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Executive Summary

  • My research examines field-related topics through the lens of human-centered design and systems perspectives, with consideration to the relationship between technology, organizations, and society/people. Within this lens, I have examined and published on openness (including student agency, and the impact of freedom, and transparency of systems), human-centered design (and the impact of these frameworks on Instructional Design), and small meaningful collaborations through micro-communities.
  • I have a solid publication history with 5 peer reviewed articles in reputable scholarly journals, 11 edited columns in TechTrends, a co-authored book chapter, and 12 refereed conference proceedings. I have also led 6 keynote presentations, led or co-led 41 presentations at various conferences, classes, and events, and created and led or co-led 25 workshops.
  • My goals for scholarship include continuing to publish in well recognized journals, editing a book, moving into journal editorship, and collaborating with other researchers.
  • I am also very interested in establishing an Instructional Design/Research Studio within the program to allow students to collaborate on real-world projects.

Statement of Research Interests

     I have always been intrigued with an interest in humans, and this eventually grew to consider their relationships with technology, organizations, and with other people and society. This interest has evolved interestingly through the years, and my approach has come to include robust framings of challenges primarily through human-centered design and systems perspectives.

     My first formal research efforts involved addressing real-world challenges in the local community. As part of NASA’s DEVELOP National Program, our small team sought to use satellite imagery and scientific in situ data to improve mosquito treatment efforts in the county, among other projects. Our work impacted practice and policy for the local Department of Public Health. I was brought on as a business liaison to gather data and work between government agencies, and served as a co-lead for the research team.

     This experience helped me understand the practical impact that research work can have, and sparked a genuine interest in exploring practical topics. After entering a Ph.D. program in Instructional Design and Development a few years later, I began a regular practice of scholarly examination . . . and my own interests started to evolve and mature. I became deeply engaged with an active research studio during this time, and briefly explored the areas of gamification, human-computer interaction, and performance improvement, before centering more fully on the area of adoption and diffusion of technology. This interest encouraged me to think more critically about education structures, the affordances of technology and its impact on education, and on what the design of a human-centered education system might look like.

     This drive to explore human-centered educational systems led to a focus on openness, which is primarily comprised of technologically enabled innovations which have organizational and systemic impact, and involved challenging and reframing systems in ways that encouraged them to potentially become more human-centered. Openness is a complex and interesting topic for research. For one thing, it is not clearly or consistently defined, and it immediately brings to mind certain concepts which can be interpreted in a myriad of different ways. It is often politicized and used ideologically, and it is often framed as an idealistic utopian state to which everyone should naturally adhere. Through much examination of existing work, I was able to create an operational definition of openness that focuses on how transparency and freedom are ingrained into systems and produce distinct affordances which can force reflection on the foundational assumptions of systems such as traditional scholarly diffusion and online learning (Baker III 2014 a). Examples of this reframing can be seen in the systems of Open Access Research, Open Teaching and Learning, Open Educational Resources, and Open Source Software, which each challenged educators to think critically about the core of what we do and how we might exist if this core was substantially shifted. Much of my work within openness has dealt with examining aspects of these reframed systems (see Baker III, 2014b; Baker III 2014c; Surry, Baker III, et. al. 2014; Baker III & Surry, 2013a; Baker III & Surry, 2013b and Baker III, 2012).

     Another element of my work within openness involved exploring its history. Presumably because of the tremendous impact digital technology has on its promulgation and affordances, many people claim openness emerged from the Open Source Software movement in the 1980s. In fact, openness has a rich history in education, going back at least to the time of Socrates, and being exemplified in the foundational ideas of Dewey and Montessori, and most prominently in the Open Education and free school movements of the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s (Baker III, 2016). There are a great number of educators and researchers whose work is highly influential in openness, and its principles are exemplified in many constructivist classrooms—which have emerged as the dominant model for education in the 21st century. The underlying concepts of openness are more pervasive than it initially seems, and in many ways these concepts are inseparably intertwined with the soul of education.

     My dissertation work explored the impact of openness in higher education through analysis of policy statements in Carnegie classified Very High Research Institutions in the United States. I drew a stratified random sample and searched for policy statements related to the implementation of openness, and then analyzed them for policy role as enabler, barrier, or neutral. From this examination, I created a set of example policy statements and recommendations for institutions to draw upon when writing policy to address openness—whether to enable it, prevent it, or address it neutrally (See, Baker III, 2014d). Research with a practical element is something I strive for.

     This exploration of openness as a way to reframe systems to be more human-centered led to consideration of other lenses for this reframing. I began to explore the potential of small groups working together and their ability to shape and have impact at large scale. This led to the co-development and interest in the concept of micro-communities, and a conceptualization of where they might prove impactful (Surry, Baker III, & Rausch, 2013; Whiteside, Garrett Dikkers, & Baker III, 2019). These micro-communities reframe traditional collaborative professional development models into more human-centered engagements which are driven by the members and have far-reaching impacts.

     Recently, I have more formally explored the role of human-centered design/design thinking with regard to instructional design. Along with my graduate assistant, I performed a systematic content analysis of the literature, which led to reviewing 1075 abstracts and 70+ related papers, and ultimately identifying a core set of papers for analysis. These examinations were used to draw parallels between Instructional Design and the larger design field, and to produce recommendations and implications for use of design thinking models within practice (Baker III, & Moukhliss, in press). The expertise within the instructional design field is relevant to everything that happens in higher education, and a similar case can be made for many industries—yet in my experience, most people are unaware of what we do, or can do. I believe that it is important that we continue to negotiate our role as designers in a design field, and that we take an active role in shaping the future of education and business. We must then communicate this effectively to the larger community.

     My research will continue to explore this line of reframing systems through design. I am currently exploring the topic of individual performance through productivity and planning systems. These systems have the potential for large scale impact for individuals, such as students and employees, as well as for organizations through improved performance and productivity. Mastering these systems has the potential to improve work-life balance for individuals as well, while retaining or improving levels of performance.

     Overall, examining human-centered design through a systems lens continues to be an important, rewarding, and impactful area ripe for study. As seen here, studies in this area can focus on a variety of topics, which makes it adaptable to changes and ensures its long-term relevance as a research agenda. Three possible studies in this area include 1) An analysis of personal productivity systems to determine the core elements of functional systems, 2) Examining frameworks used in higher education for serving the needs of the people involved (e.g., examining and comparing the structures of resources and services provided to students at various institutions, and making recommendations based on the results) 3) Implementing and evaluating small co-curricular groups of informal practice (e.g. research or instructional design studios) to determine what impact these have on student preparation and comfort with ideas upon sustained participation. There is great value in any of these studies, and practical recommendations would emerge from their exploration.

     In recognition of my work in research on systems thinking for research in systems thinking and diffusions of innovations, I received the Charles M. Reigeluth Emerging Scholar Award at the Association of Educational Communications & Technology (AECT) conference this year. As my research continues to develop, I would like to undertake more studies with qualitative and mixed methods emphasis, continue to publish in recognized journals (such as BJET, TechTrends, and Review of Education) and produce book chapters, become more involved in journal editorship (I edited an an ongoing column in TechTrends, and am currently engaged in guest editing a special issue), and eventually write or edit a book of my own. I am also very interested in exploring the potential of establishing an Instructional Design or Research Studio with the students in the program, as my involvement in a studio had a tremendous impact on my professional development.

     For much of my academic career, I kept up with research efforts on my own time, as they were outside of my full-time professional position. Since I took on an Assistant Professor role with some time devoted to scholarship a little over a year ago, I have produced two published studies, co-authored a book chapter, have another publication ready for submission, and am nearly finished with the initial analysis for another paper. I find research to be a very important and rewarding pursuit, and it presents ample opportunities both to learn and develop as a professional, and to provide meaningful guidance to those who practice within our industry. In total, I have a solid publication history with 5 peer reviewed articles in reputable scholarly journals, 11 edited columns in TechTrends, a co-authored book chapter, and 12 refereed conference proceedings. I have also led 6 keynote presentations, led or co-led 41 presentations at various conferences, classes, and events, and created and led or co-led 25 workshops. I plan to continue producing and publishing scholarly work, as it is a passion and has proven to be a very rewarding experience.


Baker III, F.W. (2016) An Alternative Approach: Openness in Education over the last 100 Years. TechTrends doi: 10.1007/s11528-016-0095-7.

Baker III, F. W. (2014a). Open Participatory Engagement Network (OPEN): An instructional design meta-framework for creating participatory networked learning environments. In Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (Vol. 2014, No. 1, pp. 227-233).

Baker III, F.W. (2014b). Open dialogue: A content analysis of the #openeducation Twitter hashtag. In Proceedings of the Association of Educational Communication Technology Annual Conference, Jacksonville, FL, 2014.

Baker III, F. W. (2014c). Developing the Open Factors Instrument: An Implementation Questionnaire for Gauging Openness. In Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (Vol. 2014, No. 1, pp. 1378-1385).

Baker III, F.W. (2014d). Policies related to the implementation of openness at research intensive universities in the united states: A descriptive content analysis (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from

Baker III, F. W., Surry, D. W. (2013a). Open Education Designs: A Taxonomy for Differentiating and Classifying Open Learning Environments. In R. McBride & M. Searson (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2013 (pp. 189-194). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Baker III, F.W., & Surry, D.W. (2013b). Faculty Enthusiasm Toward Compulsory Participation in an Institutional Open Educational Resources Repository. In R. McBride & M. Searson (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2013 (pp. 1831-1836). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Baker III, F.W. (2012). Unshackling Future Minds: How including openness in teacher education can avoid insurrection and usher in a new era of collaboration. In P. Resta (Ed.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2012 (pp. 1488-1493). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Baker III, F.W., Moukhliss, S. (in press). Concretizing Design Thinking: A Content Analysis of Systematic and Extended Literature Reviews on Design Thinking and Human-Centered Design. Review of Education.

Surry, D., Baker III, F.W. & Rausch, T. (2013). The Role of Micro Communities in Educational Research. In R. McBride & M. Searson (Eds.), Proceedings of SITE 2013—Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 2453-2456). New Orleans, Louisiana, United States: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved October 3, 2019 from

Surry, D.W., Baker III, F.W., Morgan, R.E, LeBlanc, E. J., & Beck, B. (2014). Content analysis of articles published in open access and traditional access educational technology journals. In Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (Vol. 2014, No. 1, pp. 1462-1477).

Whiteside, A.L., Garrett Dikkers, A., & Baker III, F.W., (2019). Moving Beyond Trial and Error: Exploring Case Studies of Professional Development Models in K12 Blended Learning. In T.L. Heafner & R. Hartshorne (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Emerging Practices and Methods for K-12 Online and Blended Learning (Chapter 12). IGI Global doi: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8009-6 Retrieved from