Educational technology program top-ranked for productivity

May 26, 2010

With only a few graduate faculty members, the educational technology program in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College may be small but it is one of the most productive in the world. In the recently released 2010 edition of the Educational Media and Technology Yearbook, Arizona State University's educational technology graduate program is ranked second worldwide as measured by number of publications in the field’s top two journals.

The program was established at ASU in the late 1960s. It focuses on the design, development and evaluation of instructional systems and on educational technology applications to support learning. The program offers a master's of education degree and a doctorate of philosophy in educational technology, as well as two certificate programs. Download Full Image

ASU’s educational technology program has long been considered one of the top programs in the country, but this year’s Educational Media and Technology Yearbook for the first time ranked programs using objective data. The yearbook editors counted the number of publications in the field’s top two journals, Educational Technology Research and Development and the Journal of the Learning Sciences, in 2007 and 2008. ASU ranked second behind only Nanyang Technological University in Singapore for most publications.

The yearbook also ranked programs by the amount of grant and contract monies they had received in the 2008-09 academic year. ASU tied with six other schools for sixth place on that list, which includes programs in information and library science as well as learning, design and technology.

Also included in the yearbook are lists of the top schools by number of faculty and number of graduates. ASU was not ranked on those lists because of the small size of the program, which makes the high productivity ranking even more of an achievement.

“Our competitors – all of the other big universities that have educational technology programs – have nine to 12 faculty while we have less than half of that,” said James Klein, a professor in the program.

In a journal article published last year that counted total number of publications in Educational Technology Research and Development alone, ASU’s educational technology program garnered a No. 1 ranking. That study covered the 20-year period from 1998 to 2008.

As further evidence of ASU’s dominance in the field, a ranking of the top authors in ETR&D over the same 20-year period shows that four of the five top-ranked authors are affiliated with ASU. Klein is ranked third while emeritus professor Howard Sullivan is ranked second. The first- and fifth-ranked authors, as well as one of three authors who tied for sixth place, are graduates of ASU’s educational technology program.

“We established a strong research culture in our PhD program in educational technology at ASU," said Sullivan, who helped create the program after joining the ASU faculty in 1964, and retiring in 2007. "We emphasize experimental research and co-publication by doctoral students and faculty, most likely to a greater extent than any other educational technology program in the U.S.”

The alumni who ranked among the most-productive scholars all studied with Sullivan and credit him for much of their success.

“ASU is a really well-known program for mentoring doctoral students as researchers and preparing them to impact their field,” said the No. 1 ranked author, Michael Hannafin, a named eminent scholar at the University of Georgia. “In my own case, I worked with Howard Sullivan. He was one of those guys who really managed to groom a lot of people and really help a lot of people understand what it took to do the kind of work that he did.”

Robert Reiser, the fifth-ranked author in ETR&D over the past 20 years, also studied with Sullivan at ASU. He later mentored Klein when Klein was a student at Florida State University, where Reiser is a distinguished teaching professor.

“I was really fortunate that I went to Arizona State and that I studied with people like Howard,” said Reiser. “He really worked with me and with all the students to hone our research skills and particularly our ability to write.

“The tradition that Howard started not only continues with the students who have gone elsewhere but continues when new faculty came under his wing as colleagues there. Jim Klein is the perfect example of that. I’m not at all surprised by ASU’s placement in the rankings because the people there just are very productive.”

Written by Barby Grant

Education professor wins prestigious book award

May 26, 2010

When James Klein decided 25 years ago to make a career switch from being an elementary school teacher to being a university professor, he didn’t realize he would be expected to do research and publish in addition to teach.

Now, Klein is one of the leading scholars in his field. Download Full Image

A professor of educational technology in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Klein has won a prestigious award for a book he co-wrote with Rita Richey of Wayne State University. The book, “Design and Development Research,” received the James W. Brown Publication Award from the Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

Publications are selected for the award based on their significance to and potential impact on the field of instructional technology. Overall professional and technical quality also are important factors.

Klein first decided to study instructional design and technology when it was described to him as a cross between education, psychology and communication. He had an interest in all three disciplines, so he knew it would be a good fit.

“What we’re really about in this field is looking at human learning and performance to discover how we can best enhance people’s ability to be motivated to learn, and then to apply that to their job or their life,” Klein said. “We use a lot of processes and tools to help them do those things.”

Klein has focused his research in three primary areas. The first, active learning strategies, involves using techniques such as collaboration, problem-based learning and gaming to get students actively involved in their own learning. The second, performance improvement, involves applying concepts about learning to help people perform better at their jobs.The third is design and development research. That involves conducting research studies on learning and performance to determine what actually works.

Before publishing his award-winning book on the subject, Klein noted that there was a dearth of research in the field. While serving as development editor for the journal Educational Technology Research and Development, he saw that few authors were submitting empirical data to support their theories and ideas.

“At the time, there were a lot of people talking about how to design good online learning, for example,” said Klein. “But very few people were collecting any data to show that it was actually impacting learning and motivation.”

Klein began advocating for more empirical research. That led to his co-authoring a chapter in the "Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology," considered the bible for his field. That chapter was so well-received that Klein and his co-author, Rita Richey of Wayne State University, were persuaded to write an entire book on the subject.

“We would go to conferences and meetings, and people would say, ‘You really ought to write a book on this stuff. One chapter isn’t enough; we want more,” Klein said. “So partly out of a labor of love, we said we were going to write this book.”

Published in 2007, the book was named outstanding book in the field of instructional design in 2008 by the design and development division of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. In 2009, it won the AECT’s James W. Brown Award as outstanding publication in the entire field of educational technology.

“The book serves as an excellent means of helping researchers identify important research issues, and it provides researchers with the skills necessary to conduct that research,” said Robert Reiser, distinguished teaching professor and Robert M. Morgan Professor of Instructional Systems at Florida State University, who recommended the book for the award.

Klein has already noticed that, since the book’s publication, more doctoral dissertations are incorporating design and development research. That gives him hope that more research-based journal articles will follow.

“The goal is to get people to actually do this kind of research,” he said. “Our field is an empirical field. If you believe that, you collect data to see whether or not the techniques and tools you are using are having an impact.”

Klein’s own impact as a scholar extends well beyond one book. In an article published last fall, he was cited as the third most-productive author in the field’s leading journal during its first 20 years. Klein was first, second or third author on a total of 17 articles in ETR&D from 1988 to 2008.

His influence clearly has far exceeded his original aim. Back when Klein first set out to earn his doctorate, after teaching in the K-12 system, he had a single focus in mind. He wanted to teach teachers.

“When I was teaching elementary school, I got the sense that everybody was always telling teachers what to do,” recalls Klein. “Teachers weren’t being treated as professionals. So I decided that I’d go back, get my doctorate and be one of those people who would help teachers know the best things to do in their classrooms.

“While I still do that,” he said, “I do much more than that as a faculty member. Luckily, I enjoy all of it.”

Written by Barby Grant