Hiroyuki Watanabe

Hiroyuki Watanabe
Enrolled 2011 Academic Year
Seinan Gakuin University
Assistant Section Chief, Administrative Office

Please tell us about your current work.

I am a clerk at a university. I’ve worked at the library, educational affairs office, PR office, and general affairs office, and now I work at the museum office.

What led you to enroll at GSIS?

In 2009, I was put in charge of the freshman orientation program for the university library. The orientation is held every year as part of a series of basic seminar courses. A pair of library staff members instructs freshmen in how to utilize the library, such as how to do an OPAC search. However, the time provided was too short for me to teach them anything but the basics. Since the orientation includes a guided tour around the library, the time left for my lecture was just about 40 minutes. There was no way to increase the length of the orientation, so I resolved to improve my instruction method, and went online to search for some solutions. That’s when I found out about a methodology called instructional design (ID), and that I could study it at GSIS in Kumamoto University.
I read through the GSIS web site and thought the courses looked useful for improving my educational support skills. At GSIS, you can study online under Professor Katsuaki Suzuki, an authority on ID in Japan. This also was intriguing. Meanwhile, in the newspaper of the Association of Private Universities of Japan, I found an article by Professor Fujio Ohmori (now a teacher at Tokyo Metropolitan University) saying, “Undergraduate education and ID are similar in shape.” This made me even more interested in the usefulness of ID.
Though I wanted to enter GSIS immediately, I was afraid I might drop out because I had never learned IT systematically and had limited computer skills. So, I first took five courses, including “Introduction to e-learning”, “ID I” and “ID II”, as a part-time student. In ID I, I made educational materials to teach Kumamoto University freshmen how to do an OPAC search. At first, I was not sure if I could do it, but I managed to complete it following the course instructions. I asked some graduate students to do a formative evaluation of my materials. They reported back that, for the first time, they had learned how to efficiently search for books. This convinced me that ID really was useful, and gave me the confidence to enroll at GSIS and make the study of ID my life’s work. I worried that I was too old to pass the entrance exam, but fortunately I made it in.

How do you like GSIS so far?

As I took those five courses as a part-time student before, I am not so overwhelmed with my studies now. I got accustomed to the studying process at GSIS then, so I can write a report in a far shorter time now. After work, I immediately go home and concentrate on studying for at least two hours. Of course, I have some difficulty adjusting my work-life balance due to the sheer number of tasks I have to complete, but studying in this new field is so exciting that I don’t really mind.

Which course was the most useful?

Among the courses I have taken, ID II and the management-centric courses have been especially useful. I have arranged some of the project management tools and ID methods from these courses and utilized them at my workplace. I never imagined I would be able to do this. In addition, I have come to have a better understanding of human resource management at my work as well. Now, I am better at pointing out workplace problems and identifying which part should be made into e-learning, for example.

How did you communicate with the other students?

In the first term, I communicated with them very little besides on the message boards; I didn’t even know any of their faces. However, I had some opportunities to meet and talk with the professors and the other students during academic conferences and GSIS camps, which completely changed things. I now felt less cautious and more comfortable in communicating with them over e-mail or on the message boards. Face-to-face communication is so effective for that. “Practicum in e-learning” in the second term includes synchronous communication via Skype, which is a must when communicating complex ideas. I think GSIS students should go to as many conferences and camps as possible, even if they are busy working adults.

What have you learned during your studies here?

My world has expanded. I have made many friends with various backgrounds, all of whom I would never have met without entering GSIS. I went to an academic conference for the first time, and watched my upperclassmen colleagues making their presentations one after another. That was so interesting and stimulating.

What did you find difficult?

I spent so much time studying in front of my PC that I got a backache (laughs)! In “ID I”, for example, we could not submit our reports without getting approval from every member of our three-person group, and revising them to the level where every member was satisfied was so difficult.
Some may think that a finished report should be “perfect”, but you’ll never submit anything if you are tied to this thought (laughs). During my studies, I found that I didn’t have to craft perfect reports; I think you should submit your report once you think you have achieved a certain level of quality, after which you can get some feedback from your professor to improve it. Figuring out this approach made me more at ease with my studies.
GSIS demands a higher level of study than other graduate schools, I feel. At many graduate schools, you can just attend your seminars and do nothing if you are not in charge of that session’s class presentation. By comparison, however, the educational tasks at GSIS are overwhelmingly tough, both in content and quantity. You have to write a report for every class. In a management course, you write a 1,500-word report after reading 200 or 300 pages of literature in just one week. Doing this in addition to your other course tasks is really tough. I was lucky to be able to borrow books and use the photocopier at my workplace during my lunch break. I don’t know how far I’ll make it, but for now I am determined to persist in studies. My wife always worries about my health, though (laughs).

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

The knowledge gained studying at GSIS can be applied to any field of education or work. At first, I assumed that only the ID courses would be useful in the real world, and that the other courses like management or administration-centric ones would not be. Fortunately, I was wrong. The GSIS curriculum is so realistic and well organized. It is a graduate school with the goal of training e-learning professionals, but it offers far more than IT education. People tend to misapprehend the core of e-learning as being IT skill. I was also wrong in this regard. GSIS uses ID, a set of established learning theories, as its strong basis. IT, IM (Information Management) and IP (Intellectual Property) education are built on the basis of ID education. Even if you do not intend to become an e-learning professional, knowledge of ID is essential for anyone involved in education. What you will learn here will surely be useful in your current job or in your future career. If you are all interested in what GSIS is about, please come and join us!

(Interviewed in February 2012)