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MA programs in Ed Tech / Inst Design – Program Identity

text logoThis post is about Masters Programs in ITD. I am excited to face the challenges of a new program and new students, but also leery that I am walking int a context I know little about. Part of that challenge I face is that program growth at texas A&M -Texarkana is both a desire and a concern; the school aims to build and refine the program at the same time. This desire is not uncommon. In my job talks over this past year, I was asked repeatedly about program marketing. This is a real concern for any online program, especially a Master’s degree in ed tech and inst design, such as the one I am teaching in at Texas A&M University Texarkana. Students are drawn to this field because they are usually tech savvy and feel comfortable online; thus they are also comfortable moving to a more updated program. The old model of build it and they will come is to be soon outdated, as numerous authors have pointed out in the past year in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. This is a logical assertion because the speed at which a potential Masters student can enroll, un-enroll, and switch programs is mind boggling. A student from the northeast mentioned she enrolled in a program in just one day. Each program must differentiate itself and continuously remind learners why their program is a better fit for the learner than any other. How is this done? This raises a number of questions which may or may not warrant research: Is it truly the case that a learner is invested less in an online program than one who has physically moved to campus or has gone through the orientation to a physical campus? To what extent is transferring among programs common?

The task of recruiting new students shares similar concern as learners have literally dozens of program at their fingertips at all times, 73 at last count. So what are the successful strategies programs are using to retain and recruit students? Is it website design? Is it search engine ranking? A little searching will reveal there is no standard ranking available anywhere for this field (see article here with statements from Phil Harris, PhD, executive director of AECT). Curt Bonk at Indiana University maintains and extensive list of programs here and has an equally extensive blog post about the decision making process here. Curt Bonk points out that settling on a program is more than simply choosing a better program; the decision must be based on matching the program to your needs. At the same time, programs are challenged with creating designs for the learners they want to attract. Pat answers and blanket statements about program quality probably do not get us, collectively, to any better place than we are now. I would imagine a future task we would be wise to address, as a field, is which programs are focusing on teaching what. I welcome comments.