Influential IDT institutions
A few universities emerged across multiple data sources, while many more universities showed strength in one area but not others. We will first share the top publishing institutions within the 20 identified journals and the Handbook followed by the top award-receiving institutions. We then conclude this section by sharing the results from our analysis of five of these institutions.
First, we examined the data to determine the top publishing institutions in these 20 journals over the past 10 years. We acknowledge that because the data report institutional but not departmental affiliations, some institutions might have scholars from multiple departments contributing to these counts. In addition, some departments are much larger than others, as are some universities (e.g., Open University enrolls 160,000 students). Finally, while this list of 20 journals represents a larger pool than other studies have assembled, we consider it likely that scholars in all departments sometimes publish in worthwhile journals not on this list. Thus, caution should be used in interpreting the data, as many departments produce excellent scholarship and provide outstanding mentoring to students that may not have surfaced in our calculations.
Table 1 reports the top 20 institutions in the world publishing in the 20 selected journals, according to the institutional affiliation of the first author only. The table also reports the percentage of the total articles in a particular journal that were produced by the 20 institutions, demonstrating patterns in institutions favoring particular outlets. For example, Nanyang University published 57 times in Australasian Journal of Educational Technology and Computing and Education. National Taiwan and National Central (also in Taiwan) Universities frequently published in Educational Technology & Society, British Journal of Educational Technology, and Computing and Education. Open University (in the United Kingdom) favored CE, BJET, and Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. Athabasca scholars published 58 times in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Since IRRODL is owned and hosted by Athabasca, more frequent participation in this journal from Athabasca scholars is not surprising.
Publishing in major handbooks is another way to provide influence in a field. Table 2 shows the top institutions (according to the affiliation of the first author) in the last two editions of the Handbook of Educational Communications and Technology (published in 2008 and 2014). This list is markedly less international than the records of journal publication. The University of Georgia, Florida State University, Brigham Young University, Indiana University, and Open University of the Netherlands appear in both 10-year lists of journal and handbook authorship.
Top award-receiving institutions
In analyzing the data on AECT awards, we divided the results into research awards and design/practice awards (i.e., awards given explicitly for instructional design or educational technology practices). Only three institutions received more than two design/practice awards during this decade: Indiana University (9), University of Georgia (6), and Emporia State University (4). Research awards were more common. Table 3 shows the institutions receiving two or more prestigious research awards during this past decade—those awards that provide a cash payout of $500 or greater. The Universities of Georgia, Purdue, and Indiana were clearly the leaders in receiving these awards. Table 4 shows the overall institutions receiving five or more of any awards (prestigious or not, research/design/other) during this decade.
For the second phase of our study, we sought to understand what several of these institutions are teaching students in the field of IDT. To answer this question we assigned points to universities in the top 10 in journal authorship, Handbook chapters, and prestigious AECT research awards. From this pooled list, we identified the five universities with the most points (in alphabetical order): Brigham Young University, Florida State University, Indiana University, University of Georgia and Utah State University. We list them in alphabetical order to de-emphasize any prioritizing of the programs, which we did not feel was necessary for the second stage of this study.
For these five schools, we accessed program descriptions from each department website for the department at each institution most representative of the field of instructional design and technology (see Table 5). We observed a few interesting things about these programs. None of the departments offered an undergraduate degree. Most offered an online master’s degree, but all doctoral programs remained residential. Master’s degrees typically required a portfolio in lieu of a thesis, although USU offered a thesis option and BYU required either a research thesis or evaluation/design written project.
We then accessed and analyzed course descriptions for trends in how these schools train the next generation of instructional designers. We also provided each department the opportunity to verify the accuracy of the coding and data. It is important to note that it is very difficult to categorize often interwoven concepts into individual categories. We sometimes categorized a single course into two categories if it appeared to focus nearly equally on both (e.g. a course on “measurement and evaluation”). However, it is probably often true that a course touches on many of these categories, including learning theory and psychology, learner analysis, design, and development all together. In addition, it is sometimes not clear what courses are required at the PhD level because some students may enter with previous master’s degrees in the field, while those who do not may be asked by their chairs to take several master’s level courses. Oftentimes this decision is based on individual needs and chair advisement. Thus, we do not intend to report that this data is definitive for every student’s experience at these schools. For this reason, we elected not to report this data by school, but to instead combine the data to look for patterns across all the schools to indicate areas where the field as a whole may be focusing or neglecting our instruction and training of students.
Courses in the ADDIE framework
First, we coded the courses offered to students according to the basic ADDIE (analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation) framework (see Table 6). We found that these schools placed the strongest emphasis on design and development courses, and modest attention to evaluation, implementation, and analysis.
Spector (2015) argued that in his view, “there is a need for the programs… to transform their curricula.” He specified, “There is an increasing emphasis on evaluation. That emphasis could and should be reflected in educational technology programs” (p. 23). The focus we found on teaching some evaluation courses is a positive indication from these leading departments that they recognize the value of evaluation for the field. However, Spector argued that few programs actually require courses in program evaluation specifically, despite evidence that there may be more careers in evaluation than in actual design. Our data was mixed in support for this assertion, as all of the five schools required an evaluation course at the master’s level, but only two required one at the PhD level. However, Spector’s opinion that these courses typically focus on summative evaluation and not formative or program evaluation could be true even of these master’s level courses.
Analysis was not commonly taught as a separate course (except at Indiana and Florida State), but was often included in the design courses. We identified few courses explicitly designed to teach implementation, despite common recognition that strong and innovative instruction can be rejected if implementation strategies or critical understanding of implementation environments is neglected (Ely 1990; Tessmer 1990). This could be an area in which the field could improve our training of new designers.
Courses outside the ADDIE framework
In addition, we looked for patterns in the courses taught outside of the ADDIE framework across all the departments. Common courses included foundations courses that provided introductory readings to the field, advanced readings courses and seminars, psychology and human development courses, courses that taught writing skills, basic research overview courses, and courses teaching educational technologies (see Tables 6, 7). For most of the programs, it appears that methodology courses are not frequently taught by IDT faculty, but are instead offered through a collaboration with another program within the college. However, it was positive to note the wide variety of methodology courses offered to students, including a strong balance between qualitative and quantitative methods. We found at the master’s level that all schools require a foundations course. Other than this course and the ADDIE courses mentioned above, there were few common patterns in what was required at the master’s level. Instead the pattern was for wide variety between the programs.
At the PhD level, it was very difficult to discern major patterns except for this one—each program emphasized flexibility and student choice in determining their program of study. We found that most of the programs required courses that could be selected from multiple options, making discrete categorization nearly impossible. However, we did identify a few smaller patterns. Every program required a general research methodology course, and typically multiple qualitative and quantitative methods. It was common for programs to offer, and three required, courses focused explicitly on learning how to write more effectively, including literature review courses. Most programs required at least one design course at the doctoral level, but rarely development courses. No courses directly focused on implementation were observed to be required, and only one school explicitly required an evaluation course, while it was an option to fulfill a requirement at one other. It could be that these schools require students to earn a master’s degree in the discipline prior to engaging in doctoral work, and consider the master’s courses in these areas sufficient.
Perhaps surprisingly, no programs were observed to require any courses in educational technologies at either the M.S or PhD level, even though many such courses were offered as electives. In addition, for a field with a rich history in psychology/learning theory (Driscoll 2004) and instructional theory (Reigeluth and Carr-Chellman 2009), we were surprised that so few courses are required in this area. As far as we could determine, only two programs required courses in psychology, human development, or learning theory at the doctoral level, and only two required courses in instructional methods/pedagogy.