Choosing a Degree

Using Educational Technology Degrees for Careers in Higher Education

Not that many years ago there was no such thing as the internet. There were no digital marketing careers. No multimedia designers. No web developers.

Naturally, no related degree programs existed either; there simply was no need for any type of degree within a field that didn’t exist.

With the advent of the digital age, however, came a revolution.

Digital marketing, multimedia and technology-based degrees exploded onto the scene. Previously unheard of job titles like “webmaster” and “ecommerce specialist” became commonplace.

Then even more new career opportunities came to fruition, including higher education instructors to prepare the next generation of professionals.

Such is the case with education technology or EdTech as it is more commonly known.

According to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), EdTech is a growing field that involves the “designing of instruction and a systematic approach to learning.”

Simply put, EdTech focuses on teaching students based on how they learn.

While this may sound similar to instructional design, here are some of key differences:

 EdTech 

  • Purpose – Teaching & Learning Training
  • Audience – Students
  • Methodology – Systematic & Progressive
  • Outcomes – Instruction & Assessment

Instructional Design

  • Purpose – Training
  • Audience – Employees
  • Methodology – Modules & Programs
  • Outcomes – Object Lesson & Learning Environments

Perhaps the greatest need right now for colleges and universities, says InsideHigherEd.com, is improved outcomes. In fact, educational institutions are experiencing unprecedented pressure and, as such, are relying on digital-based transformation through EdTech.

Leading the way is the applied doctorate, including the doctor of professional studies, instructional design leadership.

What? No Ph.D.?

“Higher education employs a lot of non-Ph.D. instructional designers,” says Yi Yang, Ph.D., program director for Franklin University’s doctorate of professional studies (DPS), instructional design leadership. “Higher ed instructional designers work with faculty to develop curriculum. They’re not researchers constructing theory – that’s for the Ph.D. – rather, these are leaders who work with people to help other people learn.”

Dr. Yang says there are a number of growing opportunities within higher ed for EdTech professionals, especially at teaching colleges and universities.

“If you want to be a dean, a chief academic officer, or hold any position that involves curriculum oversight,” she says, “then a professional doctorate would be extremely valuable. If you want to conduct research, teach, obtain grants and publish at a Tier 1 research institution, then perhaps the Ph.D. would be a better option. The kind of terminal degree you get should be based on what kind of faculty you want to become and what kind of position you want to hold.”

No matter which type of degree you earn, EdTech holds great promise. In fact, this thriving, $10 billion industry says a study by the Chronicle of Higher Education holds the promise of opportunity for well-qualified, well-educated EdTech professionals:

“Higher education is experiencing increased demand for instructional designers who have the knowledge and skill set to help faculty members adopt new technologies and strategies in their teaching … they now play a bigger part in consulting with faculty members on pedagogy and on course design – as well as how to determine the best ways to use educational technology in all kinds of courses.”

The study found that 53 percent of survey respondents have designed courses across five or more higher education disciplines. It also discovered that instructional designers are more likely to be sought after within humanities (81 percent) and social sciences (79 percent) over STEM-related fields perhaps because lab-focused disciplines are more difficult to move into the virtual or online space.

Either way, there’s plenty of EdTech work to be done within the walls of our higher education institutions.

And like other instructional design leadership careers, working in higher ed requires instructional design professional to think about the art of teaching and the science of learning – far more than merely posting an online document or creating a technology-based quiz.

Your EdTech-focused degree should put you on course to partner with post-secondary faculty to envision, design and develop effective, engaging educational experiences.

So how does one get such an exciting, non-teaching academic career?

For many, it starts outside the college or university. From graphic designer to middle school teacher to e-learning specialist, plenty of professionals enter into a career in higher education from outside – after they’ve earned their terminal degree.

So let’s say that’s you.

Let’s say you want to impact future generations by pursuing a full-time career in higher education.

Let’s say you want to shift your career from what you’re doing now to EdTech.

The first step in making the transition is to earn your next highest degree.

Enrolling in an applied doctorate degree program such as an online instructional design leadership program like this one can equip you with such sought-after skills as:

• Applying research to impact performance
• Learning new technologies
• Designing and developing advanced curricula
• Understanding learning science and theory
• Planning strategic instructional design models

“Higher education needs innovative, interactive instruction,” says Dr. Yang. “It needs EdTech visionaries as much as it needs implementers. It needs leaders who can determine the best strategies and methods to move organizations forward.”