Yoshikazu Yokota

Yoshikazu Yokota
Enrolled 2013 Academic Year
Subsection Chief of the Welfare and Health Insurance Section, Yoshimi Town, Saitama Prefecture

Please tell us about your current work

I work for the local government in Saitama. I am in charge of the collection of payments for health insurance (National Health Insurance and late-stage elderly healthcare) and the National Health Insurance Tax .

What led you to enroll at GSIS?

I had a few reasons.
Previously, I had taken some correspondence courses to obtain certifications. I noticed there were a lot of people who struggled in or even dropped out of these programs, and I wondered if there was a better way to learn that didn’t have such a high dropout rate.
At the same time, I also wanted to learn how to teach people more effectively, as I had the opportunity to do so regarding how to acquire some of these same professional certifications, such as the one for licensed social workers.
But the biggest reason I enrolled was due to an issue I had in my work with National Health Insurance at that time. The issue was that very few people were interested in getting medical advice based on the results of their health examinations. Then, I read a very interesting online article by Professor Tsuzuku on the subject. The article pointed out that medical advice given by community healthcare workers up until then was typically along the lines of “keep exercising to stay healthy” or “to live longer”, but Professor Tsuzuku took a completely different tact. I wanted to learn more about the term “Instructional Design (ID)”, which I first encountered in that article. I was a little skeptical about ID at first, but this was still about a year before I took my entrance examination. For my next step, I participated in an open course and “Manaba-night” at Kumamoto University to see whether educational theory could be beneficial to me. There, I asked Professor Suzuki quite directly whether ID could really be useful in health instruction, and he, in just as direct a manner, answered “Yes”. He went on, “the issue you have is attitude-related. That makes it harder, but ID could still definitely be useful,” and that “now is the time you should learn about ID”. I have never met a professor like him, and his emphatic words soon led me to take the entrance examination.

How do you like GSIS so far?

Honestly, I didn’t think that the learning at GSIS would be very challenging; I thought I could pass just by reading the textbooks and reference materials, and submitting the reports just like I had done at the correspondence courses I took at three other universities. but I was surprised by the courses’ high expectations and realized how wrong I was. With e-learning, no one gives you any push to start studying. If you don’t access the course, nothing bad happens either, at least not right away. When I send questions to any of my professors at GSIS, they always send kind replies, but first I have to take that initiative. Midway through the first year, I nearly failed. I couldn’t make any progress in my studies and I almost gave up. I was so busy with my job that I didn’t have time to study at all. I was even scared of turning on my computer. The list of all my course assignments was covered in red icons indicating that I was “behind target progress”, which really drained my motivation. But I also knew I couldn’t just give up so, with every ounce of bravery I could muster, I opened the web site to resume my the studies, and e-mailed one of my professors to ask what I should do. The professor replied to me right away and instructed me kindly. Professor Kita, a professional in IT studies (a subject I was not at all enthusiastic about studying) gave me guidance for two months after that. It was incredibly hard, but I learned that I could overcome any challenge if I kept at it. Soon thereafter, I came to understand how to study on my own. I am still applying the skills I learned then in my studies now, and I feel like things are going well.

What is different at GSIS from previous correspondence courses you have taken?

I have taken not only paper-based correspondence courses but also e-learning-based ones. Of course, the course content differed from that at GSIS, but the other courses also had a different style of study in which learners would watch video clips of lectures and then take examinations based on them. The biggest difference at GSIS, I think, is the “small steps” approach to learning. Each course is broken into small tasks designed to be not too much for learners to handle. I’m not a huge fan of the design choice of having red icons show up when my progress is behind (laughs), but I much prefer this method to just watching videos the whole time and then taking a test. Each step is easy to get started with because the end goal is always made very clear, and I can see how the small steps guides me toward it. When I work on a new task, I can refer to my past results and reuse them or make revisions to my initial ideas as I go. Then, before I realize it, the task is already done. For instance, in a course entitled “Instructional Design II”, I created an e-learning proposal by completing each task step-by-step, even though I had never done it before. This really exemplifies what I feel is the GSIS difference.

How did you communicate with the other students and professors?

We have a Facebook group of our classmates, but I don’t access it often. It really varies how actively an individual student uses it. Sometimes I get on to share information I found or “like” something posted by a classmate, but I don’t really use it for discussing the things we’re studying. Also, I haven’t had many opportunities to meet up in person with my classmates; I only have done so during the intensive lectures held in Tokyo.

What have you learned during your first year of studies here?

For now, I have just focused on completing my tasks. I think I need a little time to take stock of what I have learned so far. I am still trying to outrun the red icons. They say, “We can’t see the forest for the trees.” I have just been working on planting each tree, so far. But I can see that the number of trees is gradually increasing. I believe that the trees will become a forest soon. In the second semester, I am taking courses such as “Instructional Design II” and “Practicum in e-learning I”, which are connected not only to the work for writing my master’s thesis, but also to the other courses such as “Practice of Distance Education”. I am coming to understand that every tree has a relationship with the other trees.

How did you feel about SCC (Story-Centered Curriculum)?

SCC helped me a lot in the first semester by giving me orders and guidance in a clear context. Some tasks in courses could have caused me problems because I have no experience working at a company, but with SCC, each course centered around a story which allowed me to study without difficulty. I found it useful that the story was shown at the beginning. The impressions made by SCC were still strong in my mind at the start of the second semester. I was worried if I could manage scheduling the tasks without SCC. I would like to see SCC implemented in the second semester as well, if possible.

Do you have a message for someone who is considering enrolling in this program?

If you want to study at GSIS, then you should definitely take the first step! It’s a high mountain and the going can get rough, but invaluable experiences awaits you on the path to the summit. If you can summon the courage to take that first step, I’m sure you will change yourself, just like I have. So please, give it a shot!

(Interviewed in March 2014)