Masao Katsuo

Masao Katsuo
Enrolled 2008 Academic Year
Nippon Boehringer Ingelheim Co. Ltd.
Personnel Development Division Head, Business Planning Headquarters

What led you to enroll at GSIS?

Six years ago, when I was transferred from the marketing department to the education department at my company, it struck me that, for some reason, our in-house education system was not working well. For example, the purposes of the training courses were not clear. There were no clear goals. Having come from the marketing department, I found it incredible that my new department was working without any specific objectives. I felt that it was the role of education to overcome any existing obstacles for effective personnel and realize concrete goals in an organization. So, through trial and error, I changed various things at my company, from individual training courses to the whole instructional system. Then, when it started to feel like the program was functioning well, I happened to encounter the concept of ID (Instructional Design) in a seminar for trainers held at the MR Educational Center in 2005. At that time, I was introduced to the ADDIE model (*1), but I told the seminar staff from the educational center, “We are already doing the same thing.” The staff were very surprised by this, and they ultimately decided to actually come and see how we were using the model.
Then, in February 2006, I was given an opportunity to make a case study report on my company. Professor Suzuki was one of the attendees. He was kind enough to comment, “This is truly an example of ID.” Then, he gave my team some advice. I was relieved to know that we were on the right track with what we had been doing but, at the same time, I was surprised to learn that what we had just started to understand after years of struggling had already been developed into a systematic theory. Looking back, I realize how ignorant I was back then (laughs)! Not only did I discover that there was a field of study on the same vector as what I had been thinking about, I also found a place to study it further. What’s more, the study system at that school was ideal for me as it would allow me to study online while continuing my work. I instantly decided to apply for entry to GSIS. However, I didn’t realize that the deadline for application was so early. By the time I looked into it, the application deadline for 2007 had already passed! So, I first took four courses as a non-degree student, and then entered the master’s program in 2008.

How do you usually study? Has it been difficult to balance your job with your studies?

Well, maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I haven’t spent much time studying this year. Maybe I learned too much about ID in the year when I was a non-degree student (laughs)? I was not satisfied with taking only four courses then, so I also read the textbooks and reference books for some other courses which non-degree students were not allowed to take. And, of course, having already taken four courses (eight credits) as a non-degree student, I don’t have as big of a workload as other students. So, during this school year, I have concentrated my studying into short periods just prior to the deadlines for report submission. That said, I have still studied almost every Saturday and Sunday.

What kinds of materials and tasks have you been assigned? I heard that SCC (Story-Centered Curriculum http: // www.gsis.kumamoto-u.as.jp/ksuzui/resume/papers/a80530.pdf) started in 2008.

SCC is a method of learning where we advance our studies by connecting the content of certain courses together using a story. We are put in a hypothetical situation where we belong to a company and we receive a work order once a week. It works like this: “You have a problem. Study the 1st and 2nd chapters of Course A and Chapter 3 of Course B to solve the problem.” SCC can help us understand how several courses are interrelated, and it is quite interesting in that it teaches us how to get an objective overview of a given situation, as presented in the story. However, the contents of the individual courses remained basically the same as last year. Sometimes, the content of our texts does not fit with the storyline. I hope this will be improved so that we can learn more effectively. To be honest, it is a little hard for us students, as we have a deadline almost every week, although I have to admit that this serves as a powerful external motivator (laughs). For instructors though, I think this sort of curriculum is good because they can track their students’ progress and follow up with those who are lagging behind. In addition to the assignments for each subject, we hand in a report every week. Writing this report helps us reflect on what we have just learned. Accumulating half a year’s or a year’s worth of such reports will be really useful later on, I think. Even so, it means even more assignments for us to turn in, so even more time spent studying (laughs).

How do you communicate with the other students or professors?

In the first semester of the first year, we mainly communicated via the message board on Blackboard (*2), though at first we didn’t use it as actively as we could have. However, the situation changed when we started doing group learning in a course called “Practical E-learning Training“ in the second semester. We found that we could not complete our reports on time if we relied solely on the message board to exchange opinions, so we began using synchronous tools such as Adobe Connect and Skype. Even though we were physically remote from each other, we felt that this wouldn’t be a problem if we used such tools. I had never used Adobe Connect or Skype before, but now I am very comfortable using them. This is just one more thing that I have achieved through my time at this school.

What have you learned during your studies here?

The first term that comes to mind is “connection.” By learning in a systematic way at this school, the experiences I have accumulated in practice at my work, and the theories that I have learned from books or reference materials have been connected. This has happened not only in regard to my studies on education, but also in regard to IT, management, and other areas. Sometimes, in a desire to understand more, I would start studying a new topic on my own. I have never before studied so earnestly or concentrated so hard on my studies (laughs)! The only disappointing thing is that we only get to take one course on IP. I believe IP will open up precious business opportunities in the coming years, so I would like to study it more thoroughly. I also feel that it is an interesting subject for research.

Looking ahead, how will you utilize what you have learned in your job?

Actually, I have already begun utilizing the things that I’ve learned! Let me give you an example. In the past, we were already using a cooperative learning method in the training program for new recruits to allow them to study autonomously. Based on the results of my studies, we have now pushed the program further, implementing some cognitive aspects to nurture independent learners. Also, we have another program in which we changed some of the variables based on Carroll’s time-based model. (http: // www.gsis.kumamoto-u.ac.jp/ksuzuki/resume/books/1995rtv/rtv01.html) This year, we will initiate four new projects containing new trials utilizing what I have learned here.

Do you have a message for someone who is considering entering this school?

It is very hard to study while you carry on working, but please give it a shot. The biggest challenge is managing your busy schedule to find time to study. In my case, I was concerned that I was too old to engage in further study, but I hope you will try it regardless of your age. For those who are engaged in educational programs within a company, work in higher education, or involved in any other aspect of education, GSIS provides a valuable skill set to study for your work, as well as the opportunity to study it while continuing your work. Moreover, I strongly believe that comprehensively studying the subjects offered at this school—ID, IM, IT and IP—will give you great new wisdom. With them, you will be better equipped to disseminate a higher quality system of education throughout Japan. I look forward to you enrolling here.

(Interviewed in February 2009)

*1 The ADDIE model: a development process model for educational materials and systems. This model is proposed in the field of instructional design. “ADDIE” is an acronym for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.
*2 Blackboard: One of our key LMS (Learning Management Systems). All Kumamoto University students use it to access various learning materials, manage their class schedules, and access their academic records, all through a standard Internet browser.