On 11/16: I gave a talk entitled Instructional design & design thinking: How we develop knowledge in instructional design and used some slides that students might find handy later on. I covered a definition of instructional design, what is and is not design knowledge, and how we might build design knowledge for learning contexts. This is contrasted to how we build knowledge about theories related to instructional interventions.
On 10/22: I also gave a talk at Texas A&M University about my dissertation, but focused on the research methods. The links I used are below, along with the main points of what I had to say:
- My dissertation: Higher Order Thinking in Collaborative Video Annotations: Investigating discourse modeling and the staggering of participation. (2012)
- The new media created and studied I named Collaborative Video Annotations. I provide an example here
- I focused this talk on three terms underlined here: This was a quasi-experimental content analysis of learner discourse.
- Every study has some big findings and some lesser findings. My big ones were: “Learners in the staggered conditions groups produced twice as much higher order thinking than learners in the basic condition. Learners in the modeled discourse condition produced three times as much higher order thinking. The staggering of learner participation also required no effort and thus should be a requisite design feature in online discussions.”
The darker side of academic publishing is now part of my teaching thanks to a few solicitations over the past few months from somewhat questionable publishers. These publishers wanted to add me to their reviewer list or their “Editorial Boards.” I use quotes there for a reason. I have to wonder just what these editorial boards do. I am quickly learning that a knowledge of predatory publishing is required to understand educational research in an internet-connected world. One must be able to pick out what is worthy of citation and what is not. An email this morning reminded me to write this post.
While Macrothink Inc. is to credit on this occasion, previous solicitations to the most recent one have been similar. The business model is easy enough to understand given the context. Since faculty need to publish research to make tenure, there is a demand out there for the quick publishing of less-than-polished research, for cash payments. This means the authors pay the journal and the journal publishes the article. I have to question the quality of the research if there is financial incentive to publish it. Pay-for-publishing venues immediately raise concerns when there is such a dynamic in the process. What’s the barrier to publication if there is money behind the acceptance? I don’t find acceptance rates on their homepages. Every couple of weeks I get a request to review for such a journal- sometimes it is a request to be listed as a “Board Member.” With so many requests, I have become even more skeptical. We also need to ask just what role the reviewers have in donating their time for others’ financial gain. Is it ethical to ask faculty to donate their time towards a service that is financially driven?
The dynamic inherent in pay-for academic publishing hammers home the need for information literacy– a point Howard Rheingold makes at length in his new book- Netsmart: How to thrive online, which calls again for more information literacy. His recent talk at AECT 2013 brought up some familiar themes. He calls it a crap detector, but the skill set does not propose any new questions that others such as Damico’s critical web reader have been propoising for years.
The email however provides excellent course material for an activity, because it violates basic tenants of information literacy– the context of the communication should be studied before consuming the content. Below you will find a copy of the solicitation email from Macrothink. It is curious that the email signature is from “John White,” the email address is unrelated – “jet@macrothink,” and the registered name is “Leonard Bai.” These are great indicators of the nuances of reading skills that are required to make sense of email these days, a topic I addressed in An instructional paradigm for the teaching of computer-mediated communication here. The tone of this solicitation struck me as the academic equivalent of the queen of Nigeria emailing me for a business transition and bank account information. If anyone is interested in doing a lit review on predatory publishing in Ed Tech or Inst Design, the field dearly needs it. There should be more out there about how to teach this in effective ways.
All is not lost; we have a more general resource to help us. Jeffrey Beal at UC Denver keeps a running log of predatory publishers. Macrothink, the originators of this email, are listed on Jeffrey Beal’s blacklist. I have copied the solicitation email I received yesterday into the space below. I have also removed their links (by adding XXX in the http space) because on the internet, links have meaning. I don’t want to appear as endorsing this publisher.
Dear Dr. Craig D. Howard,
I have had the opportunity to read your paper “An instructional paradigm for the teaching of computer-mediated communication” in Instructional Science and can tell from your work that you are an expert in this field. We are recruiting reviewers for the journal. If you are interested in this position of reviewing submissions, we welcome you to apply for. Please find further details at XXXmacrothink.org/recruitment/
I am John White, the editor of Journal of Education and Training (JET). Journal of Education and Training (JET) is an international, peer-reviewed online journal published by Macrothink Institute, USA. This Journal publishes research papers cover the whole range of education and training, aims to provide an international forum for the exchange of ideas, opinions, innovations and research on topics related to education and teaching. Professionals and researchers are encouraged to contribute their high quality, original works of the field.
It is a great pleasure to invite you to contribute your best knowledge and research. Your contribution will help us to establish a high standard. We use a double-blind system for peer reviews. The paper will be peer-reviewed by at least two experts. The review process may take two to three weeks. If you are interested, please find the journal’s profile at: XXXmacrothink.org and submit your manuscripts online. Or you can send your paper directly to the e-mail: XXXmacrothink.org. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the editorial assistant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would appreciate it if you could share this information with your colleagues and associates.
Journal of Education and Training
5348 Vegas Dr. #825
Phone: 1-702-953-1852 ext.534
Noam Chomsky, exposing insights admittedly not purely his own but rather present in centuries of educational theory, told the students and faculty at Arizona State University that if we knew what the outcomes were before we started teaching, it would not be education. Education, he says, is joint discovery that happens among teachers and learners. He stops short of saying what it actually is when we do know precisely what the learning objectives are- but it’s not hard to guess. Mager has made a career of instructional performance objectives. Standards and school districts spend countless hours debating performance objectives. But at what point should the learner move from instruction, to education? I think there is a midpoint, and I call that point stochastic learning objectives.
Stochastic Learning Objectives are a set of competencies or knowledge items that we hope learners with come to in the process of learning, but our instruction is not measured or focused on any single one. Rather, the instructional design is aimed at building a context where the learning of these are likely to occur. A sequence is not dictated, nor are the items contingent upon one another. This same approach is taken in a number of fields. Jackson Pollack is often credited as being a founder of stochastic art– at some point the process will come upon the aesthetically pleasing image (see public domain image to the left). A great example is the use of the word “notion” in PhD programs. In lay speech we find the term “idea” quite often, but when we switch to academic discourse, ideas seem to be replaced with notions. I would guess that notions are less rigid that ideas, but honestly, I would be hard pressed to say anything about “notion” other than academics seems to have about as many notions as everyone else has ideas. Notion is a wonderful example because while I find that graduates of PhD programs have notions, and others have ideas, I have never heard of any course or advisory bullet point directed at teaching PhD students to have notions, not ideas. In fact, it is ludicrous to think of it. Stochastic outcomes are quite common in discourse learning; at least I have had that notion for the past few years, previously I only had ideas.
But at-a-distance learners are challenged with this type of bridge between instruction and education. Clear performance objectives and lots of support via examples and supplemental material are common recommendations for online and at-a-distance designs, but instructional designs that lack an element of exploration will stop short of education, stuck in instruction. No amount of supplemental material will prepare learners for some of the learning needed for instructional to become education. The example of “notion” in PhD programs is typical for discourse learning, but other examples abound in other areas as well. For example, a recent activity I assigned asked for learners to collaborate via a wiki. A specific learner, through no fault of her own, experienced some of the less attractive attributes of wiki collaboration, namely her work being saved just moments prior to another student’s saving a different version of the wiki page- effectively deleting her entire contribution. A second experience revolved around incompatibility issues that resulted in her screen showing something completely different from the wiki saved on the server. Both of these experiences strike me as valuable lessons to learn about wikis. While both possible situations could have been included somewhere in the literature I gave learners about using wikis, no amount of preparation can lead someone to recognition these are negative attributes of wikis when one is in the driver’s seat. These must be experienced for the concept to be learned. As a teacher, while I did not intend for students to delete one another’s work, and made some comments hoping to avoid these experiences, I did want learners to learn both the positives and negatives of the wiki. I don’t know how effective my explanation of this was for the learner who experiences the anger of “saving” only to find garble return on the screen. At-a-distance learners are focused, so when the technology fails them, even if the result is solid stochastic objective learning, it’s not easy. They like their learning to be broken up and dished out one concept at a time.
The term itself comes from discussions around my dissertation with two of my four advisers. Elizabeth Boling and Ted Frick both identified that I was trying to teach stochasticly before I did. Teaching discourses, the gateway into communities of practice, is so much the air I breathe that I failed to even recognize how it is different from teaching concepts and procedures. In truth, they were the first to put the terms together, not me. Incidentally, if you would like to stop education altogether, skip instruction, and go directly to the conferring of degrees, Craig Nakashian offers degrees at a significant discount – 50$ for another PhD was a bargain I thought, until I heard the catch. He includes a gentle disclaimed that the degree in conferred without reference to education or instruction. Curiously, Nakashian’s perspective jives well with Chomsky’s, “It doesn’t matter what we cover, it matters what we discover.”
Matthew Might’s Big Picture Illustration seems apropos to me right now. Yes, the a PhD is a pimple of knowledge on the enormous buttocks of human understanding. That pat answer won’t make the inquisitive MA student very happy though. They want clear cut, one-size fits all advice. It’s a shame such does not exist.
One-size fits all advice does not exists because no one can know all too much about doctorates other than their own. I find that fielding questions about what degree is appropriate for X learner is uncomfortable. About my own PhD, I think I know a fair amount– about 6 years of full time study. Unfortunately, I don’t much else, besides second hand knowledge I gather from the Chronicle of Higher Ed. I would not be surprised to hear pretty much every other scholar say exactly the same. Actually, I would expect them to say the same. I don’t presume to know much about their doctorate, and I would expect the same courtesy- they don’t know much about mine. This puts an MA/MS student looking for guidance on doctoral study at a real loss. No one is going to step out of their shell and say they know much about the landscape of EdD’s, PhD’s, or SciD’s.
Some PhD granting institutions value their balanced approach— that’s not a descriptor I would use for R1 PhD programs. R1 PhD’s are focused on research. But of course, the MA candidate in education doesn’t actually know what real research is. R1 institutions offer other wonderful things as well: poverty after many years of study, opportunity costs when you could be in a lucrative job, access to world-class scholars who have done the same sacrifice, circles of other students who have had varied amounts of life experience and are also intellectually curious—not to mention the smugness factor: the self-important feeling of knowing that when you finish that defense, you know that you are the world’s leading authority on your thing, and you know that 4 or more of the world’s leading authorities have confirmed this (Ennis, 2011, here). Of course, there are those who get through R1 PhD’s without become such leaders, but I would say that generally, there are more scholars than non-scholars that come through the ranks of the R1’s. In the end, the R1 PhD is designed to produce a rigorous scholar, and that’s about it. Not a teacher and not a person who is beneficial to the university through their service or administrative skill; that’s stuff you’re ex[expected to learn on your own. Some R1 grads have these skills, but they sure did not acquire them in the R1 program—at least not as a consequence of it. Some R1 candidates luck out and get a very holistic adviser. I was lucky in that way. But that’s not something one can expect from an R1.
I think I have to tell students that no one will really know except you, which program is the best for what you want to do. I left an Ivy League R1 (well, decided not to re-enroll for the PhD) for a Big 10 R1 because for what I do, the Big 10 school was a better fit. Sometimes I regret that decision, but not often. No one on the outside would ever know, really, the ins and outs of that decision, nor question it, I expect. However, by making that decision I ended up in a job that I did not initially plan on being in at the start of the PhD. I thought I would be in a language education program of some kind as the tech person. Instead, I am teaching in an Instructional Design & Technology program as a language-focused person. While the difference is not enormous, it is clearly different. The important things is that after two years of PhD study, I realized this was going to happen, and I made a conscious decision to go forward. I am happy where I am now. Had I not made that decision when I realized my study was not going in the direction I had planned, I think I would be very unhappy now in this new job. Charlie Reigeluth was the person who forced me to face this situation directly; guidance that has proven enormously valuable in my life and career.
PhD study is not a continuation of MA/MS or even M. Ed study. It is an entirely different thing altogether, and what you learn in master’s coursework will probably not help you much in a PhD. (Of course there are things that on can learn in MA study that *do* help tremendously, but they are not coursework.) Transferring in credits is one of the greatly misunderstood obstacles for those making the transition from MA to PhD. I fell strongly that transferring previous grad credits is unwise in an R1 context, even if your credits are coming from another R1. (If they are coming from a non-R1, forget it.) The goal of R1 study is to become an intellectual sounding board for a faculty member; transferring credits handicaps the learner from making those relationships. Why would one sabotage one’s own degree? Intellectuual relationships require time, and usually course credits to build. What credits one collects from grad funding that are not used in building the primary relationship should be used in building the secondary relationships – those who will sit on your dissertation committee. “Credit” in the traditional sense, 3 credits per course, is actually irrelevant. (In fact, I have heard persuasive arguments for taking coursework without credit to build relationships.) In the end, credit or non-credit coursework is only valuable when it results in:
- An intellectual relationship with a faculty member
- A publication
- Ideally, both
On a PhD, your grades absolutely do not matter—you don’t go there to transfer to somewhere else, so whatever grade that passes you if fine. Instead, publications and relationships matter. Those are what you need, not A’s. Completion is based on whether or not your work is true and publishable, that’s it, nothing else. Some of the best guidance I got was to , figure out how many publications you will need to get a job prior to enrolling in a course of study. Curt Bonk at Indiana University says three publications is enough for a first job. I would say you need more and that the three pubs target is outdated. However, planning of this type of extended trajectory is not what MA’s are really used to doing. I wasn’t. When I graduated with my MA, I could plan about 5 years into my career. A PhD is planning for a much longer term and a significant chunk of one’s life. Many would say planning a lifetime in advance, though there *are* other opportunities besides going on to teach. Matthew Might (PhD from Georgia Tech, now at Utah) says it particularly well in his classic blog post “An Illustrated Guide to The PhD”. He puts it into graphic terms. I wish I could ask every MA/MS student who is silently considering doctoral study to read it. It’s also nice to think about just how many little bumps of knowledge have been created by those who have welcomed me into this new group of scholars.
The International Journal of Designs for Learning and the differences among Design Research, Design-based research, and Design Science
I was very happy to receive an invitation to join the advisory board of the International Journal of Designs for Learning (IJDL) yesterday. IJDL started in 2010 with a purpose to fill a very specific niche in scholarship in instructional design. Until that time, there was no venue exclusively set aside for design cases, rigorous analyses and reflection on specific designs for learning (Boling 2010; Smith 2010; Howard 2011). I was in the right place at the right time. I had been a volunteer assistant editor for Tech Trends’ Instructional Design Portfolio feature, a regular column allowing authors to share designs. The ID Portfolio was a fantastic first step and had expanded the field’s awareness of this type of research. However, the venue limited the length of the articles and was print media despite authors’ and reviewers’ desires for more space and oftentimes animated or interactive expressions of the designs. Design cases in IJDL are essentially unlimited in length (the guidelines say 9,000 words, but more than 11,000 is common), and the format is flexible—multimedia is the preferred choice of expression for approximately 20% of the authors who contribute to IJDL. While my dissertation was not a design case, I became very interested in this form of scholarship and subsequently wrote my own case. I also wrote an analysis of the difficulties authors find in publishing this form of design research, and a definition of this form of knowledge building. What an opportunity it was to work with Gordon Roland, Kennon Smith, and Elizabeth Boling, and all the advisory board members in those first two years the journal was up and running. Recognition for this type of research is growing, and it should be. Both practitioners and scholars of instructional design need to understand just what the goals of the different forms of research are in order to make practical decisions about where they invest their reading time. Alan Foley presents it well in his graphic that he uses to depict to graduate students the different types of research in their field that include the term “design” in their title. See the graphic below.
For quick reference, here’s the consensus that’s growing around these terms: Design research has two types—one that speaks to how we design using various traditional methods of research, and another type, the design case, which speaks to the precedent a designer, or someone close to a design, has drawn out of the process and product of a specific design (Boling 2010; Howard 2012). Design-based research (Squire & Barab 2008) speaks to theories using design as the means for making those insights. Research in Design or Formative Evaluation is a type of research where the goal is to improve a specific design. Design and Development Research aims to establish empirical grounds for design practices. And finally, Design Science, a term Kevin Williams introduced to me, is parallel to design-based research placing emphasis on abstraction and theory building via the act of design in Information Systems. Check out this link to see just how similar the two terms are defined between Information Systems research and Instructional Technology research.
This post is about Masters Programs in ITD. I am excited to face the challenges of a new program and new students, but also leery that I am walking int a context I know little about. Part of that challenge I face is that program growth at texas A&M -Texarkana is both a desire and a concern; the school aims to build and refine the program at the same time. This desire is not uncommon. In my job talks over this past year, I was asked repeatedly about program marketing. This is a real concern for any online program, especially a Master’s degree in ed tech and inst design, such as the one I am teaching in at Texas A&M University Texarkana. Students are drawn to this field because they are usually tech savvy and feel comfortable online; thus they are also comfortable moving to a more updated program. The old model of build it and they will come is to be soon outdated, as numerous authors have pointed out in the past year in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. This is a logical assertion because the speed at which a potential Masters student can enroll, un-enroll, and switch programs is mind boggling. A student from the northeast mentioned she enrolled in a program in just one day. Each program must differentiate itself and continuously remind learners why their program is a better fit for the learner than any other. How is this done? This raises a number of questions which may or may not warrant research: Is it truly the case that a learner is invested less in an online program than one who has physically moved to campus or has gone through the orientation to a physical campus? To what extent is transferring among programs common?
The task of recruiting new students shares similar concern as learners have literally dozens of program at their fingertips at all times, 73 at last count. So what are the successful strategies programs are using to retain and recruit students? Is it website design? Is it search engine ranking? A little searching will reveal there is no standard ranking available anywhere for this field (see article here with statements from Phil Harris, PhD, executive director of AECT). Curt Bonk at Indiana University maintains and extensive list of programs here and has an equally extensive blog post about the decision making process here. Curt Bonk points out that settling on a program is more than simply choosing a better program; the decision must be based on matching the program to your needs. At the same time, programs are challenged with creating designs for the learners they want to attract. Pat answers and blanket statements about program quality probably do not get us, collectively, to any better place than we are now. I would imagine a future task we would be wise to address, as a field, is which programs are focusing on teaching what. I welcome comments.
I am gearing up to start teaching again and thinking that the how of my approach is going to be just as important as what I have to say to my students. So, I am looking around to some scholars that I really admire and just keeping a note here. Kennon M. Smith has a knack for taking complex ideas and complex situations and making it all seem so simple. I just love the way she presents these complex ideas that I have to grapple with to digest. I had the opportunity to present with Kennon a few years back and noticed that even in responding to questions she could slow down, pick the right words, and delivery them slowly so people could digest what she is saying. In the clip I am linking here, Dr Smith puts instructional design in a larger perspective, situating it among fields of design. This lays the groundwork for thinking about instructional design a little differently than we normally do. I’m saving it here because it’s a great introduction to dealing with these complex ideas of what we call research in instructional design, a course I will be teaching in the fall for Masters Students at Texas A & M.
Another person who says it well, but in a totally different way, is Patrick Lowenthal, an instructional designer at Boise State. He uses media remarkably well, and in this video, he and Joni Dunlap offer eight insights they learned about teaching online through their own experiences. I have taught in face to face settings for over ten years, but only a handful of times online. As part of my preparation to teach online, I am looking for some guides—something to fall back on when I am not getting the results I want. I’ve always been a little skeptical that we can teach with a real connection to students in the online setting. (I talked about this in an Elearn article) and Dr’s Dunlap and Lowenthal seem to recognize this in their prescriptions. What I really like about these prescriptions is that they are not phrased as prescriptions. They are not coming saying “do it this way” as much as they are saying, “we’ve been doing this a while and here’s what we have learned; these ideas guide us, take them or leave them.” I interpret the central message is BE THERE; HERE’S HOW. Do you get the same message?