My Journey with COVA and CSLE

I’m not sure if I can pinpoint an exact time when I first realized that this program had a different approach than what I was used to. I think I accepted it as a different type of program at first not because of the COVA approach, but because I was used to science and health courses that are traditionally very black-and-white with the delivery of the information, and the assignments that were somewhat narrow in focus. I was wrong in that assumption. The COVA approach is just as applicable to those types of courses, maybe even more so. I just wasn’t accustomed to it yet. Dr. Thibodeaux was my first instructor, and she was amazing. I kept thinking to myself though, “what is she looking for in this assignment?”. I wanted stricter parameters and guidelines. The rubrics were very broad, and I felt like I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Here’s a link to my first e-Portfolio post in this program. I also thought we would be taught how to use the technology, but I was wrong there again. Our instructors were there to guide us, but we had the choice to decide what we wanted to learn about. It forced me to learn how to learn.

This style of learning was challenging at first because I was so used to just being given an assignment with exact directions on how to complete it. Looking back, this approach doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t allow ownership of the final product. How can someone truly be motivated to learn about a topic if they don’t have an interest in it? And if you’re following a recipe for an assignment without any creative input, the end result will be so-so. Everyone knows that the best chefs are the ones who deviate from a recipe and put their own flair into it, try new combinations, and cook things they actually would want to eat! It’s the same with learning!

Initially, I felt very overwhelmed in this program. As I completed more and more projects that were authentic to my interests, it started making sense. I learned to take the readings and videos from class and think about how to apply them to my dental hygiene courses. I also became better at researching what I needed to, and better at reflecting on my work. That has also been difficult for me: reflecting. It’s so crucial to do that though because if you don’t reflect on your work, how can you learn from mistakes and make it better the next time?

My learning philosophy was completed early in the program, and although it was pretty good, my learning philosophy has changed based on experiencing the COVA approach. At the time when I created my learning philosophy, I hadn’t connected the dots yet. I didn’t know how important it was to give students choice, ownership, voice, and authentic assignments. I didn’t yet understand that an instructor should be more of a facilitator of learning, not the “sage on the stage”. I didn’t know how to create significant learning environments. Now I understand these things, and how to create significant learning environments where students can learn with the COVA approach, in a significant learning environment and be proud of what they can accomplish.

One of the most amazing parts of this program was completing an e-Portfolio. At first, I was nervous about putting all my work out there for anyone to see. Now, I am proud of what I have achieved: it’s unique to my circumstances, it’s my own creation, and it’s a nice compilation of my work. It’s something I can continue to use to showcase my work and help and inspire others. No one else has an e-Portfolio like mine, and that is the result of the COVA approach. I think it would be a great addition to our dental hygiene program, to let students reflect on what they are learning and to build an online journey that they can show future employers!

In my classes, I have already started using the COVA approach with my students. I am giving them more choices in how to complete assignments and what they want to research. In my Oral Pathology class, the students have a project to complete, and I have changed the parameters of the assignment. Now, they get to pick a lesion or disease of their choice, and present it in either a paper, verbal presentation, or use digital media of their choice. Right now, most of them are choosing a paper because that is what they are used to. I’m planning on encouraging them more to try digital media so they can get more creative. In all my classes, we are spending more time in group discussion and reflection. I am using Fink’s 3-column table to design classes that create significant learning environments. I also have a blended learning version of my Dental Radiology course that I plan on implementing as soon as it’s approved by the Academic Dean.

I think preparing students for COVA and CSLE can be done in stages. If their first courses incorporate 50% traditional and 50 % COVA, maybe it won’t be as overwhelming. Then, we can let them see for themselves how much more they enjoy having choice, ownership, voice, and authentic assignments. I would love to have them create their own e-Portfolios throughout the program as well. I know I need to focus on one thing at a time, so for now, I want to start with blended learning as my innovation project. My next innovation project will be e-Portfolios for the students.

This has been such an exciting journey for me. I am so proud of all the work I have done; it has been work that I can implement in my own organization, and I am not afraid to work toward change. I can honestly say that the work I have done in this program has been more meaningful than the work I did at any other school. If I’ve had such a positive experience, why wouldn’t I want the same for my students?


Collaborative Agency. (2016, June 9). Keynote Speaker WILL RICHARDSON – Surprising Truth About Learning in Schools. Retrieved from

Harapnuik, D. (2015, May 8). Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE). Retrieved from


Author: CruzN

I'm a Curriculum Specialist, Dental Hygienist, and Goldendoodle breeder. I want to share my passions with others so we can collaborate. I have an A.S. and a B.S. in Dental Hygiene, and a Master's in Education with a focus on Digital Learning. I have a passion for Goldendoodles, and have taken courses in breeding and genetics through AKC. I'm also a member of GANA. I have an amazing husband and three kids: Matt, Chloe, and Silas. I also have 3 dogs and a cat. Definitely a full house! When I'm not editing curriculum or fighting plaque and gingivitis, I like to hang out with friends and family (a little BBQ here and there), garden, play with the kiddos and my dogs, travel, and remodel our house (a never-ending project!). Most of all, I love to learn and share ideas. Thanks for stopping by!

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