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Learning Sciences and Technology Design (LSTD)

Learning Sciences and Technology Design Cross-Area Specialization

Mobile multimedia computing devices, networks, and applications are now pervasive throughout society, whether in schools, homes, work, or communities as new tools for enabling and augmenting cultural practices, such as formal education, informal learning, and collaborative work. Computational and communication tools also provide new instruments for investigative research on cognition, learning, and social interaction. Integrations of computing, AI and new digital media provide tools for deeper analyses of learning and teaching situations, and designs for novel architectures of learning, teaching, and assessment. Learning Sciences Research is dedicated to the systematic study and design of the cultural, psychological, and technological processes that support learning and its improvement through learning environment designs.

Learning scientists seek to understand and shape how learning and collaboration is enabled by knowledge, tools and networks, and multiple contexts of socio-cultural experience and layers of social structures.

Our program seeks to integrate student learning of three foundational contributions to the Learning Sciences: The three foundations are theory and research in Culture, Cognition and Computing. By integrating these three foundational areas in its core coursework and methodological foundations, the Learning Sciences and Technology Design Program pays both constructive and critical pedagogical attention to these issues.

Culture: Deepening understanding of the ubiquitous social, material, contextual, and cultural dynamics of being and learning in doing within situations ranging from classrooms to out-of- school settings, to research-practitioner partnerships, including issues of differential access to power.

Cognition: Articulating scientific models of the structures and processes of knowing, learning and teaching of organized knowledge, skills, and understanding, from brain to behavior, and from human to machine intelligence.

Computing: Supporting learning, teaching and collaboration processes through theory-guided design, construction, and uses of multimedia computing, communications, sensing, and human- centered AI.

An illuminating introduction to this field is provided in the Vision Statement of the International Society of the Learning Sciences, ISLS. Also see the Cambridge University Handbook of the Learning Sciences (2015, 2nd edition), and the International Handbook of the Learning Sciences (2018).

Stanford's Learning Sciences and Technology Design program is one of the leading global programs in this rapidly emerging field ( In order to prepare scholars with expertise in both the research and design methodologies relevant to technology-enhanced learning environments, the Learning Sciences and Technology Design (LSTD) curriculum includes courses on learning, research, and design, coupled with integrative seminars and explicit apprenticeship activities in research with faculty. The LSTD curriculum builds upon current GSE Area requirements. Students admitted to the LSTD program and one of the CTE, DAPS, or SHIPS Program Areas need to fulfill the requirements in the first year of coursework (and in subsequent years) for their applicable Area and their Area-specific milestones, while simultaneously participating in the “community of learning” for two cohorts: LSTD and either CTE, DAPS, or SHIPS (as applicable).

The curriculum also assumes that students will develop special expertise in learning, design research, computer science, engineering or a cognate field—such as psychology, linguistics, human-computer interaction (HCI), machine learning, neuroscience or data science—as their Ph.D. minor. Students may also elect to design with their faculty advisor(s) the GSE Interdisciplinary Distributed Minor (IDDM), which includes a minimum of 20 course units from non-GSE departments at the 200-level or greater taken at Stanford.

The first LSTD program year emphasizes the development of prerequisite knowledge, typically in courses within the school and university offerings. Students primarily work within the requirements of their Area (e.g., CTE, DAPS, or SHIPS) while developing additional competencies needed for LSTD. Student experiences in the second year and beyond are focused more intensively on the process of integrating the sciences of learning and technology design. These years emphasize the intertwining of distinct competencies and GSE Area perspectives in the application of theoretical, research, and design competencies to the topic of learning being studied.

For LSTD, students must take the following courses and meet the following milestones:

LSTD Proseminar EDUC 291 (Autumn, Winter and Spring Quarters of the first year, and then again for an overall total of nine quarters altogether): As a condition for receiving the Ph.D. with the LSTD cross-area specialization, students are required to attend the colloquium for at least 9 quarters, and they must attend at least five quarters in the first and second year. This colloquium provides a forum for students and faculty to present and critique research relevant to the LSTD doctoral program. The goal is to develop a community of scholars who become familiar with one another's work and can inform each other in the diverse areas relevant to LSTD. The colloquium is also intended to give students practice and feedback pertaining to the arts of presentation and scholarly dialog, while introducing seminal issues and fundamental works in the field.

First Year Project: LSTD students will complete and write-up a first-year project that constitutes a significant component of their first-year review to be conducted in the Autumn of their second year. LSTD students will also need to demonstrate proficiency through coursework or prior achievements (such as course equivalencies), determined in consultation with their faculty advisor, in the following domains:

  • Two courses in research methodology
  • Two courses in design skills (e.g., user experience design, programming, graphic design, robotics, video/film, simulation modeling, animation, industrial design, game development).
  • Two courses on learning (e.g. Introduction to the Learning Sciences, Introduction to Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning).
  • One course on technology from a critical/social scientific/historical/philosophical perspective.
  • One course focused on learning in a disciplinary content area (e.g., mathematics, science, literacy, computer science, engineering, history).

See the “General Education Courses” Section for additional information about these requirements.

Prospective students will also benefit from study of the learning resources provided by NAPLeS— the Network of Academic Programs in the Learning Sciences (NAPLeS) — a network of Ph.D. and Master’s programs in the Learning Sciences. NAPLeS is part of the educational mission of the International Society of the Learning Sciences. The overall mission of NAPLeS is to foster high quality Learning Sciences programs internationally through several mechanisms that support teaching and learning. As one of its founding members, we are glad to report that as of December 2020, 39 universities offering 60 different programs have joined NAPLeS.

Course offerings within LSTD:

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