NOT ANOTHER PODCAST! covers the latest trends and research in online learning, educational technology, and instructional design. This is the first of a multi-part series exploring the future of learning, including current ed tech trends. I’m joined by instructional designer Frances DeMarcos.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

  5. Physics Alive Podcast – the Future of Education with Jeff Young

Connect with Frances DeMarcos:


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Podcast Transcript

I’m your host, Brittany Robinson, from

I’m an Instructional Experience Designer and eLearning Strategist working at the intersection of education and technology for corporate and higher education clients. 

We’re already on episode 3 – can you believe it?

This week, we hop in the time machine and envision the future of learning. Will we throw out the grade book? Will the traditional classroom be replaced by the metaverse and virtual reality? Will teachers be replaced by AI? What disruptive trends are happening in learning and development?

To help me unpack this topic, I’m thrilled to be joined by my friend, colleague, and special guest for this episode: Frances DeMarcos

Frances DeMarcos is a freelance instructional designer and graphic and website designer. She runs a Christian Facebook group with her wife and is the co-founder of Stewardship Press. She began her career in instructional design, graphic, and web design two years ago after working as an online educator. Just this year her publishing company–Stewardship Press–opened and published its first book in the month of August 2022. She’s a lifelong learner who is passionate about design and making education more accessible to all people. In her own words, “I am a Christian, the wife of an author, a mother to four amazing children, and an entrepreneur. When I’m not busy learning new things and making a difference in education I enjoy spending time with my family, exploring Portugal”–where Frances currently lives–“and binge-watching my favorite shows with my beautiful wife.” You can learn more about Frances and what she and her family are doing in the design world grace-filled Facebook group and in the books that Stewardship Press is publishing. Check her out on the following websites:

And, Facebook where you can find her Christian faith-based Facebook group at:

All are Loved by Grace

As well as:

Jesus Loves ALL of Us

You can find all of the links to Frances’ various websites at the bottom of this post.

Frances, I’m very excited to discuss today’s topics with you because, like me, you’re an American who has also lived abroad – you currently live in Portugal and I’ve lived in Australia and New Zealand – and we can draw from our experiences with education systems both in the U.S. and abroad to provide really unique perspective to this nuanced topic.

For the listeners who may not know, at the time of recording this podcast (September 2022) we are facing a massive teacher shortage in the United States. According to and Annenberg Institute at Brown University, most of the shortages are in the south, which include the states where you and I both have most recently lived in the U.S. There are a lot of complex reasons behind the teacher shortage, and I won’t get into most of them on this podcast, but two causes that relate to education include a decline in the number of undergraduate degrees in teacher education programs, and an insufficient number of teaching degrees in STEM fields specifically (according to’s article: “Here’s What’s Driving the Nationwide Teacher Shortage”)

This is an instructional design podcast and the teacher shortage directly impacts our field. In an article titled “School’s Out for Summer and Many teachers are calling it quits,” The Wall Street Journal notes that 300,000 K-12 teachers left the teaching field so far during the pandemic (that’s more than half a million teachers from an industry that’s already understaffed!) 


Physics Alive Podcast – the Future of Education with Jeff Young

Disrupter #1 – Metaverse, AI and Machine Learning for Education

It’s really intriguing to me that we’re seeing this rise of AI-driven or ML-driven education at the exact moment that we’re also facing a national teacher shortage. The Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education wrote an article in October of 2021 called “How AI and Machine Learning are Transforming the Education Sector” and they estimated that by 2025, AI-powered education will have grown to at least $5.8 billion. It will continue to grow from there!

Examples of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for eLearning

  • Dreambox for K-8
  • Pluralsight for corporate eLearning
  • But the most familiar example is probably the language learning app DuoLingo. A single teacher couldn’t teach 300 million learners 30+ languages, but an app can. And that’s exactly what DuoLingo does. Tech ed is scalable in ways that analog education is not.
  • More personalized = lets the students upskill at the pace and proficiency level that’s right for them.
  • use AI to custom tailor the lesson to each learner based upon previous answers. That way, they ensure you’re learning the right content at the right level and pace. 

Some of this technology is actually good news for educators. 

  • Educators currently spend more than 50% of their professional time performing non-teaching activities (according to the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education). Much of this can be automated through AI, freeing up teachers’ time.
  • Machine Learning and AI is already part of many classrooms (think: digital assistants, adaptive learning software, recommendation engines) and it’s a critical part of any STEM curriculum, according to
  • According to eLearning industry 47% of learning management tools will be enabled with AI capabilities by 2024
  • reports that 86% of educators believe that the technology should be a core part of education

Disrupter #2 – Massive Open Online Courses – MOOCs

In the Physics Alive Podcast episode, The Future of Education with Jeff Young (here), former Harvard Fellow Jeff Young (who is now a reporter focused on technology for education) discusses how MOOCs can change higher education and disrupt pedagogy 

  • Despite what some articles or Reddit threads might lead you to believe, MOOCs were not created to replace colleges, universities, or degrees 
  • In fact, most of the original MOOCs were created by esteemed professors at traditional universities
    • edX was created by Harvard and MIT
    • Coursera was created by Stanford 
    • Highly-skill-based, practical areas (computer programming, engineering) or any topic that lends itself to a self-directed learning experience can work well as a MOOC

Disrupter #3 – Digital Badges and MicroCredentials

More recent movement: digital badges and micro-credential programs, which combine the best of both worlds

Based upon MOOCs, Created by universities/professors

Self-directed, online experience

Affordable, small, quick, flexible, convenient

Provide a digital badge, which can eventually be combined into a micro-credential, which can then count towards college credits towards a degree

Really smart response from colleges and universities to embrace new EdTech and make it work for them, or even use it as a student pipeline or student pool

I actually became involved in micro-credentials and MOOCs when I lived in Australia and New Zealand. I took the University of Maryland’s edX program in instructional design, and I applied for The Mind Lab New Zealand’s Tech Futures Lab micro-credentials program, which provides stackable bite-sized learning experiences that can eventually count towards a degree. 

  • 4 compact MicroCredentials = 60 transferable credits
  • Post-Grad Certificate = 60 transferable credits
  • Capstone Project course = 60 transferable credits
  • Completing all of the above = 180 total uni credits towards Masters
  • Master’s Degree – NZQA = Master’s degree without attending uni

Cath Ellis from The Learning Pro, an instructional designer who also lives in Australia, recently did a segment exploring MicroCredentials and Digital Badges. In addition to Australia and New Zealand, I also see this happening in the tech industry in America. I have so many friends in Silicon Valley who’ve been hired into tech companies without degrees (just with certificates or micro-credentials or digital badges alone). I myself have been hired at big tech FAANG corporations without a bachelor’s degree, just based upon EdX or micro-credentials that I’ve received. And I’ve worked at large corporations that would hire anyone for any role as long as they have a bachelor’s degree (regardless of what that degree was in) and some no longer required a degree at all.

How to embrace the paradigm shift

When faculty, clients, or colleagues are resistant to change, it’s typically because they’ve spent decades mastering their craft. They want to teach their learners. And they want to be mindful of how and why we change anything related to their classes. 

  • Sometimes, there ARE good reasons to keep things the way that they are 
  • It is good to have a discussion, find out the reasons behind any pushback or hesitation, uncover any fears holding them back
  • Listen to what works or what doesn’t work for them in their context.

In ID, a best practice is to support all learners

  • Think about accommodations we make in online learning to help neurodivergent learners who might have ASD or ADD/ADHD, or epilepsy or brain trauma
  • it doesn’t hurt the neurotypical people – it ultimately helps all learners

Think about the average person’s day – we are so busy, we have so much going on, especially adult learners with full-time jobs or children or spouses who are learning on the go in between baseball tournaments and cheer competitions and parent-teacher meetings, or remote learners who are in a different time zone and are restructuring their days to make education work for them. We don’t have time for “elective” classes or long, mandatory live sessions. Office hours or optional sessions or prerecorded webinars are helpful, but not everyone finds it helpful to get an entire class together at the same time/same day for a live session. 

College needs to prepare you for success in the workplace and a 3hr lecture doesn’t do that. Hopping on Zoom or Slack or finding ways to collaborate whether remotely or face-to-face DOES help prepare you for a workforce. According to “Increasing workplace flexibility means that schools can’t become more rigid.” 

Meanwhile, Forbes says “only 11% of business leaders believe graduating students are adequately prepared for the workforce” which may be part of the reason why bootcamps and “non-traditional education platforms” are gaining popularity.

Frances, I’d like to end by quoting something you said during our last conversation because I think it’s really powerful and applicable to what we’re discussing today. 

  • “Shouldn’t the purpose of education be to include as many people as possible?”
  • Can you break that down for our listeners? What did you mean when you said that?