Reflecting on the COVA approach and CSLE

You may already be wondering, “What is COVA?” and “What is CSLE?” At face value, COVA stands for: choice, ownership, and voice through authentic assignments. CSLE simply stands for: creating significant learning environments. However, there is no simple definition of what COVA and CSLE look like in a real learning environment. The COVA approach is made up of many factors that essentially lets the learner “take the wheel” in their own unique and personal learning journey. The learner is provided with the destination but can follow any route they chose to get there. CSLE focuses on fostering peer-to-peer learning, collaboration, and “learning by doing”. Throughout the Digital Leading and Learning (DLL) program I was given the opportunity to experience COVA and significant learning environments firsthand and realize the impact they had on my learning process. I knew from the very start that this would be a totally new learning experience for me and I was very unsure about how it would all turn out.cova_19842065_b634e9db1b45fe359c2fb0e651385fb36f52467a

It was clear right away with some of my initial assignments in the program that we genuinely had choice, ownership, and a voice through authentic assignments. In the Concepts and Application of Educational Technology courses, I was able to choose from a variety of digital tools for my first projects. I got to decide how the information was presented and what ideas and thoughts needed to be communicated through those presentations. In addition, I was able to choose the platform for my ePortfolio (WordPress) and how it was designed and organized. Our instructors expressed many times throughout the program that we “owned” our blog/ePortfolio, it was our space. All of the assignments and discussions were authentic in that they were designed for my organization and unique to my specific situation. Peer collaboration and my reflections helped me begin to find my voice so that I could share what I was learning with others and conversely learn from them.

This learning approach was brand new to me, therefore initially I was nervous having so much freedom creating my projects. At times it was difficult to figure out what my instructors were looking for in each assignment and if I was doing it right. As I progressed through the program I gradually became more comfortable with taking ownership and responsibility because it made the projects more meaningful and relevant. Taking ownership and responsibility for my learning allowed me to “connect the dots” and have a deeper understanding of what I was learning so that I could apply those concepts in my organization. Having the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues and peers in the course, as well as getting feedback, made the adjustment to this learning style easier. Looking back now, taking ownership wasn’t an easy task but it’s what really makes this program so special.

The most challenging part of this program for me was finding my voice in order to bring about change for my organization. Reflection and writing is not one of my strengths and it is something I have always struggled with. Starting this blog was a first for me but it’s become my favorite part of the DLL program, as well as helped me create a substantial ePortfolio that I am very proud of. The fact that I was creating these projects and blog posts for a real audience, my organization, kept me focused and invested in my work. Over the course of the program I feel like I’ve become a better writer and communicator and have more confidence to share what I’ve learned with others. At first, I was unsure if I would be able to lead change with my voice. I thought “who would listen to me?” However, I soon realized that I can lead change, even if it is small changes here or there, from the bottom up! This program provided me with the tools I needed to become a change agent in my organization and showed me how it’s possible to lead change. Tools such as the Influencer Strategy, 4DX, and Friedman’s book,  A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix prepared me for the challenges ahead. This program has motivated and encouraged me to share my voice to make a difference in my organization.

In order to bring about change, I needed to take a look at the research and current technology trends. Before formulating the plan, I did plenty of research and wrote two literature reviews in order to share the facts I learned: Information Technology Trends in Higher Education: A Literature Review and A Mobile Learning Literature Review. The research helped me make informed decisions on what disruptive innovation should look like on MY campus. Then I developed an authentic innovation plan for Lamar. My innovation plan is a starting point that I hope will begin to bring about much needed changes for our faculty and students. Needless to say, the plan will need to be revised as things change along the way but I believe we are off to a good start!

Almost a year ago, I realized my learning philosophy and my beliefs about how we learn in general. Today they are not only the same but my experiences in the DLL program have solidified my perspective on learning and my learning philosophy. My philosophy aligns very closely with the COVA approach and CSLE in that I believe learning should be collaborative, self-directed and include opportunities to “learn by doing”. I believe that because this program was designed using this learning approach, I was able to learn and accomplish so much during the last year and a half. My hope is to model the COVA approach for faculty in my organization in order to create significant learning environments much like the one I have flourished in. The plan is to transform our faculty professional development (PD) by using a blended approach, which will consist of face-to-face sessions and an online course. The workshops that we host on campus will include opportunities for faculty to choose activities that are meaningful and authentic to their classroom situation. In addition, I hope to incorporate the Fundamentals of Mobile Learning online course, that I developed earlier in the program, as a framework for collaboration, reflection and connectivity among the participants.

I am certain there will be many more challenges to overcome when using a new learning approach, such as COVA and CSLE, as well as moving forward with my innovation plan. It may be difficult getting faculty and colleagues on board with redesigned PD and a mobile learning initiative. Other challenges will include time, opportunity and consent. I think the key will be to model the COVA approach and create significant learning environments for our faculty so that they can see how it’s done, why it’s done, and it’s effect on the learning process. I think once they give it a try they will realize the benefits and significance of COVA and CSLE and how it can create a deeper and more meaningful learning experience.


Harapnuik, D. (2015, May 8). Creating significant learning environments (CSLE). Retrieved from

COVA & CSLE Resources

Harapnuik, D. (2017, Jan 18). Digital learning & leading principles [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Harapnuik, D. (2016, Sep 29). COVA model [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Harapnuik, D. (2010, May 10). CSLE [Web log comment]. Retrieved from


Hello! I am currently an eLearning Support Specialist at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. I just completed the Digital Learning and Leading program at Lamar to earn my M. Ed. degree. Thank you for visiting my site!

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One comment on “Reflecting on the COVA approach and CSLE
  1. […] nervous is quite an understatement. It took some time to adjust to the new learning approach, COVA, that was modeled in this program. In the first couple of courses, EDLD 5302 & 5303, I began […]


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My professional and educational journey to digital leadership while seeking to inspire others to find happiness in their futures

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