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Saturday, September 30, 2023

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How a New Program is Revolutionizing Performance

Two SDSU programs are merging to improve the way people learn and achieve.
By Jamie Ballard

After decades in the College of Education, the Learning Design and Technology program — previously known as the Educational Technology program —  has joined the School of Journalism and Media Studies in an effort to stay on the cutting edge with new classes, research projects, and increased job opportunities for graduates. 

“The School of Journalism and Media Studies has been a campus leader in digital and social media, and Learning Design and Technology has been a leader in how people use technology for learning and performance support. As we move forward together, the Learning Design and Technology expertise will enhance what we do in the School of Journalism and Media Studies,” said Bey-Ling Sha, interim director of Journalism and Media Studies. 

“The students studying journalism, advertising, media studies and public relations will get to learn about how to use technology in a more thoughtful and strategic way,” Sha said. “And the Learning Design and Technology students being part of our School will provide them with a better sense for the ways learning can happen in media.”

Sha said she is looking forward to the innovative ideas the two programs can share. 

These two programs will work together on a variety of projects, such as creating new undergraduate courses to benefit students and faculty across campus, including those not enrolled in either program. Additionally, faculty members will collaborate curriculum revisions, keeping courses up-to-date with technological advances and bringing in new ways of learning. 

Creating new strategies

The Journalism and Media Studies program at SDSU encompasses the fields of journalism, public relations, advertising and media studies. Learning Design and Technology is a field of study that combines learning theory, psychology, research and technology to improve performance and instructional methods.

The Learning Design and Technology program is highly regarded in San Diego and beyond. Graduates of the program work in environments as varied as the Coast Guard, Qualcomm, Rady Children’s Hospital, PayPal, Apple and many colleges and universities.  While taking courses, LDT students take on projects for partners like the San Diego Zoo, where they create programs to train docents and volunteers. Other students have used the program’s DesignLAB community partners to create a scavenger hunt app for Mission Trails Regional Park, as well as a video guide to the San Diego Children’s Museum. 

Bernie Dodge, Professor of Learning Design and Technology explains, “Our field isn’t just about technology  It’s a problem solving endeavor, defining the problem clearly, gathering data, and then marshaling all that we know about how people learn and what technologies are applicable and putting it all together to bring about an ideal solution.” 

The program explores way to maximize learning, and subsequently how to teach or train to these varied learning styles. For example, some people might learn best with a mobile application, while others need a hands-on experience form of training.

Real-life application 

Dan McDowell received his master’s degree from the Educational Technology program at SDSU, and currently works as the director of instructional technology in the Grossmont Union High School District. 

“I oversee use of technology in the classroom for instructional purposes, work on professional development, help choose what types of equipment we buy, and I help the teachers with integrating technology in their classrooms,” he said. 

Though technology is constantly changing, McDowell said that the skills he acquired in the program span those changes. “The skill set gained from the Learning Design and Technololgy program can be applied to any technology, as it continues to evolve and grow, because the underlying ideas are universal.” 

Dodge affirmed that idea. “We are increasingly geography independent. The growth in our program is really in our online classes that serve students all over the world. We are pushing the boundaries in terms of what university instruction would look like. How can we build engaging learning environments in which it doesn’t matter where you are? How can we teach at a distance while maintaining a sense of human community?” 

That idea of universalism is also important to media professionals, as the journalism and media world becomes increasingly digital. “At the end of the day, the fields in journalism and media studies are all about getting people to learn information. The more we can help our students understand the learning process and how technology can be a part of that, the more competitive our graduates can be in the job market,” Sha said.