Looking Back & Ahead: What You Can Expect from me in 2015

Thank you again to everyone for a memorable 2014! As I reflect on the past year, I am grateful and humbled for the opportunities. It was a year for:

  • rich and rewarding global connections with leading innovators, scholars and practitioners;
  • helping build a truly world-class team to support post-traditional learners at Concordia University Online (WI and MI;
  • completing several cutting-edge consulting projects for première organizations with a global reach;
  • writing and sharing over 200 unique articles via my blog;
  • advising some of the best graduate theses and capstone projects that I’ve ever seen/read;
  • working with a team to offer the first full graduate program built around competency-based digital badges;
  • leading over 20 keynote and/or invited presentations and workshops to corporate boards, K-12 and University educators and administrators, and teams working for companies in the education sector;
  • fitting in a few peer-viewed presentations/papers at professional conferences in educational technology and distance learning;
  • finishing 8 entries for two forthcoming encyclopedias (writing about everything from virtual schooling to heutagogy, the credit hour (and Carnegie Unit) to cyberculture, digital badges to homeschooling);
  • writing a few articles for publications like Faculty Focus, Homeschooling Handbook, and Issues in Christian Education;
  • contributing a chapter to the recently published Self-determined Learning: Heutagogy in Action;
  • continuing to proudly serve on the advisory boards for one of the coolest K-12 charter schools in the country;
  • doing short-term consulting for organizations ranging from emerging education startups to a school for the gifted;
  • visiting with and/or interviewing a dozen innovators in the technology and education sectors;
  • venturing into a new and exciting strategic planning initiative for Concordia University Wisconsin & Ann Arbor;
  • scouring the books and literature on the history, sociology, philosophy, challenges and potential futures of credentials and emerging assessments;
  • doing some invigorating reading and research on self-directed learning;
  • adding 100+ informative and sometimes inspiring books to my personal library;
  • hitting the 100,000 mark for Etale blog visitors for the first time; and
  • building some great memories with my family;

There were plenty of challenges as well. In 2014, I:

  • had more than a few hiccups on the technology side with our first efforts with competency-based digital badges,
  • had the worst technology outage of the century (maybe a bit over-stated but not much) for our online students (which we took steps to make sure it will never happen again),
  •  worked through the sense of loss that came with stepping back from teaching as much as I’ve done in the past,
  • worked through humbling but challenging deliberations associated with new and exciting job offers,
  • did not yet publish a first book (let alone the multiple partial manuscripts),
  • did not find time to play music (not that I’m especially talented, but this has been a nearly lifelong place of respite and inspiration),
  • completed another year without making any progress toward a ten-year goal of learning French and Spanish,
  • did not reach a few key goals (although it was a pretty amazing year in the big picture) that I set for myself and our teams at Concordia University WI / Ann Arbor,
  • learned some unpleasant but valuable life and leadership lessons,
  • declined on a couple dozen of wonderful invitations to speak and consult at top organizations around the globe (there is only so much time in the day), and
  • experienced a few minor (in the big picture) but productivity-draining health challenges.

In the end, it was a superb year. I look back at valuable lessons learned, solid progress and team accomplishments at Concordia University, new and exciting relationships, a productive year of writing and consulting, and a year full of what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to as flow. As such, this year went by in what seemed like a couple of months. Again, I offer thanks to all who participated in my 2014 journey.

What About 2015?

We can plan, estimate, speculate and aspire; but we rarely know what is waiting for us in the future. Nonetheless, I selected my three words for 2015. As I explained in a recent post, I’ve moved away from traditional resolutions. Now I select three words that will direct, focus, inspire and inform my year. For 2015, my words are author, (epic) impact, and family.


I am starting the year with two ideas in mind for this word. First, I have a half-dozen partially completed manuscripts. I wrote 3-4 books worth of content on my blog in the last year, close to another book worth of content in white papers for clients, and yet another book worth of content in other publications. Candidly, I am embarrassed that I have not yet published my first book. That will change this year. By the end of 2015, expect to see one if not two completed manuscripts. I’ll keep the topics semi-secret for now but if you read my blog, you probably know what to expect. The second idea I have in mind for this word is the broader use of the word “author”, as in definition number three at dictionary.com: “the maker of anything; creator; originator.” Designing and creating are two great passions of mine, and I intend to nurture them in 2015. 

(Epic) Impact

I struggled for the right word, but ideas and possibilities are not enough for me in 2015. I want to see global, widespread benefit and impact from what I write, create, and lead. I added the adjective “epic” to represent the spirit of this word for me. Perhaps it is just in my DNA, but I am invigorated by working on projects that have the promise of epic proportions, and this will be in the front of my mind as I make decisions about writing, speaking, consulting, and creating. This also drives me to think about how I will gauge or measure the impact of efforts during the year. While it is not in my list of three words, part of 2015 will be heavy on analytics, statistics, informatics, and the nature of life and learning in a data-driven world.


As I’ve connected with, consulted for, interviewed, and learned from those with an entrepreneurial bent; there is a consistent tendency toward a largely unbalanced life. Family matters, and this year I intend to pay special attention to investing time, energy and effort to the gift (and responsibility) of my family, especially my wife and two children.

How Does this Work?

These are not exactly goals. They are more like themes and areas of emphasis for 2015. However, choosing a word for me means devoting time every day of the year to each of the three, spending a moment each morning thinking about them, doing something about them and reflecting on their role at the end of the day as well. However, being that they are themes and not goals, I also take joy in hacking the words, putting twists and odd or playful takes on them. By the end of the year, who knows how I’ll define author, impact and family.

What Can you Expect of me in 2015?

We can plan for the future but we never know what challenges and opportunities are ahead of us. With that caveat, here is what you can expect from me in the upcoming year.

  • You can expect me to document my thoughts and learnings through this blog. I might not write the 200+ articles of last year, but you are still likely to find 2-4 posts a week.
  • You can expect to get occasional updates on the writing projects, with either an announcement of a publication date or the actual publication announcement by the end of the year.
  • Much of my work will be expanding and deepening what I’ve been writing about over the past year, but you will see a few notable additions).
  • You can expect that I will not be speaking or consulting as much as I’ve done in past years. I will continue to do so, but I will be doing less than half the travel, speaking and consulting that I’ve done in the past couple of years so that I can focus on the writing and other creative/design projects.
  • As I respond to invitations for consulting, writing and speaking; you can expect that I will be choosing those projects that I see as having the greatest potential for “epic” impact. That doesn’t necessarily mean the largest and most influential organizations or the highest profile projects, but it does mean that I am looking for missions and ideas that have promise to do what has never been done before, to make a difference in the lives of people or groups who have largely unmet needs, or that aspire to tackle some of the greatest educational (or related) challenges (or pursue the greatest opportunities) of our age.
  • You can expect to see more announcements about a couple of mildly massive and moderately open MOOCs over the next year, starting with Adventures in Blended Learning, which begins on January 5.
  • In addition to completing at least one full book, look for one or two other interactive expressions of my work.
  • While I may not get to it this year, you can also look for one or two completely new ventures, things that I hope will reach the level of “epic impact.” These are ventures focused upon the persistent themes in my work around self-directed, human agency, and increased access and opportunity.
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About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is an author, professor of education, Vice Provost of Curriculum and Academic Innovation, podcast host, and blogger. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, The Pedagogy of Faith (editor), Adventures in Self-Directed Learning, and Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology. He is passionate about futures in education; educational innovation; and social entrepreneurship.

One Reply to “Looking Back & Ahead: What You Can Expect from me in 2015”

  1. David Elliott

    Thank you for sharing your journey of 2014. For me it is humbling and inspiring. There are only 2-3 blogs I read every week. Yours is one of them. As I look forward to starting the MOOC on Blended Learning, several of your thoughts resonated with my developing vision:
    1. Using digital technology through blended learning to enhance education middle income countries around the world. In Vietnam there is currently a huge divide between international schools and local schools. Internet access, cost effective devices and blended learning can offer changes of an “epic” proportion.
    2. Self-directed learning – Small schools, homeschools and alternative schools offer the chance to afford new levels of educational excellence. Data gathering could be an affordance of this vision and not a limitation.
    3. Personal Learning Networks – Your blogs and activities show that building a PLN is not only a passive learning journey, but an example of actively constructing the social infrastructure for change in society.

    What is the difference between a blog and a book? Several books that have moved me recently have been “Blended” by Michael Horn and Heather Staker on the practical dimensions of developing blended learning programs and Karen Armstrong’s book “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.” They follow years of research and learning and writing but aim to give structure to those seeking a comprehensive change. Books can be the foundation of a movement. Several times recently when talking with people, I’ve said, almost impulsively, “This time the change in education is real and comprehensive.” Having lived through so many changes in the last 30 years, this idea seems strange to me, yet at a feeling level, it resonates.

    Blessings to you, your colleagues and your family for 2015.
    David Elliott
    Concordia International School Hanoi

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