Some people start knowing that they want a Ph.D. Others discover that they want one through time and experience. I fell into the latter category. After finishing my undergraduate education in 2007 at Louisiana Tech University, more time as a student was not something I wanted nor did it align with my professional goals. Life, however, had other plans as I found work in higher education, again at Louisiana Tech.
By 2013, I knew that I needed to advance my education to be competitive at a public research university, and I resumed my formal education in the growing area of cybersecurity. It was during this time that I came to see security as both a technological and a human problem. The latter is best addressed through training and this, along with my professional background, made Learning Technologies a natural fit. In the Summer of 2015, I joined the Learning Technologies Doctoral program. In what follows, this portfolio will demonstrate growth in four areas related to the program objectives.
Remaining current is important in doctoral-level work. To this end, I remain engaged in numerous professional development activities. I have generally tried to attend at least one professional conference each year, most of them being introduced to me by the Learning Technologies program. Organizations such as AACE, AECT, ISTE, and EDUCAUSE also offer other opportunities through the year such as webinars and mailing list discussions with which I try to engage regularly to complement and extend the knowledge I have gained from this program.
This is not, however, the end of my professional development. I continue to read and stay current in areas related to the information technology side of my work. Most recently, I completed certification related to IT service management (ITIL Foundation), and plan to complete other certifications after graduation. Meanwhile, I pursue relevant formal learning opportunities in areas of interest such as the Copyright X course offered by the Berkman Kline Center for Internet and Society at Harvard and a graduate certificate at Louisiana Tech in Higher Education Administration.
Participation in the Profession
This is perhaps the area in which I have grown the most. I readily confess that I am an introvert, and before admission to the program I had never attended a single professional conference. Today, I have personally presented research at several conferences and have collaborated on research presented at numerous others. I have also been involved with practical workshop sessions at the Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators and at the Texas Computer Education Association. Though I still retain some introversion, an increased willingness to engage with others professionally represents a positive change for me accomplished through this program.
Knowledge Synthesis, Creation, and Communication
Though the program objectives treat knowledge synthesis, creation, and communication as separate, I believe that they are interrelated. Knowledge synthesis relates to the ability to take extant knowledge and make new or unique connections within it. Knowledge creation relates to the processes by which those connections made through synthesis are tested and evaluated. Meanwhile, the knowledge that is synthesized and created must be communicated through scientific discourse.
My history in this program suggests that I am capable of performing each of these tasks. I have, on numerous occasions, written papers that synthesize and test knowledge. Some of these papers are class projects that remain unpublished (for now), pending refinement. Others, are awaiting journal decisions or have been submitted and accepted by regional, national, and international conferences. Each stands as evidence of my continually-improving ability to synthesize, create, and communicate knowledge within the profession.
Critical and Reflective Thought
Throughout the program, we have been routinely tasked with examining, analyzing, and critiquing arguments, and research designs. Such analysis is not only inherent in the typical scholarly activities of peer review and publication, but is built into course experiences as well. This semester alone, has presented numerous opportunities to engage in critical and reflective thought. In LTEC 6220, we were tasked to engage in peer review of the research designs other classmates. Meanwhile, in LTEC 6800, we have been engaged in peer review of cohort-mates’ dissertation proposals and portfolios. I cannot say that my feedback is always perfect, but I always attempt to ensure that it is relevant, thoughtful, and constructive.
The time spent in critical thought in this program has prepared me well for engaging in critical thought elsewhere. I excelled in critical, legal analysis as part of completing Harvard’s Copyright X course as well as in the academic rigors of Louisiana Tech’s Higher Education Administration certificate program (consisting of doctoral-level coursework), which included the critique of research articles and dissertations.
When I began the Learning Technologies Ph.D. program, my goal was to fill in much of the background in education and social science research that I lacked. This program has succeeded in addressing that knowledge gap, and has provided me a greater understanding of instructional processes and their relationship with technology. What I will do with this remains to be seen. I remain somewhat entrenched in information technology practice, and a future as a senior-IT leader in higher education is appealing to me. At the same time, I believe I also need the experience of being an instructor to adequately manage the instructional experience as an administrator, so some role as an instructor is planned for the future. Moreover, I have not ruled out the professorate as a possibility.
I remain interested in the relationship of information security to learning, both in terms of how learning can address insider threats and how information security and/or privacy concerns can influence electronic learning (a potential line of inquiry for my dissertation). Meanwhile, my interests have broadened to include understanding how learning can be more engaging and more effective, how to manage learning technologies at an institutional level, how to provide training in the use of learning technologies, and how learning technologies can improve institutional awareness and decision-making – particularly through data analytics. Moreover, I have become more aware and interested in issues of equity and accessibility.