Learning Design and Technology covers a broad area, from formal educational settings such as schools and colleges, training in multiple workplace settings including performance support systems, and informal and personal learning environments. While most people think of technology as digitally based, in fact, within the field technology is recognized as being many kinds of tools as well as the processes within which such tools are used. Even a book or pencil can be seen as a “tool” within this definition, and education incorporates many kinds of technologies to support learning and teaching.
The LTEC department is associated with the field’s international professional association, the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), which all PhD students are required to join as a member. AECT still uses the older term, “educational technology,” but the definition remains appropriate for the areas addressed within the PhD:
Educational technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.
Scholars in the field explore the uses of innovative media and technologies for education in all its settings, studying aspects from student learning and cognition to impacts on individuals and institutions, and the development of new tools. The field integrates the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning. As in all forms of applied technology, educational technology examines how theoretical knowledge and scientific principles can be applied to solve problems that arise in a social context. The field provides the research base for effective utilization of new media in education and by default is interdisciplinary in its approaches and theories. Many in the field are interested in innovation and change, with exploration of the potentials of emerging technologies for learning and teaching.
The LTEC PhD program fits the AECT definition of an advanced program. The LTEC Master’s (LTEC-MEd) is an initial program with a focus on practice and application, while the PhD is centered on research and theory. As indicated in the AECT standards, advanced programs emphasize theory, research, and higher-level management processes which could be likened to the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation stages of Bloom’s taxonomy. Students with a primary interest in applied topics (design and multimedia) should consider the LTEC Master’s or graduate certificate programs, such as the department’s Certificate in Online Learning and Teaching (COLT).