher fades out their support. One very useful tool when designing this would be to look at the prompt hierarchy which was designed for students with autism but very helpful when thinking about the support we provide to learners.  Prompt hierarchy is a spectrum of prompts starting at restrictive or less independent up to more independent. It starts with full physical (guiding the person, potentially hand over hand) then partial physical, maybe the learner just needs their hand placed on the right lever, next is modeling, then verbal prompts such as “Don’t forget” or “Look at the symbol on the screen”, next is gestural which would be pointing to the correct lever and last would be visual, we see this every time we go to the bathroom at a restaurant and there is a visual prompt for workers to wash their hands.      

Community of Practice

Community of practice is a strategy that is used to bring together learners of varied experiences for the purpose of growing on a specific topic.  This is one I use on a daily basis, I am a part of Reddit and many discord channels which have brought together a lot of different people together for one common purpose, to learn more about video games, share and answer questions about video games, and other topics.  Not only do those new to the topic learn, but those who are teaching others are also growing in proficiency.

At my organization, we use Slack, which is a secure web-based messaging platform, it allows employees to create their own channels, join channels of interest and interact with their department.  Working at such a large organization there is a channel for literally any topic, profession, community, and more. These channels are hosted by departments to support others using tools or on specific topics like security.  It brings together employees from all different walks of life, and experiences and promotes learning.  It has been one of my favorite features and has been crucial in my growth within my current company. 


Whenever I was asked what was the most important trait for a teacher to possess, I almost always included reflection. It was a crucial part of my practice then and it is still just as important within the instructional design.  My hope is that sharing my own revelation on learning theories will proactively help a transitioning teacher, research learning theories, and gather more tools for that toolbox! 

Have you ever heard of a prompt hierarchy? Do you think it would be useful within the adult learning space? Let me know by leaving a comment below!


Guide to Post-Mortem in Business | Smartsheet. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2022, from

Learning by teaching others is extremely effective – a new study tested a key reason why. (2018, May 4). Research Digest.

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. for Implementation: Least-to-Most Prompts. (n.d.). Autism Spectrum Disorders, 13. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from

Road Map for Growth

Creating Corporate Roadmaps for Change Using Transformative Learning Theory

This past year I went through a major transformation, I went from a High School Special Education teacher to a corporate Instructional Designer.  The journey I took is much like a road trip, I spent time planning, I stopped and admired the view and the experience changed me forever.  In transformative learning theory, we (instructional designers) create the road trip in order for learners to grow and change.  

Transformative learning uses community to build support around a learner, this connection and orientation of others into the learners’ world are essential. Transformative Learning creates a safe learning space for discourse and disagreement.  This discourse is one of the anchors of Transformative Learning, the ability to respectfully discuss hot button issues while also coming up with reasoning, using metacognition to think about their beliefs/learning, and reorientation based on the discourse.  While often used in corporate settings to transform learners on sensitive topics such as racism or sexism, research backs up the idea that transformative learning theory strategies are just good learning.  

Designing a Roadmap

When thinking of designing a curriculum for your workforce, I am brought back to the concept of a road trip.  While there are different ways to make it across America, each route depends on several things; road conditions, mode of transportation, season, and destination.   We evaluate where we are and keep our ultimate destination in mind, designing our road trip around the many variables that come with any project;  our intended audience, tools, objectives, and ultimate learning goal.  Below I have included a quick video on a mock proposal I created using transformative learning.

Now that we have an idea of where we are, where we want to go, and what mode of transportation (transformative learning) we have to determine the strategies that will benefit our learners most and are specific to the performance goal.  Start by researching, find a scholarly article that is peer-reviewed and measured, specify conditions such as farming or automation, corporate or education, and get reading!  Erika Boney wrote an excellent article that gives some great applications of transformational Learning in the corporate setting.  

The Strategies

Merriam & Bierema described the work of transformational learning as “…accessing the unconscious world and incorporating it into our conscious being, our ego.” (2013) Transformational learning is about the process the learner endures and how they change in the end. This “soul work” is tied to premise reflection which is a deep thought process, Mezirow describes it as “why we perceive, think, feel, or act as we do” (1991).  

With this in mind, some of my favorite strategies are personalized learning paths, scenario-based eLearning, and metacognition.  Personalized learning paths are beneficial on many levels.  For the learner, it gives them the autonomy to decide how, when and what they will learn.  Learning paths also cut down on work for administration as the learner is driving their knowledge, and becoming more independent.  Serving small pieces of learning within a larger pathway provides better learning retention and can make learning more understandable as well (Gautam, 2021).  

Scenario-based elearning has deep ties in academic literature as well, it is a great strategy to use and works well with transformational learning.  Scenario-based elearning is all about immersive decision-making with the goal of having the learner reflect on the processes, know where to find their resources, and learn by doing. cites several perks to using scenario-based elearning including; increased learner engagement and knowledge retention, confidence building, and a safe place to fail and learn (Hout, 2020).  

Last but not least is metacognition, which I love implementing in corporate learning environments.  Metacognition is about the journey of problem-solving, it happens before instruction such as having a learner make a goal or decide on a pathway.  During instruction such as having learners reflect and rate their performance on a task.  And after instruction in a retrospective of what went well, what didn’t, and what to change for next time. Hattie once said;  “We need to develop an awareness of what we are doing, where we are going, and how are we going there; we need to know what to do when we do not know what to do. Such self-regulation or meta-cognitive skills are one of the ultimate goals of all learning” (Hattie, 2012).

The Conclusion

It may sound cliche, but whoever said: “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” was right!  By building road trips for our learners, we are using evidence-based practices that yield high engagement and knowledge retention.  Research additional strategies that fit your company’s needs, there is so much literature written on transformative learning you shouldn’t have a problem finding something.  Good luck and happy road tripping!

Do you use transformational learning theory? Have you ever heard of the 16 Habits of Mind? Let me know in the comments below!


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