May 16, 2022

Graduate student embraces learning design and technology in all aspects of life

Tracy Boyce poses for a photo in her office.
Tracy Boyce is currently working on her Ph.D. in learning design and technology and hopes to be a professor after graduation.

Tracy Boyce comes from a long line of educators. Her parents, grandmother and several uncles and aunts were all teachers or school administrators.

Boyce said her mother talked her out of being a teacher when she was younger, but now she’s working on her Ph.D. in learning design and technology with a long-term goal to become a professor.

“At my core, I've always been a teacher,” said Boyce, who works at Wayne State University as associate director of marketing and communications for the College of Education.

Boyce worked in community relations for a number of years, including a decade spent with the Detroit Pistons. During that time, she earned a master’s in communication from Wayne State.

After leaving the Pistons, Boyce ran her own business for seven years and served as communications director and press secretary for a member of Congress, a role in which she was tasked with overhauling the website. That project sparked her interest in user experience.

Boyce returned to Wayne State to work for the Michigan Area Health Education Center, a federally funded collaboration between the School of Medicine and College of Nursing that seeks to increase diversity among primary health care providers. While earning her master’s in library and information science, she took a course in instructional design that led to her pursuing a graduate certificate in learning design and technology — a path she’s followed toward her Ph.D.

“I like learning design and technology because it gives me the chance to use technology, my creativity and my previous educational experiences to solve problems,” said Boyce, who often catches herself using her training in her day-to-day life.

“Design is a part of everything we do,” she said, “Learning design and technology teaches you a different way of looking at learning and performance issues. You learn to look at the way things are designed from the learner’s perspective so that you can make them easier for them to understand and use.”

A Wayne State graduate ambassador, Boyce recently took the time to reflect on the learning and design technology program and why she chose to attend Wayne State:

What drew you to the Ph.D. in learning and design technology program?

I always knew I wanted to get my Ph.D.; I just didn’t know what I wanted to get it in. I took this really long, winding path to get to where I am. It started when I was interested in user experience.

I took a class called instructional design for librarians, and I ended up liking that class so much that I looked to see if there were other instructional design courses. I wanted to see if that was something that I wanted to pursue. That one class led me to learning design and technology.

Tracy Boyce (center) poses for a photo with two of her friends.What is your favorite thing about the Learning Design Technology program?

My advisor, Monica Tracy, is fabulous. When I met her, I thought, I want to do what she does. She teaches, does research, consults and publishes. When I talked to her and told her that’s my goal, she was very supportive, and now she makes sure that I’m doing the things that will help me reach that goal — even if some of those things make me uncomfortable.

She requires all her advisees to submit a proposal to present at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology conference. Even though my dissertation wasn’t done, she encouraged me to talk about what I wanted to do and get feedback on it.

I was thinking the proposal wouldn’t get accepted and I wouldn’t have to do it because I don’t like public speaking. Well, it got accepted, and presenting wasn’t as bad as I thought. I got some great feedback. I got to talk to some of the people that I cite in my dissertation, and it turns out two of them went to Wayne State.

All the faculty in the program are very supportive. When it was time for us to start preparing for our qualifying exams, Linda Jimenez really helped us. She set up a Canvas website where we had access to readings, past exams and sample questions. She hosted monthly study sessions on Zoom and gave us very detailed feedback on our responses to the sample questions.

Why did you choose Wayne State?

I’m a native Detroiter, so I know that Wayne State is a great university. My mom earned her bachelor’s and master’s from the College of Education. My dad studied special education. They met at Wayne State. How cool is that? My uncle went to Wayne State, and one of my nephews is a former member of the football team and a graduate. Wayne State is part of my family’s history.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking of enrolling in the learning and design technology program?

Do it. Where we are now, instructional design is going to be a crucial field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the growth rate for careers in instructional design is expected to grow by 11%, which is a little higher than average — but I feel like that should be higher, especially with everything that’s happened during the pandemic and how people had to shift from being in person to everything being virtual. That is going to continue to be something that we do. There are going to be more opportunities for e-learning and virtual and hybrid work, and with that, they’re going to need instructional designers. They need people who can design training and performance improvement initiatives in curriculum that is engaging.

What is your favorite thing to do in Detroit?

Tracy Boyce (center) poses for a photo with two of her friends outside of Bakersfield.Hands down, my absolute favorite place in Detroit is Belle Isle. I love being near the water. Water is very calming and relaxing, so I love to go to Belle Isle and just sit and watch the waves. My favorite thing to do in Detroit is to hang out with my friends. I don’t know if I consider myself a foodie, but I do enjoy checking out different restaurants. Whenever there’s a new restaurant, I want to go. I love Detroit because you can get all different types of food. We have culture and we have cuisine, and there’s a sense of community here that I don’t I find in other places.

What are your plans for after graduation?

My goal is to teach, do research and consult. One of the classes I would love to teach is message design, which is like graphic design for instructional designers. It’s about how to design things that are attractive, engaging and informative at the same time. You use a lot of learning theories, color theory, technology, typography and layout to share information. Or I would love to teach an introductory instructional design class where students actually have to work on a real-life project.

Describe your research

My research is focused on how Black women digital entrepreneurs who design and develop learning products make design decisions. As a former entrepreneur, I started doing research about digital entrepreneurship. I began following different people on social media who offer educational products like courses, e-books, webinars and workbooks. A lot of them don’t have a background in education or instructional design, and I wondered, How are they making design decisions when they create these digital learning products?

I chose to focus on Black women entrepreneurs because when you study the history and development of instructional design, there is almost no discussion about people of color or women who have contributed to the field — and even though Black women are one of the fastest-growing segments of entrepreneurs, there is very little research about Black women in entrepreneurship or Black women who are digital entrepreneurs. My goal is to highlight the contributions of people of color, particularly Black women, to the practice and profession of learning design and technology, and to find out what we can learn about designing informal learning experiences for digital spaces from them.

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