The Graduate School of Instructional Systems (GSIS) was established in 2006 as an independent program (Master’s program) of the Graduate School of Social and Cultural Sciences, with 15 full-time and 22 part-time students. This year celebrate the 8th birthday of our program. Since its establishment, GSIS has been conducting educational research systematically to foster highly educated professionals who can develop, implement and evaluate effective, efficient and attractive e-learning. The aim of the Doctor’s Program is to deepen graduate school education and advance academic research in order to meet social needs and academic requirements, while fostering human resources, including educational researchers, who can take the initiative in developing and promoting instructional systems.

In the Master’s program, competencies expected of program graduates are defined and made public, then practical curriculums are organized to help achieve these competencies. GSIS worked together with e-Learning Consortium Japan (eLC), a specified nonprofit corporation, to produce human resources required by the e-learning market, and has been designated a mutually recognized educational institute by eLC for its e-learning professional certification (eLP). Many of our past students have graduated from us as e-learning specialists with multiple e-LP certificates.

GSIS was selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) for its Support Program for Improving Graduate School Education 2007 (126 were selected from among 355 applications). The three-year-long Education Innovator Development Program (training of e-learning professionals who can take the initiative in developing global human resources) was recognized by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science as “Adequately achieved” (awarded to only 7 programs out of 53 in Human-Social Science area) in the post evaluation. A part of its outcomes was made public by Theory and practice of story-centered curriculum: Challenges and behind-scenes of an online graduate school, edited by Nemoto, J. and Suzuki, K. (2014, Toshindo), as the second volume after F. Omori (Ed.)’s Strategies of training educational professionals in IT area: Challenges of Japan’s first online graduate school for e-learning professionals (2008, Toshindo), which described the dawn of GSIS.

We are renewing our curriculum constantly. In FY 2007-2010, we received international students from developing countries with the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). A new course “e-Learning in International Cooperation” was started then, and all the required courses in Master’s program were made available in English. This effort can be seen in Opencourse section of our Website, where entire contents of 4 courses can be examined free of charge. In 2013, we answered to the needs from the healthcare professionals by start offering a new elective course “e-Learning in Healthcare Education,” which is taught by our graduates. Our alumni have been active in getting an academic position in a university, starting his/her own small enterprise, acquiring leadership roles in related academic/public organizations, and even starting a new incorporated foundation. It is one of the best news for us that our graduates have come back to our program to help us educate the next generation.

From FY 2014, we are engaging in “Diffusion center of instructional systems research: Package development and dissemination for training adult educators to support recurrent learning.” This project is sponsored by MEXT and Kumamoto University to challenge in extending our design methods of online learning environment to other graduate schools. Its main target is future college teachers to experience and master our methodology that requires no lecture and no final examination. We believe it should be effective in helping learning of adults, not only in university situations, but also human resource development in other organizations as well. We hope to contribute to create learning environment better suited to adults, by breaking old tradition of college teaching, through offering training for professionals who can design and facilitate learning of adults by utilizing ICT.

We will advance education researches by taking advantage of the above results. We are receiving not only degree-seeking students, but also part-time students and research students, in both Master’s and Doctor’s programs. For degree-seeking students, we are offering flexible options such as the extension program that allows a student to enroll for three years with two-year tuition, and reduction of enrollment period to shorten the study period to earn a degree. The range of our activities is gradually expanding, from joint researches with e-learning-related companies to the organization of academic conferences or study groups.

We believe that academic foundation and specialists are essential for e-learning and to make human resource development functioning in Japan. We look forward to welcoming to GSIS students who share the same feeling, and to learning together with them.

Katsuaki Suzuki, Ph.D
Shigeki Tsuzuku, M.D., Ph.D
Professors and Chairs (Master’s and Doctorate Programs, respectively),
Graduate School of Instructional Systems
Kumamoto University