Zen and the Art of Quality Learning, Part 3


Phil Denman, OLC Quality Scorecard Suite Coordinator

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In Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog post, I discussed the meaning of Quality in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in relation to teaching and learning, touched on the importance of instilling Care into teaching, and detailed the concept of “gumption” and “gumption traps” within the context of learning. 

In this post, I will provide specific guidance on avoiding these traps, briefly look at the OLC Quality Scorecard suite as a tool to help overcome these challenges, and look to the future of scorecards at OLC and offer ways you can help.

Guidance for Educators: Navigating Gumption Traps with Care

Educators and instructional designers must be aware of gumption traps and become equipped to navigate them effectively. To infuse Care into the online learning environment and elevate the Quality of educational experiences, consider the following guidance:

Developing Gumption: Recognize the importance of gumption as the driving force behind Quality. Foster a genuine passion for the craft of course and program design, and stay committed to creating learning experiences that prioritize the well-being and growth of students.

Resilience in the Face of Setbacks: Embrace setbacks as opportunities for growth. Technological challenges and evolving trends are inevitable, but resilient educators view these as chances to refine and enhance their courses. Continuous professional development is the key to overcoming external setbacks.

Addressing Internal Hang-ups: Confront truth traps by challenging assumptions and embracing innovative pedagogies. Mitigate muscle traps with ergonomic practices and mindful self-care. Tackle the most dangerous value trap – value rigidity – by slowing down, cultivating a genuine interest in the workings of your course or program, and remaining open to reevaluation.

OLC Quality Scorecards and Review: Tools for Careful Evaluation

Recognizing that the essence of Quality learning may be neither subjective nor objective, it is still important for educators and administrators to consider tangible ways to evaluate online and blended learning experiences for the benefit of all learners. 

Quality Scorecards have emerged as an invaluable tool for educators and administrators, providing a structured approach to evaluate elements like course design, student engagement, instructor presence, and responsiveness to diverse learning needs, allowing for a comprehensive assessment of a program or course.

The Future of Scorecards at OLC

I couldn’t be happier to continue my journey promoting quality initiatives with OLC. I’m truly fortunate to have the opportunity to impact so many educators and students’ lives through the institutions and organizations we serve. 

If you would like to join OLC on this journey, there are several ways you can become involved. 

Scorecard Workshop: I have recently worked with the OLC Center for Professional Learning to develop a new workshop on the topic of Applying a Quality Rubric to Courses and Programs. This offering is designed for digital learning professionals seeking in-depth knowledge and practical skills to effectively evaluate the quality of courses and programs using scorecards and evaluation instruments. 

Become an OLC Reviewer: OLC is expanding its network of peer reviewers, including instructional designers, faculty members, and administrators who have experience in designing and evaluating online and blended courses and programs. Peer reviewers serve the educational community by participating in peer reviews and focus groups that assist institutions engaging in the continuous improvement process.

Multilingual Scorecards: OLC has offered a Spanish-language Scorecard for Blended Learning Programs for several years, but one of my first actions in this new role was to translate our remaining Scorecards into Spanish, which are all now available on the OLC website. OLC is also currently looking for bilingual individuals interested in assisting us with translating our suite of Scorecards into a language that would benefit your colleagues and constituents. 

For more information on any of these initiatives, please contact QSS@onlinelearning-c.org.


At this point in my journey to define and seek Quality in learning experiences, I find solace in my understanding that Care is truly the lynchpin connecting these aspirations. 

Just as the narrator in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” sought productive pedagogy through Care, educators and instructional designers must infuse their learning programs and courses with a genuine commitment to the well-being and growth of their students while also being keenly aware of their gumption levels and actively strive to navigate the treacherous terrain of gumption traps. By acknowledging the significance of gumption, educators empower themselves to overcome setbacks and internal hurdles, ensuring the sustained infusion of Care into their work. 

In a profession where the well-being and growth of students hinge on the dedication of educators, cultivating and preserving gumption becomes not only a personal responsibility but a vital commitment to the transformative power of Quality in education. Like Pirsig, I have hope for the future because, as he states, “my personal feeling is that this is how any further improvement of the world will be done: by individuals making Quality decisions and that’s all.”

As we envision the future of education, let us cultivate an environment where Care and Quality coexist, paving the way for the development of meaningful learning experiences created by educators making Quality decisions that will resonate with learners for generations to come.

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