The eLearning Guild’s new research director, Dr. Jane Bozarth, is looking forward to the challenge, though she seeks a smooth transition. “I’m in an enviable position: I was not brought in to fix something,” Bozarth said, but to carry on a solid Guild Research tradition—with the freedom to shape her own approach to research.
A longtime Learning Solutions columnist, Bozarth is familiar to readers; she’s also a frequent speaker at Guild events, including leading her signature “Ukulele Learning” sessions. As research director, Bozarth’s approach will reflect her experience—she worked in state government for many years, so she’s familiar with the needs and concerns of smaller “shops” and L&D professionals who work within tight budget constraints. Completing her master’s and doctoral degrees introduced her to the world of published academic research—and showed her how inaccessible that research is to most people. “It really was like a new world opening up, once I found what was there and how to access it,” she said.
Along with Guild staples like the annual salary report , Bozarth looks forward to publishing research that ties in with Guild events and exploring emerging or evolving topic areas.
Much academic research is inaccessible. Bozarth cited the difficulty of getting one’s hands on published research—even though most journals are now available online, access can still be costly—and understanding it. Getting copies doesn’t necessarily solve the access issue: “I think that the writing is sometimes intentionally exclusionary; it’s almost written in another language sometimes,” she said, joking that she heard that some PhD students hired editors to “elite up” their writing.
Under her direction, Guild Research won’t be like that. “I felt that there was—I still feel that there is too big a distance between a practitioner and academic literature, and there are a number of ways that we can help bridge that gap. And I think that the Guild’s research program is one of them,” she said.
“I do hope to bring a practical, applicable look at what’s going on in the field and what people are doing that maybe others can replicate or they could build their practice on,” Bozarth said. She’d also like to expose readers to theories or conceptual frameworks that most practitioners are unlikely to encounter unless they’ve done graduate work in instructional design: “I’m hoping maybe we can open some doors in that way.”
Another goal—which could be implemented as soon as Learning Solutions 2018 Conference & Expo in March—is “a little bit more of a research focus at conferences,” she said. “I will be presenting at most of the events—on research. On what we’re doing or how we are doing it or what we’re finding,” as well as asking attendees what they’d like to learn more about, she said.
To ensure that the Guild’s research is useful to the community, Bozarth intends to “get a handle on what other people are doing and how other people are functioning in the field,” she said.
In addition to survey data about how many members are using specific tools or approaches, she’d like to ask qualitative questions—again drawing from her experience as a doctoral candidate. She’ll add questions about how people are using tools or why they’ve chosen a particular path, and she might ask whether people would be willing to be interviewed. “I’d like to see more about, ‘Well, how are you using these things? So you’re using Facebook. Give us more specifics; give me some anecdotes; give me some examples.’”
A deeper qualitative focus will make the Guild’s research more useful for practitioners by providing details about not only what others are doing but how and why. She’d also like to expand discussion of potential obstacles to adopting some technologies.
“I would like to help out the practitioner who maybe doesn’t have a huge budget. When you start talking about something like artificial intelligence beyond a chatbot, or when you start talking about virtual reality—you start talking about really high-end, expensive endeavors that are kind of out of the reach of a lot of practitioners.”
That’s not to say that she’s not interested in researching those cutting-edge topics, but “maybe including some information that’s aimed more at ‘What you do if you don’t have a lot of budget? What do you do if you’ve got constraints? How do you overcome barriers and objections?’ Maybe just a little more on that,” she said.
In keeping with an overall eLearning Guild strategy of tying Guild content and Learning Solutions content together more closely, Bozarth added, “It may not be that the research pieces themselves address that. It may be that we link the research pieces a little more closely to some of the other things that are being published. Maybe we have that as part of the content strategy.”
Bozarth is known for writing and presenting on “working out loud.” She plans to bring her transparent, collaborative approach to Guild Research—both in deciding what to study and in conducting and presenting the research.
“We are looking at directly reaching out to people who are in the audience who are members and who are at events,” she said, as well as more broadly, for ideas. “I don’t know that we only need to talk to our membership. Are there people that, if we talked to them better, they would become our membership?”
“I’m pretty open on Twitter about what I’m working on,” Bozarth said. “I don’t know that I have a problem saying I’m working on a report on microlearning or a report on salary. And just throwing it out to the world and saying, ‘What’s curious for you? What would you like to know about?’ I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t be doing some of that.”
And once she’s settled on a topic, Bozarth’s openness extends to potentially collaborating or partnering with experts—members of the Guild community, vendors, organizations in other parts of the world, and more—to gather information. “I would hope that we would invite expert voices and that we would invite, where appropriate, co-writers or people from the community to help with some of these reports that we’re going to be working on. It certainly doesn’t need to be only my voice,” she said.
Learning Solutions publishes an announcement or summary of each new research report as it’s published. Look for more news about Guild Research as Bozarth settles in.