Masanori Kaji

Masanori Kaji
Enrolled 2006-2008 Academic Year
Business Breakthrough Co. Ltd.
Systems Development Manager

What led you to enroll at GSIS?

To be honest, when I heard that the program was aimed at nurturing specialists in e-learning, I had my doubts about applying. This was partly because I was already working for a company which provided educational services in remote places. However, at the time I was also finding it difficult to effectively explain the benefits of my company’s services to customers. Then, I had an opportunity to hear a lecture by Professor Suzuki, who showed us how ID can be used to guarantee and measure the quality of education. I wanted to study ways of combining theory and practice for this purpose, so I decided to apply for entry to the program.

When was that?

As I recall, I heard Professor Suzuki’s lecture in December 2005. Although I was strongly motivated to study ID, I was also busy with my work, and paying the tuition fee would have been difficult. So, I continued to ponder whether I should apply right up to the deadline in January 2006. While I dithered, the period for attaining a certificate needed to apply for the special entrance exam for working people ended. So, I had no choice but to take the general exam. I finally decided to apply, thinking nothing starts without the first step, and sent in my application form on the day before the general exam was to be held. However, I had not given my work advance notice that I would be taking the exam, and it just so happened that I was given a hard, demanding task later that day. As the work required us to suspend our normal service, we had to start it late at night. If any problems had arisen, I wouldn’t have been able to get off work in time. I feared that I would lose my chance to take the exam for the 2006 academic year. In the end, I somehow completed my work task, and then rushed to the examination venue with zero sleep. One compulsory subject in the general exam was English, which made it even harder. Although overwhelmed by drowsiness, I gave it my best shot. Despite my unpreparedness, I was driven to complete both the application process and the examination, with the simple determination, “I want to join this school!” (laughs).

What have you learned during your studies here?

I learned that the concept of ID can be widely applied to any circumstances which involve some form of instruction. Consequently, my perspective on daily life has changed. Besides learning ID, I have also rediscovered the importance of designing the educational process and have practiced design in various courses, mainly the instructional management (IM) ones.

When we asked what led you to join this school, you mentioned that you had found it difficult to explain why the programs operated by your company were useful. Can you do that now?

When I reexamined the e-learning business of my company, I found that many aspects of it could be explained by ID theory, much more than I had previously imagined. Moreover, I found that some of our successes had just been lucky. I think I have come to recognize not only the reasons for our successful instructional systems, but also have identified some with problems and ways in which they can be improved.

Did your company support your desire to study at a graduate school?

In our company, there are currently several employees attending college. As our company is in the educational industry, our corporate culture encourages employees to enroll in university and acquire certifications. When I told my supervisor that I intended to enter this school, I fended off any potential backlash by promising him that it would not interfere with my work, and that was that (laughs).

Were you able to balance your job and your study?

To be honest, when I first started studying at GSIS, I found it really difficult to successfully manage my schedule. When I was busy at work, I couldn’t keep up with my studies. I was worried about this situation, so I decided to make it a rule to do my e-learning early every Saturday morning. I forced myself to develop good study habits. Once I got used to it, I was better able to switch my mind between focusing on my job, studies, and private life. For a given course, we usually had 15 small tasks and three to five larger tasks. Some of these could be done over a few days starting with the easiest parts first. Others required more extensive time commitments, during which some parts could be handled as a block. Once I realized this, I learned to read the contents of each task carefully before determining my study schedule. Using these two techniques, I gradually learned to make realistic schedules, which made it possible keep up with my studies, even when busy at work. Furthermore, as I developed various techniques through the e-learning itself, I was able to narrow down the potential topics for my own research.

How did you proceed with your research?

As my research topic and advisor were determined at the end of the first year of the master’s program, my practical studies really started in the second year. In my case, I arranged to give presentations at some conferences as my research milestones. I felt that if I didn’t force myself, I would not move forward and I would make little progress in my studies. Then, I conducted research in preparation for each milestone talk. Basically, after deciding how I would do the research, I would contact my advisor over the Internet to give ongoing status reports of my research and ask questions. Once the research process was decided, I was the one who had to do the actual research. However, when I had accumulated a stock of questions to which I needed prompt answers, I asked the advisor for advice in real-time using an instant messenger program. In fact, the curriculum itself called for synchronous advising even if I did not ask for it. I managed to summarize my research in time for the first conference presentation and met my advisor face-to-face. Before the presentation, he advised me on some details which were easier to explain in a direct meeting and coached me on how to give my presentation. After the presentation, we reflected on the content of the question-and-answer session and I asked for advice on how to proceed from there. I finally managed to complete my master’s thesis after having repeated this process through presentations at several conferences.

Setting these conference presentations seems to have been critical in your success. Did you do this at the recommendation of your advisor?

It was my idea. Partly because I had been advised to do so by a senior colleague, I attended various academic conferences to observe similar presentations. The themes were related to my research so I was interested in them, and I felt that I learned a lot just from listening. Then, I decided to make as many presentations as possible as a way of capitalizing on the opportunity to write a thesis. After making the first presentation, I confirmed that it had been a really valuable opportunity, as many of the questions I was asked helped me gain a clearer idea about what I should research next. Even when I went to academic conferences where I did not make a presentation, I tried to talk with the professors who were conducting research that I was interested in. Later, when writing my thesis, I remembered one such related research presentation I had attended, and even contacted the researcher directly. I feel making presentations is best, but even if you don’t have that opportunity, I strongly recommend spending some time at academic conferences, because just listening to presentations is valuable in and of itself.

From a student’s perspective, what are the characteristics of this school?

There are many students with different backgrounds. All of them are somehow professionally involved in e-learning, but their situations vary widely. People working in e-learning include SEs like me, but also content developers, consultants, and even marketing personnel. We also had university professors and office staff. Talking with them about our experiences taught me a lot. I was able to build up a very valuable network, and I would never have met any of them if I hadn’t joined this school.

How did you communicate with other students?

It is difficult to communicate online. I must say that I was not completely satisfied with this aspect of my experience. I think we could have made more active use of the message boards. Sometimes, I wanted to have a lengthy exchange of opinions but I would only get a single response. That said, precisely because we all tended to feel a little frustrated about interacting online, we were able to have really rewarding interaction on the occasions when got together in person and would talk for hours (laughs). However, in retrospect, I think my classmates and I could have met face-to-face more often if we had taken the initiative. We actually did do this sometimes, but we weren’t able to get together as often as we should have because all of us were quite busy. When my thesis reached its final stages, I needed to ask someone for a formative assessment, which I relied on my classmates for help with. As all of us really needed the help then, we managed to find time to meet and help one another.

Although your studies contributed directly to your work, we understand that you paid your entire tuition by yourself. Was this investment worth it?

It was definitely worth it to me, as I was able to learn a great deal compared to the time and money spent. Exactly how valuable it turns out to be will really depend on how I utilize what I have learned in my future career.

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

One of the main benefits of studying here is the opportunity to extend your studies with the support of both professors and other students, all of whom have different backgrounds. I guarantee that you will learn first-hand about the potential offered by ID, and that the experience will surely help shape your career. I strongly recommend that you give studying here a try.