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Publishing as a graduate student & tips for submitting a manuscript for submission

I have been asked about publishing as a graduate student, and have decided to share that opinion here with some pointers. I chose the blog as opposed to elsewhere because the blog is the venue for these perspectives—not a university website, not in-class materials. These views are not the views of Texas A&M University, nor do they really belong in any of the classes I teach. Publishing as a grad student is not part of my course; rather, it is part of how I see the experience of being a graduate student, what it should be, and what it is.

Some manuscripts require more work than others. Some of mine required my mentors to work pretty hard,

Some manuscripts require more work than others. Some of mine required my mentors to work pretty hard

Occasionally a paper written for a course actually has enough merit to be the raw construct of a paper worthy to be read by others. For advanced graduate students, writing for school is writing for publication, if you’re doing it correctly. At the undergraduate level, and in some parts of early graduate school, the act of writing is one of honing your thinking, sharpening the analytical knife, and learning to put knowledge to use. But in the later stages of graduate school, the healthy target is publication because the publication process is where coddling ends, and the writer faces the real challenge of expert review.

A student asked me, “But aren’t our professors experts?”  It is very likely your professor is an expert in the topic of the course, but your professor reads your paper with a completely different purpose than she reads articles for review. She reads your paper to see if you understand the concepts and procedures she taught you. She reads submitted manuscripts to see if the knowledge presented is a contribution to HER knowledge, not yours. This difference is subtle, but important. There is much to be learned in the process of publication, and the experience of the publication process while in graduate school is essential to understanding what it means to be a scholar. While I am not advocating that all final papers be submitted to journals, I am advocating that submission to publication is the ideal target for young authors, especially when those young authors are students who are interested in going into higher education or research.

I need to preface my tips for preparing a manuscript with a few warnings. Publication circles are small. Submitting a term paper for publication prematurely can get one’s name associated with low quality scholarship.  While publication is a worthy target, it’s also a target that should be approached with caution, preparation, and rigor. This blog post was inspired by student questions about my position on writing for publication at the graduate level, not because I advocate sending final papers to journals. That would be irresponsible, and counter-productive. I didn’t like getting papers written for class as an editor, and I got a few. Here are some things to keep in mind should you endeavor to publish from what you wrote in a grad school course.

1. Select the publication venue PRIOR to writing your paper. Imagining the readership of the magazine or journal while writing tends to force some students to re-think before they write. If you know real people will read it, you’re less likely to write far-flung ideas and more likely to explain your position in simple language. For some, imagining real people can also have the adverse effect of writers’ block. Let’s assume for now that that will not happen. Selecting the venue first can be influential in helping you accomplish tasks during the process as well. Searching that journal for articles on your topic and then responding to those articles directly in your paper can bring a stuck writer to some valuable insights early in the process of writing. This also provides direction for style and gives the work real meaning beyond the credits awarded for the course. It also leads into my next point.

2. Make sure that you have cited the journal to which you are submitting. This is valuable for 2 reasons. First, if you can’t cite the journal, your article probably does not belong in that journal. A great example is a paper I helped someone prepare for a games and simulations journal. The literature they were using was not from the journal to which they were submitting, even though the title of the paper and the title of the journal seemed to match. Under closer inspection, it was a poor fit. Preparation of that article for that journal would have been waste of time. The second reason is that each journal is a discussion in progress and the reviewers need to know that you’re up on the discussion taking place in that journal. Not all the reviewers are fully up-to-date on ALL topics being addressed in a journal. A paper that cites NO work in that journal is a good indication that the article was NOT written for that journal and would not be very interesting, or helpful, for those who read that journal for that topic. In fact, if it is truly outdated and uninformed, it will drive some readers away. Therefore, I know as an editor I was always suspicious of using up reviewers’ time with articles that were outdated or uninformed. Making sure there are a few substantive citations from that journal to situate the article within the larger discussion gives the reviewers and editor a means of deciding whether or not what you have submitted will be interesting for readers.

3. Anonymize. An “A” on your paper does not mean your paper is ready for submission. There are a number of tasks that need to be accomplished before the manuscript is ready to send off to submission. An obvious but sometimes forgotten task is to clean up and anonimyze the manuscript for review. If you have had to deal with peer or teacher comments, address as many of them as is applicable to improving the manuscript, BUT GET RID OF THE COMMENTS. Accept all changes, save as a clean draft, and remove your personal electronic stamp by (…if using MS Word) going to Microsoft emblem in the upper left->prepare-> then properties. Also make sure there are no remaining tracked-changes lurking at the end. Your goal is to make it to review; only a clean, anonimyzed manuscript will be sent out.

4. Save your acknowledgement for later. If you’ve had previous support by the teacher or classmates to help develop the manuscript, it’s professional and courteous to include an acknowledgement of that support, but NOT at the submission stage. Remove the acknowledgement if you’ve already placed it in. That acknowledgment goes back in after the first review. Also, you need to remove any language from the acknowledgement that could be interpreted as promotional, subjective, or identifies this article as coursework. Once the course is over, it is no longer coursework. The revised manuscript after review will likely be quite different from the manuscript you submitted. Remove any sentences in the manuscript that state or imply the manuscript was part of a course. If you have never written an acknowledgment, keep it modest and simple. Here’s an example I gave to one of my students. It’s not particularly elegant, but it’s a functional acknowledgement for someone who had not written one before.
I acknowledge the guidance of Craig D. Howard PhD, Assistant Professor of Inst. Technology at Texas A&M – Texarkana, the helpful reviews of XXX,YYY, ZZZ, and the anonymous reviewers at [publication name here]. I acknowledge the US Army Tuition Assistance Program for supporting the development of this article while I was deployed in Afghanistan. 

This particular student was in the active military at the time when he wrote this article and his study was supported by a US Army program. I cautioned him to check if there were any grant numbers or specific language that should be included, but honestly, I know very little about these legalities and a comment from a reader on this point would be very helpful.

5. Read the writers guidelines. These are also known as  “Instructions for Authors” at some publications. Check the publication’s website. Here’s an example of some writers guidelines at Tech Trends.

Writers guidelines invariably have little nuances that can slow down your article’s review. Get as many of these minor changes BEFORE submission. Sometimes an article gets to the top of the to-review list, a guidelines problem is uncovered (like a bio left in the article or style issue) and the article goes back to you for repair, only to go to the bottom of the list when re-submitted. Just off the top of my head, watch out for short abstract word limits and the publication specific spellings such as “m-learning” or a preferred way to write electronic mail (Email, email, or e-mail.)  Don’t be afraid to condense some of your text. Unlike some papers for school, longer papers have a more treacherous road to publication than shorter ones. (This is more of an issue in print journals than electronic ones.) Exceeding the word count on the writers guidelines can easily get you a rejection prior to review.

Along these same lines, if you have included terms specific to your institution, remove them. I have returned at least a dozen manuscripts to authors prior to review asking that the authors replace course numbers with course names. “In our course, w200, there were 4 instructors and 120 students over five sections.” No one wants to guess what w200 is, though we can if we must.

6. Craft your bio. The editor may need it quickly and having it handy and in the online system, or ready to be emailed saves time. Keep your bio under 100 words. I have seen 200-400 word bios that get an article pushed to a later issue based on space limitations. Remember, a shorter bio is more publisher-friendly than a longer one.  Your bio is always written in the 3rd person, and usually ignores your undergraduate education. I recommended to the students above to write his as follows:

Joseph Dotson is a Masters student at Texas A&M University – Texarkana and a [rank here]  in the US Army.

While this bio is short, it is important. Be careful about the name you use. You want the formal version UNLESS you’re going to stick with the informal version forever. I had to switch to “Craig D. Howard” once I learned there was a Craig Howard in New Jersey writing Jewish nostalgia. I am neither Jewish nor very nostalgic. This is one case where your middle initial is helpful for disambiguation. I know not everyone has a middle initial, but if you do, use it.

7. Register with the journal as an author, upload and SUBMIT.  Of course, be sure to read the submission steps. They usually tell you when you’ll be hearing back about the journal’s receipt of your manuscript.  Sometimes the confirmation is sent automatically via a bot, sometimes it’s an actual email from the editor. Can take anywhere from a couple hours to 2 weeks.  The time of the year plays a role as well. Both Tech Trends and IJDL were inundated with manuscripts during the first week of June, and received NOTHING in October and November. Be aware that holidays can slow the process down at every stage. My quickest confirmation was also a rejection. It took  Abbie Brown 3.5 minutes  to reject my article while he was the editor at Tech Trends. I considered that a success to because I learned something right away– if it can’t be anonimyzed, it goes elsewhere. Remember, just getting into the process is an accomplishment. If you are a student, and your article is rejected, CONGRATULATIONS! You just got more learning out of the course that you took than a large percentage of the students who paid the same tuition that you did.

Recent Talks at Indiana and Texas A&M Universities

On 12/2: I will be doing a talk in Susan Herring‘s CMC class on Dec 2. I am excited to be going back to talk to an IU informatics class. You can download the slides here.

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.”

Information literacy and the predatory publisher

Addendum: Pay-for-publication and self-publishing, in my field, are the same thing. It is a dangerous proposition for pre-tenure faculty to take part in these venues as neither count for tenure, and neither should count for tenure. It’s been just over a year since I posted about this and new predatory publishers are still soliciting me and trying to get me to pay them for publishing my papers. Some have even promised 2 weeks from submission to publication for a fee. New solicitations include:

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.

an adorable bunny

Taken from the 2010 film entitled “Predators.” This image describes a visual conception of some less than ethical research publishing practices

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

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: and submit your manuscripts online. Or you can send your paper directly to the e-mail: If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the editorial assistant at

We would appreciate it if you could share this information with your colleagues and associates.

Thank you.

Best regards,

John White
Journal of Education and Training
5348 Vegas Dr. #825
Las Vegas
Nevada 89108
United States
Phone: 1-702-953-1852 ext.534
Fax: 1-702-420-2900

Update March 2014, they keep coming:

Dear Dr. Craig D. Howard,

We are reaching you because of your paper entitled, ‘Designerly Talk in Non-Pedagogical Social Spaces’, which was published in Journal of Learning Design, 2014 Vol. 7 No. 1, and were very impressed at its scope and contents. We know you are an expert in your research area.

Our journals named ‘World Journal of Education’ and ‘Journal of Curriculum and Teaching’, peer-review, published by Sciedu Press. They are devoted to publishing research papers in various aspects, fields and scope of the education, teaching, learning and other relevant subjects.

It is our great honor to invite you to submit your new manuscripts to us as one of the ‘Authors’ in our next publication.

For manuscripts submission, please visit: or and e-mail the manuscripts to or

If you are interested to be a member of our editorial board, please find the application form and details at: and send the application form to: or

We would appreciate if you could share this information with your colleagues and associates who might be interested in joining us as a ‘Reviewer’ or submit their manuscripts to us as ‘Authors’.

Thank you and we hope to hear from you and/or your colleagues and associates soon.


Ms. Sara M. Lee

Editorial Assistant

Sciedu Press


Mailing Add: 1120 Finch Avenue West, Suite 701-309, Toronto, ON., M3J 3H7, Canada

Tel: 1-416-479-0028 ext. 218

Fax: 1-416-642-8548



here’s the fine print:

Author Fees

This journal charges the following author fees.

Article Publication Fee – World Journal of Education: 300.00 (USD)
If the paper is accepted for publication, you will be asked to pay an Article Publication Fee. Please find payment information at:

Stochastic Learning Objectives, Stochastic Outcomes, and Online Learners

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.

Jackson Pollock's

Stochastic Art by Jackson Pollock, education often follows this theory of “create the environment and the result will come.”

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.”

What to tell students wondering about PhD’s, and other terminal degrees


An Illustrated Guide to the PhD by Matthew Might (U . of Utah)

Matthew Might’s Big Picture Illustration seems apropos to me right now. Yes, 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 advice 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 know much else, besides second-hand knowledge I gather from the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and blogs I read to learn about how I will move forward in my own career.  I would not be surprised to hear pretty much every other scholar say they know little about a PhD or EdD in Instructional Technology. Actually, I would expect them to say that. 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. So all i can really talk about R1 PhD’s. I know, this is just a fraction of the landscape of higher ed past the masters level. Please take what I have to say with that perspective in mind.

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 expected to learn on your own. Some R1 grads have these skills, but they sure did not acquire them in the R1 program—or 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 and what I wanted to 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 person. While the difference is not enormous, it is clearly different.  The important thing 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/MS to PhD. I feel strongly that transferring previous grad credits is unwise in an R1 context if you are coming from another institution, even if your credits are coming from another R1. (If they are coming from a non-R1, forget it. Transferring credits into a program of study robs a student of the chances to make the relationships they need to finish the degree.) The goal of the R1 study years is to become an intellectual sounding board for faculty members; transferring credits handicaps the learner from making those relationships. Why would one sabotage one’s own degree? Intellectual 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 and mentor you with the inevitable bumps in the relationship with the primary adviser.  “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:

  1. An intellectual relationship with a faculty member
  2. A publication
  3. Ideally, both

On a PhD, your grades absolutely do not matter—you don’t go there to transfer to somewhere else, so whatever passing grade you get is 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, or other experiences (teaching etc..), I need to get the job I want prior to enrolling in a course of study, and then focus my time towards that end. Curt Bonk at Indiana University says three publications is enough for a first tenure track job. I would say one needs a little more, but not a lot more. The 3 pubs rule is a little outdated because every year the competition gets harder.

Planning of this type of extended trajectory is not what MA’s are really used to doing. I sure 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. Then there is the money.

PhD debt is real and serious. So are the debts that come along with other graduate degrees, but PhD’s are extraordinarily long in some cases. While I tell PhD student to think long and hard about financials, I don’t know if they really do. I did, but I entered doctoral study at age 36, fully funded, and out of debt with no children. This an important consideration. Read more about the financial debacle that is now doctoral study here, here, and here.

Still, contributing to the world’s knowledge is a beautiful thing. 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.

Alan Foley's Graphic

Graciously lifted from

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.

MA programs in Ed Tech / Inst Design – Program Identity

text logoThis 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.