This is the blog of Dr. Curt Bonk, Professor at Indiana University and President of CourseShare (there are NO Guest Blogs and NO advertisements permitted).

Dr. Bonk's Home Page

Bonk's Emerging Learning Technologies course

Video Primers in an Online Repository for e-Teaching and Learning (V-PORTAL)

Click here for information about my recent book, MOOCs and Open Education Around the World.

Bloggers I follow
My reading list
Purdue to Launch Online Master's Program...Reflections on Why...
Friday, March 11, 2011
News was passed around my department today that Purdue University will soon be announcing a new online master's degree focused on learning design and technology. Apparently, this program has been three years in the making. What I find interesting is the statement that there will be no fundamental difference between the residential and online courses.

No fundamental difference? How can they be so sure--the program has not even started. Humm...all programs say that. But as with any program (live in the classroom or online or blended or videoconferencing or correspondence or whatever), with each teacher, each module, each resource, etc., that is different, the program is, in fact, different. Hec, I have taught a course on instructional strategies for over 20 years and this spring I changed nearly 50 percent of the activities. It was vastly different.

I think such statements are made so as to reduce fears of those enrolling as well as those potentially hiring the graduates of such programs. But, in my mind, if you are really good as an instructor, your class cannot be replicated. Each iteration should be highly unique and special. Those who like vanilla bland, same-same programming (i.e., prepackaged content) will bore students and instructors endlessly.

Perhaps you should read the press release...
Purdue to Launch Online Master's Program, March 20, 2011, News Release, Report.

I find it interesting that the Inside INdiana Business article is dated March 10, 2011 while the Purdue press release is dates 9 days from now or March 20, 2011. In effect, the news story got out 10 days early it seems. Perhaps they are concerned about the competition--there are many online master's programs in the field of instructional design and educational technology. There are also certificate programs. My program Instructional Systems Technology here at Indiana University in Bloomington has both online certificate as well as master's programs (and perhaps soon an online Ed.D.). Check out the IST Website for distance education courses, requirements, and forms.

As dozens of online master's in educational technology and learning technology spring up around the country and the world, there will be fewer needs for faculty members in my field to be place-based. But why are so many such online programs coming online today? Here are 14 reasons off the top of my head.

1. Keeping Up With the Joneses: To keep up with other programs. If IU does something, often you will see programs at Florida State or the University of Georgia or Missouri (where I was earlier this week), do the same or similar, and vice versa. Most of the prominent educational technology programs now have online master's degrees or at least are contemplating offering such degrees soon.

2. Faculty Interests and Skill Base: These are educatiional technology programs--certainly most faculty in such programs are interested in online learning or have technology skills in this area.

3. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: As schools, colleges, and universities as well as businesses add online courses and programs, they most certainly need to hire more instructional designers and e-learning specialists. With the recent explosion of online and blended degrees, there are many jobs right now in this field (i.e., the demand). And, as a result, many people want to obtain the skills needed for such jobs (i.e., the supply). For those interested in educational technology job openings, see my ed tech jobs portal which has links to 34 job listing sites in the field.

4. Design, Development, and Deployment Costs: There is not a lot of capital needed to build such programs (compared to science and medical fields).

5. Demand: There is much demand from those working fulltime who are now seeking instructional design or new media skills in their spare time. Coming to campus for a face-to-face experience is not possible.

6. Branding, Recognition, and Recruitment: This is a means to advertise one's doctoral program--offer a certificate online and attract students to the master's...or offer a master's online and attract students to the doctorate. Successful online certificate programs and master's degrees help with the branding of the department or program.

7. Survival of the Fittest: For many programs in educational technology, they would not exist without the online master's or certificate program. Students do not have time for traditional, face-to-face classes. Courses and programs, and faculty within such courses and programs, must be nimble and flexible.

8. Tough Economic Times: Similarly...This is new money! Budgets are tight right now and administrators will take anything that provides a positive cash flow. And many online master's and certificate programs are doing just that today.

9. Campus or Organization Need, Niche, or Service: The online master's or certificate might be a service for other units on campus--i.e., training people who need skills in instructional design and development. It also might be part of a president's or dean's stated mission or state of the university address.

10. Expandable Faculty: With an online master's program, you can recruit clinical faculty from around the world (some famous and some former alumni). With that, you can potentially extend both the reach and reputation of the department.

11. Influence and Footprint: Purdue has great faculty (as do other programs like Michigan State which I reviewed in an earlier blog post) and so it is important to see how far the ideas, skills, and courses of such faculty can extend around this planet. Why not try to influence those thousands of miles away?

12. Template Exists: Once one program goes online, there is a template for how others can replicate and extend such a model.

13. Learner Expectations: At first, our online master's was unusual when it was first offered in the late 1990s. Now it has become the norm. Students simply expect educational technology programs to offer online master's degrees as well as certificates. And they can learn from those students who have successfully transversed through such online courses and programs.

14. Real-World Touch: Master's programs with those working fulltime provides a reality check for one's ideas, cases, and activities. With such students, there is a real world audience built into each course.

There are many types of people in the real world who might sign up. In fact, the INdiana Business article says: "Fields such as education, business, industry, and the military, have a need for effective training and instruction prepared by skilled professionals. Our program incorporates cutting-edge learning theory, educational technology and instructional development in a convenient online delivery method - taught by the same faculty as the on-campus classes."

This is true--there are many audiences for such online programs. I wish my colleagues at Purdue much success. They are great. One must also realize that they were not the first, nor will they be the last to offer such a program. By 2020, hundreds of such master's programs may exist. By 2030, most Ph.D.'s in my field will be online or blended (some FTF mentoring will still be needed at times). And by then, the field will have certainly morphed into something else. That morphing might be coming sooner than most people could be right around the corner in the next few years. But 20-30 years out is a pretty safe bet. Times will change and so will this field. Which people and places will recognize such and stay ahead of the field?

Those wanting more information can contact Purdue (see website for more details).
Subscribe to the TravelinEdMan podcast
  posted by Curt Bonk @ 5:54 PM  
  • At 7:37 PM, Blogger LT said…

    What can I say other than recognizing this as a world trend. Competitions are fierce in education, which lead us to wonder and ponder on ways of attracting students who wish to increase their employability after receiving the training from an online degree. Similarly the expansion of existing programs and establishment of new programs will continue to occupy the higher Ed market. That is why BC colleges are becoming universities and new graduate degree programs are being set up.

  • At 8:44 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    You are right, Lori, much competition and much change happening in higher education today. I would love to plop down here in 100 years and share my thoughts of today with those of tomorrow. I would enjoy hearing their ideas and seeing what was going on and then transporting myself back here to 2011. Wouldn't that be fun? Come with me.

  • At 4:00 PM, Blogger Mel said…

    I've been teaching an online course for over 10 years now and I really cannot say that my teaching has been the same everytime I handle it. The learning goals are the same, yes, the basic lessons/activities and probably assessment may be the same in terms of what they want to achieve but in line with continuous improvement, there are changes along the way. In most cases, th changes are also brought about by the different dynamics resulting from diversity of the learners, recent advancements in the field, and relevant events happening all over the world.

  • At 4:03 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Yes, Mel, the students in the course determine most of the outcomes. I was going to revise my post and add to it. The most important aspect of teaching and learning and generating ideas, not replicating content. Too many people are focused on content replication instead of novelty, variety, and newness of knowledge. Glad you agree. Your ten years of experience online is more than 99.9 percent of the world.

  • At 11:26 PM, Blogger Mark said…

    Of course you are right Curt. To say a program will be the 'same' is a bizarre statement. I have three f2f groups for economics right now and they are not the 'same' either. I think that the global trend for standardization as quality control is part of the reason for the statement. I am echoing what you say really.

    There does seem to be an increasing (and worrying) trend towards standardization, particularly in assessment - that is actually lowering standards imho. I think Ken Robinson refers to it as the 'McDonaldisation' of education - all the same - there seems to be no understanding that quality control does not have to mean uniformity.
    Here we have been battling the notion of grading to the curve and been called to account if student grades do not fit a nice Gaussian curve !!! What rubbish is that?
    Imagine starting a course saying - well two of you have to fail - sorry but there we are, the weakest two - no matter how good, have to fail and the best two, no matter how bad - will be 'A's.

    This is apparently to 'raise the bar" (I quote). Sorry of I sound angry.

    BTW. I am the graduate of an excellent online Masters in Online and Distance Education for the UK's Open University - which has been making a great job of open and distance education for more than 50 years.

    Thanks for another great post Curt - I look forward to more information about the EdD.

  • At 7:39 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    That is right Mr. Mark over there in Dubai. You are spot on just like your (and my) friend Lori (LT) from Vancouver/Taiwan who was the first to post and my friend Mel from the Philippines.

    Seems "sameness" of the result makes everyone sigh some relief. Ah, we will learn the same things. Well, as Melinda pointed out, the content changes and the ideas related to how to express that content also should chenge. I could teach a section of a course at 9 am and another section of the same course at 11 am and I know that the learning outcomes were different and yet both of them were high quality experiences (or so I would hope).

    Sameness...prescribed content...and asssessment of those prescriptions...leads to a factory type of master's program. In effect, what we place on the shelf for people to learn, they will learn...God (or some other deity) help them. This is the sure route the boredom.

    Why cannot these new master's programs in learning technology, instructional design, and educational technology emphasize innovation, creative expression, and flexible thought? I mean this is a time for using the other side of our brains. Spontaneity and idea generation wins the day in this Age of the Web 2.0. This will soon be known as the learning century. Unfortunately, programs of replication will hold us back from the realization of that for at least a decade. But we will get there.

    Thanks for the Open U example Mark--yes it is a great example to include in the list being generated here. People should not be limited in thinking quality programs jusst exist in North America. Increasingly, they will not. See you at Global Learn in Melbourne in 2 weeks. Smile.

  • At 11:16 PM, Blogger LT said…

    Hi, there,

    Those who are afraid to lose control are those who want the "sameness" to satisfy personal needs, not the needs of the learners. These are the people who need to be educated with a awakening call before they can put the students at the forefront. Open universities and other non-traditional learning channels are a living proof of student-centric education.

  • At 7:33 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Point well taken Lori. We all are enjoying an age of openness. There are/is:
    1. Open Universities (as you note);
    2. Open access journals;
    3. Open source software;
    4. Open educational resources (OER);
    5. Open content initiatives and alliances;
    6. OpenCourseWare (OCW);
    7. Open standards;
    8. Open teaching or courses (i.e., those instructors who allow anyone around the world to sign up for their courses);
    9. Open education conferences and institutes;
    10. Open education discussion forums, blogs, podcasts, twitter feeds, etc.

    There are helping tilt education in the direction of the learner-centered teaching/learning approach and philosophy that you mention and endorse. And they help provide the content from which learners can now reflect, discuss, juxtapose, etc. And they can add to it.

    While I push for more openness and creativity in courses and programs and in people themselves, I also realize that Purdue University and others cannot set up new online master's programs without a base to draw people in. But replication and sameness should not be the basis for people to sign up for it. I prefer programs that emphasis newness, unique opportunities, innovation, and the like. Oh well, we will see what happens. Thanks for your post.

  • At 2:14 PM, Blogger Alan Rogers said…

    I think the quality of the course shouldn't change whether it's online or not. I think online masters programs are great. What interests me is how freeing faculty requirements on location could affect the way the academic community interact. In past, a university professor would have contact with any number of other academics through committees or other means forming a true academic community. If everything is online, will we get that same level of mix between fields and interests?

    Online Masters Degree Program Alumnus

Post a Comment
<< Home
About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

See my complete profile

Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

Recent Posts
Popular Posts
Powered by

Free Blogger Templates