A high school educator choosing technology for a history lesson; a social worker setting up an assimilation program for refugees; a diversity trainer selecting an online course for her corporation’s employees.

Although they work in different fields, all three of these individuals face a similar challenge: What is the most effective way to teach important lessons?  

A new master’s program in learning engineering offered by the Lynch School of Education and Human Development seeks to educate students to be experts in addressing this exact challenge. Launching this fall, the one-year program teaches the science behind how people learn, and how to design learning experiences that are engaging and effective for different populations.

“You want everybody to learn as best they can, and that’s only going to happen if the learning experiences are engaging and motivating enough that they want to continue,” said program co-director and Visiting Professor Janet Kolodner. “Our program is about designing those types of experiences.”

Janet Kolodner

Visiting Professor Janet Kolodner

The 30-credit program champions the concept of learning by doing. At its core is a Design Studio course, which challenges students to apply lessons learned in the classroom to a series of design challenges related to their interests. Throughout the three-semester course, students will design and build prototypes and test out ideas for apps, exhibits, and curriculum. They’ll have access to the latest technology, including high-end software and 3D printers, as well as support from professors and peers.

“It’s really like being out in the world where you’re not simply working by yourself,” said Kolodner. “You’re working in a space where people are grappling with similar issues.”

Once a week, students will attend a Reflective Seminar, where they’ll have a chance to discuss the intersections between their coursework and design experiences. They’ll also reflect on their interests and skills in an effort to discern their career goals for the future.

Sunanda Bhattacharya, associate vice provost for design & innovation strategy at Boston College, described students who enroll in the program as “agents for change” who could bring a fresh approach to school systems and nonprofit organizations as well as to the social service, business, and healthcare fields. He described a video game designed to teach garment workers new skills so they could someday operate the automated robots that are slowly replacing human employees in factories.

“This is an example of how a learning engineer could help,” he said, “by strategizing, designing, and implementing activities related to changing human behavior.”

During the program, students will have a chance to shadow and intern at local organizations, and they’ll amass a portfolio of design work to demonstrate their skills after graduation. Students of all academic backgrounds are encouraged to apply, in particular those who desire to use their talents for the greater good.

“We want our students to be focused on changing the world, not just building the next gadget,” said Kolodner. “We want people who are passionate about making a difference, and who have imagination about what education could be.”

Visit the Master of Arts in Learning Engineering website to learn more and apply. A $10,000 scholarship is available for all full-time students enrolling for the Fall 2019 semester.

—Alix Hackett | University Communications | April 2019