The first year of my doctoral study was full of readings, writings, challenges, hard work, and gain. Such diverse experiences were out of my expectation, just as pursuing a Ph.D. was out of my life plan five years ago. But, I have to say, I am more determined about the academic path I’ve chosen, more than ever. I am clearly aware that the following years would be more challenging than the past one, but I believe I will successfully “survive” to the last with my determination and diligence.
When I started my doctoral study, I just finished my first year as a research master student in the Learning, Design, and Technology (LDT) program at the University of Georgia (UGA). During my master study, I began to build my theoretical foundation in LDT, from instructional design, project assessment, the learning theory to the quantitative and qualitative research methods. I also started to accumulate some practical experience in the LDT Field. I created my first two learning modules and participated in a group to build an evaluation plan for the Athens Mentor Program.
I started my journey in this program with a broad research interest in using technology-based programs to promote learning outcomes. However, after the first year of exploration, I found that my initial research direction was unsubstantial. The main reason was that I did not have a clear research question and a starting point to begin my research. I also discovered that many studies have revealed that focusing on technological tools is not the key to improving the learning experience. Technology and media make no significant differences in most instances. After all the readings, writings, and thinking during the past year, I have enhanced my understanding of the LDT field, and I am able to narrow down my research interest and articulate my statement of the research question. As a result, I want to investigate effective implementations of technology tools to promote interactions, engagement, and motivations for different types of learners.
From Dr. Kopcha’s “Exploring LDT and the Learning Sciences” and Dr. Hill’s “Foundation of LDT”, I have learned diverse theories regarding human learning. Dr. Rieber’s “Design & Development Tools” course taught me the problem search skill and how to think with a fresh mind. The design thinking attitude will benefit me through my life. In Dr. Knapp’s “Games and Learning” course, I found that how game designers use feedback systems to attract and motivate players is very intriguing, and I think many functions can be implemented in instructional design. All the contents from different courses begin to come together in my learning system, and I have made a significant progress as a rookie researcher.
My assistantship work with Dr. Choi also provided me lots of experience in terms of teaching, creating course contents, and managing learning projects. These experience were new to me and I learned a lot from them. Next semester, I plan to select GRSC 7770 “Graduate Teaching Seminar” in order to be prepared to teach undergraduate courses. I believe teaching and directly interacting with students are essential for me to become a competent researcher/faculty member in this field.
Overall, it was an intense year for me, both academically and in life. I have gained a lot, but there are still a lot I need to learn. I need to improve my knowledge in research methods and my experience in conducting research projects. In the upcoming semesters, I will take more methodology courses to equip me as a skillful researcher. I will be more actively seeking opportunities to collaborate with other faculties and peers to conduct research. In the meantime, I will continue to work on my verbal and writing skills. I still have a long way to go in this journey, and I am looking forward to it.
As a first-year doctoral student, I am so grateful for all the support and help I have received from faculty and peers of this program. When I finished my first year’s study as a research Master student, I was struggled to schedule my courses in the following semester and prepared to apply for the Ph.D. program at the same time. Dr. Branch suggested me to start my Ph.D. program application. He provided countless guidance for me during the whole application process. Additionally, Dr. Hill, Dr. Rieber, and Dr. Stefaniak all accepted my recommendation letter requests promptly. I am deeply appreciate for all the help I received.
My Ph.D. study started at an unusual time. Many course schedules were different from a regular semester because of the Covid-19 pandemic. When I knew that there was no foundation course in the first semester, I was a little worried. However, Dr. Kopcha’s “Topical Seminar” course became a great starting point to situate me in the LDT field. I took Dr. Hill’s foundation course this semester. Although both courses are focused on the theoretical foundations of the LDT field, their contents are not duplicated. While I continue to build my understanding of the LDT field, Dr. Hill helps me prepare for conducting research. In summary, I think this program offered outstanding faculty and well-designed curricula to students. I am very satisfied with my learning experience in this program.
As an international student, it is hard to find practice opportunities outside school. I wish our program could provide more connections for us to observe or participate in the learning technology programs used by educational practitioners. I think such experience is essential for our research to have a real-world impact.
Another suggestion is that I wish our department could host more events to help new students better connect with the community. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, new students have not been able to come to school and meet the faculty and peers in person. I really enjoyed the “Coffee, Tea, & Conversation” during the summer break. Maybe we can have some regular group meetings based on research interests or commonly concerning topics. I think the events could help students connect with faculty members and other peers.