I joined the Learning Technologies Design Research (LTDR) program at GMU to enhance my academic and scholarly skills in order to help in improving education in developing countries, particularly in Saudi Arabia. My choice of LTDR as the PhD concentration and Instructional System Design as the specialization ties to my plan to work in Saudi Arabia after graduating and contribute to the development of its educational system. In order to achieve this goal, I find myself at this stage of my academic program focusing on research methodologies and methods and instructional system design skills.
At the beginning of my academic journey, I had difficulties in choosing between various types of educational research courses. However, Mason’s PhD program provided me the opportunity to learn a variety of research methods approaches including qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, and design-based research. While enrolled in EDRS 812 and EDRS 822, qualitative research methods courses, I was introduced to qualitative inquiry and learned how to select among the many options available within the broad range of qualitative methods such as ground theory and field research. In addition, theoretical perspectives and qualitative research applications have been introduced during the study of EDRS 822. I also had the opportunity to design a qualitative study using observational methods. I conducted in-depth open-ended interviews and analyzed qualitative data to generate findings. The aim of this qualitative study was to understand the perspectives of English as Second Language (ESL) students on using educational Mobile apps to improve their English language skills at an English language institute in the United States. The use of one-on-one interviews captured students’ point of view and beliefs about the use of Mobile apps for improving their English language capacity. Findings showed that ESL students are satisfied with using mobile application for improving their English language capacity. They also indicated that in spite of the challenges ESL students faced when using mobile apps in learning, mobile apps could provide unique educational advantages to ESL students.
Following this further, quantitative methods course EDRS 811 provided me with knowledge of essential steps in developing a research proposal based on quantitative research methods. In this class, I had the opportunity to organize and describe data, design proper samples and experiments for research projects, and applied statistical inferences for drawing conclusion from produced data.
Overall, the studied research methods courses have shown me that research approaches are procedures and plans for research that span the steps form broad assumptions to detailed methods for collecting data, analyzing data, and drawing a conclusion (Creswell, 2013). I believe that choosing a research methods approach for my future research involves many decisions based on the nature of the research problem, my own research experience and skills, and the participants who will be involved in the study. As such, learning and practicing various research methods approaches is essential for me as a researcher and for my academic work at GMU and in Saudi Arabia.
In addition to understanding the different research methods approaches, I am becoming aware of the rapid development taking place in the field of instructional system design. Courses in my specialization (ISD) have given me the opportunity to become familiar with epistemological underpinnings of instructional design and the consequences of the instruction process. I have developed a keen awareness of the theoretical basis, tools, and resources underlying the instructional design process. According to Mergel (1998), instructional designers must understand the strengths and weakness of instructional system paradigms and learning theories in order to produce appropriate instructional design strategies. Enrolling in EDIT 705, Instructional Design, provided me with basic knowledge and skills of instructional design, which helped me to develop a solid foundation in the design process that can be used to craft optimal solutions to instructional and performance challenges. I believe this course will positively impact my future work in Saudi Arabia because it can essentially help me ensure that learning materials serve a necessary purpose, meet the need for students, and are well organized, delivered in an appropriate manner, and continually evaluated (Morrison, Ross, Kalman, & Kemp, 2012). Moreover, the advanced course of Instructional design EDIT 730 addressed the paradigm shift of epistemological approaches in the field of instructional design, starting from objectivism and moving to constructivism with intensive focus on the implication of constructivism for instructional design. Therefore, I am building awareness of the alternative constructivist-based pedagogical models and their implications for the design of problem solving learning environments.
In conclusion, educational research methods courses have provided me with tools to understand and investigate existing educational systems and settings for learning as well as the knowledge and skills necessary to develop research proposals to conduct new and innovative research in the area of learning technologies. In addition, instructional system design courses have prepared me to actually create necessary and new learning artifacts. Therefore, the courses that I have studied so far have provided me with valuable experience to start practicing design research. According to McKenney and Reeves (2014), the underlying philosophy of design research is that a researcher has to understand the innovative forms of education that he or she wants to bring about in order to be able to produce them. This concept started to become more obvious to me when enrolling in EDIT 801, Introduction to Design Research, because the course was the starting point to integrating instructional design work with research in order to develop valuable and well-grounded knowledge, which will allow me to create innovative design and research.
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Sage publications.
McKenney, S., & Reeves, T. C. (2014). Educational design research. In Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (pp. 131-140). Springer New York.
Morrison, G.R., Ross, S.M., Kalman, H.K., & Kemp, J.E. (2012). Designing effective instruction (7th edition). Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons