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Want an E-Ph.D. in Ed Tech?: An E-nlightening interview with Punya Mishra from Michigan State University
Friday, March 05, 2010
An E-Ph.D.? Anyone? Anyone?:
Do you offer an online doctorate in educational technology? If not, can you recommend a program? Just who offers online Ed.D.’s and Ph.D.’s? I typically get this question a couple of times on each trip I go on. I get tired answering this question over and over and over. There are several universities that I mention with an online doctorate in the field. However, none of them have the brand name of a Big 10 or Ivy league school.

Move Over Bob Dylan...Punya Mishra is Here:
Good news. As Bob Dylan can testify, “The times they are a-changing.” I recently received an email from my friend (no, not Bob Dylan but someone equally creative). The email was from Punya Mishra over at Michigan State University (MSU) about their newly designed online/hybrid doctoral program (see his note below; see his MSU homepage for more information on Punya Mishra). His fantabulous new program will focus on the evolving role of technology in learning. Sounds intriguing to me...especially with the potential for large enrollments from practitioners.

Here is that note from Punya Mishra:


Michigan State University is now offering its doctoral program in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology online with a new hybrid option focused on the evolving role of technology in learning. The blended four- to five-year program, which combines online coursework with summer classes on campus, is designed to meet a growing demand from experienced education professionals who want to earn a Ph.D. while continuing in their current positions. This substantially online program is designed for the bright, established professionals currently serving in K-12 schools, universities, policy centers, and research institutions, who understand how new technologies, including online learning, continue to transform education.

We see this as an exciting initiative by a nationally ranked program (MSU's College of Ed graduate programs are ranked #6 in the nation, by US News and World Report). This program is targeted at talented people in the field who have finished their masters, established themselves as effective educational leaders, and who would like to earn a Ph.D. but cannot consider giving up an influential job for four or five years to go back to school full time. Clearly there is a need for a high quality Ph.D. program designed for education professionals who are seriously interested in research, evaluation, and assessment of effectiveness of technology in school.

Students will have the opportunity to work with world renowned faculty in the College of Education at Michigan State University. These include, Dr. Punya Mishra and Dr. Matthew J. Koehler (developers of the TPACK framework for technology integration; more on Matt); Dr. Yong Zhao (author of Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization; more on Yong Zhao and even more), and Dr. Rand Spiro (developer of Cognitive Flexibility Theory).

Please feel free to contact Punya Mishra ( or Dr. Robin Dickson ( if you want any more information or visit the following websites:

MSU Hybrid PhD website:
Postings on Punya Mishra's blog these Exciting New Opportunities:


~punya mishra

I provide details of the program below. But before that Punya and I had a little chat about this new hybrid program. My ten questions and his insightful responses are below.

Interview with Punya Mishra, Michigan State University, New Blended Ph.D. in Educational Technology

Curt Question #1: What has you most excited about this new program and why?

Punya: The most exciting part about this, for me, is the fact that this program will allow us to work with the smartest and most energetic practitioners in the field. This is a chance to break out of the ivory tower. This is also an opportunity for us to think of new paradigms of research—research that is more closely connected to things happening on the ground, research that is informed both by the deeper abstractions of theory and the grounded pragmatics of practice. I have written about this on my blog – check out

Curt Question #2: What prior experience does your department have in offering such a program? I know you had mentioned some certificate and master’s programs (similar to what we have here at IU)?

Punya: We have been offering a variety of programs for practicing educators in the area of Educational Technology for years now. These include a nine-credit certificate program, a thirty-credit Master’s degree as well as the regular on-campus Ph.D. What is interesting is that, except for the Ph.D. (at least prior to this new hybrid version) all our programs could be taken in a variety of formats: online, face-to-face (on campus, off campus, and abroad) as well as hybrid combinations thereof. For instance, we have students who have taken some certificate courses over weekends, at sites near their schools, followed by some coursework on campus and online (over summer and regular semester). These students received their master’s by completing their courses with one final summer, abroad.

Another exciting initiative we have started recently (apart from the Ph.D.) is what we are calling an “EduPunk Refresher” course. This can be taken for credit or no-credit and is aimed at people who already have a master’s degree but realize that the rapid pace of technology change means that they have some catching up to do. The emphasis is on what we call DIY Ed Tech, an intense hands-on week long workshop dealing with the latest technologies and how they can be integrated in teaching. We are offering this program this summer in the beautiful Rouen in France. Details of all this can be found

Anyway, the overall point I am trying to make is that, here at MSU, we have over 7 years of experience offering courses and programs in online and blended formats and have been quite successful at it. In that sense, developing the new Ph.D. was not that much of a stretch.

Curt Question #3: How does a blended or online educational technology doctoral program change the ballgame for ed tech programs around the country? How prevalent might online and blended educational technology program be in 5 years? How about in 10 or 20 years?

Punya: Well, we think that the trend is moving in that direction. I hate to make predictions but I do think that this is the wave of the future, for a range of reasons (many of which you speak of in your recent “The World is Open” book).

I think this is particularly true of practitioner-oriented fields like education. Think of the model that exists now. We ask people to leave their areas of practice, come to campus for 4-5 years, at which point they have lost that very intimate connection between what they are learning and what they do. This model is highly understandable for some disciplines (say engineering or physics) where doctoral research is about getting into a lab – and a lab can be expensive to maintain—so it makes sense to come to campus.

But in a field like ours, the labs ARE the classrooms. What this new program does, in my opinion, is to allow people to maintain a strong connection to their practice, even while engaging in the deeper engagement with ideas, theory, and research that doctoral programs do so well.

Combine this with how powerful and easy to use collaborative and communication technologies have become, and I think we have a win-win situation here.

Curt Question #4: What types of new students do you expect to attract to your new program? What niche market are you going after? Any enrollment projections, hopes, or dreams?

Punya: We are hoping for a cohort of 20 students – every other year. We came to these projections by extrapolating from number of the core faculty that we have who will teach these courses. One of the biggest challenges we faced was that we did not want to dilute in any shape or form the quality of our doctoral program. So, all our courses will be taught by tenure stream faculty...and as you know we have some really good people here at Michigan State. I feel fortunate to be able to work with all of them.

As for the kinds of students we would like to have, I think I said it best in my blog post (so if you will allow the self-plagiarism):

“This new program explicitly aimed at practitioners hopefully will change that. Moreover it seeks to bring together people who care strongly about education and learning and those who understand that newer technologies are fundamentally changing everything. We are looking for people who see the problems we face today and are interested in finding research driven solutions.

We are looking for the adventurous ones, the risk-takers, the ones who want to make a difference. And we want to bring them together, using the powerful tools we now have, to create, explore and share, to engage in dialogue and dissent, to critique research and to conduct research, to experiment with new technologies, new pedagogies and new content.”

Curt Question #5: What is the most unique element of this program?

Punya: The college of education at Michigan State has a long history of being at the forefront of teacher education and scholarship around teaching and learning. Think back to a few decades ago and the work done by Lee Shulman and others around the idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. More recently, Matt Koehler and I have taken that idea a step further to the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (also known as TPACK). This idea of TPACK structures almost every program we offer in my department (details at So I think this unique coming together or bridging of educational psychology and educational technology within the TPACK framework really puts our program at a different level than most others. Combine this with the unique structure of our new program--the emphasis on theory AND practice—and I think we have a really good thing going here at MSU.

I think the other strength of this program is the faculty members who are part of the initative. I don’t want to start listing names here (check out the website for that) but, as I stated earlier, we have some really highly accomplished, creative, and connected minds here.

Curt Question #6: Why are your colleagues at MSU excited about it? At the same time, what might they be cautious about or be monitoring carefully?

Punya: I think there is a great deal of excitement around the new kinds of students we will see in this program. Already inquiries from potential students have indicated that we are seeing a very different profile from the ones we typically attract. So I think this means that there is a great potential for us (as faculty) to grow and learn, to develop new areas for research, etc. So that is the cool part.

There are a couple of things we are cautious about. The first area is how we support virtual students. Doctoral programs have typically not done a good job of supporting doctoral students. However in an on-campus program the students have one big advantage, they can come and knock on our doors. That will be harder for these students – who are also busier, because of their jobs. So we are spending a great deal of effort to design and build in institutional mechanisms to offer this support. We are particularly looking at leveraging social media in this, but also trying to employ key people whose sole task will be to support and nurture these students as they move through the program.

The other point of caution is in regards to maintaining the quality of our doctoral program. We are proud of the program as it exists and want to make sure that these changes in delivery of the program do not in any way compromise its quality. We will be monitoring this quite closely as we move forward.

Curt Question #7: What programs will be the top competitors to it?

Punya: The design and need for this program did not emerge from a market analysis as much as it did from what we (as faculty members) were hearing from practitioners. So in that sense it is difficult for me to point to competitors. We do know that there are some EdD programs out there, as well as some Ph.D. programs from for-profit institutions. But we are a Ph.D. (which means a strong emphasis on research) and, of course, we are a land grant university (which means a strong emphasis on outreach and making a positive difference in the state and beyond). That combined with our strong reputation I think puts us ahead of most possible competitors.

Curt Question #8: Do you see any partnerships or joint offerings on the horizon? How about an emphasis or a strand in your program on global education with technology?

Punya: We see great potentials in collaborations and joint offerings. Global education is an important piece for a couple of reasons. One of the strongest advocates of global education, Yong Zhao, is right here in our department (and he has a new book on this out too). Also, a large percentage of our online and hybrid master’s students come from around the world, many who are already working in international schools.

Another series of conversations we have just started has been with people in our Ed Admin department. We are looking at developing emphasis areas that would attract administrators to our program as well.

Hopefully other collaborations will emerge as well. But right now our focus is on getting this program up and running successfully.

Curt Question #9: What was the most difficult thing to put in place to get this program started? Stated another way, what key challenges will others face?

Punya: I think the biggest challenge we faced was the faculty concern with quality. Can we deliver a quality doctoral program in a hybrid format? Most faculty members have “grown up” in the old model and it is often difficult for them to see new ways as being good enough. There will be a lot of convincing to do – and some people you may never convince. In that case, I recommend that people attempting something like this find the right team and just move ahead. One aspect of all this that that has been encouraging though is how supportive administration has been. You know the stereotype that higher education is slow to move and so on – but that has not been our experience. Hooray!

Curt Question #10: Will you be conducting research on it?

Punya: Absolutely. Research is something we do and in fact we are currently engaged in an evaluation of our master’s program – so that is something we would do with the new Ph.D. program as well. Of course this could be a great opportunity for doctoral students to do some really ground-breaking work.

Curt Question #11: Is there anything important I did not ask that you would like to add here?

Punya: No, I think we pretty much covered everything. I would recommend that people visit our websites (and my blog) to learn more about this exciting initiative. Here are some links that people may want to follow: Ph.D. Website:

A couple of blog posts that speak to my personal take on all this (more informal than official web-site language, and hence more accurate in some ways):
Punya Mishra’s Web:
More info from Punya:

Here are some program details:

1. Program Length: Intended as a 4-year cohort-based program.

2. Summer is Blended: Students take 7 week course in summer; 2 weeks of which are FTF and 5 weeks online. The first 2 summers are like this. Year 3 summer residency may be shorter and Year 4 depends on need.

3. Number of Courses in Summer: There are 3 courses in the summer over the 7 weeks. As with their traditional students completing 9 credits during a regular semester while working half-time, students will be fulltime students during the 7 weeks and complete 3 classes. This Punya says will be "intense and invigorating." These courses will not be separate sessions over the summer. Instead, they will be taught in an integrated fashion and students will meet each day in a FTF format from 8:30 am to 4 pm with, of course, a lunch break.

4. Regular/Residential/Tenured Faculty Teaching in Summer: The summer courses will be taught by fulltime tenure stream faculty with graduate assistant support.

5. Pooled/Integrated Summer Course Experience: The design of the summer experiences is critical. In a nutshell, the faculty at MSU are developing a curriculum pools together with content and ideas from these three courses to create a highly powerful integrated summer experience. Apparently, they have been doing something similar for their master's program for over three years (2 weeks face-to-face followed by an online option), so they have a track record that it works really well. By integrating or pooling across these three courses, they can strip out the redundancy among what were more isolated experiences.

6. One Course in Fall and One Course in Spring: In addition to completing 3 classes during the summer, students are expected to take 1 online course per semester--fall and spring 1 each.

7. Additional Residency Requirements: There is a flexible residency requirement in the fall semester of Year 3 – the specific details of which will be negotiated between the student and the adviser.

8. Dissertation Year: The fourth year is pretty open and focused on dissertation research.

9. Program Starts in Summer 2010:
This program begins this summer. The final date of application for the first cohort is May 1.

10. Biannual Cohorts: This program will run every other year - so the next enrollment will be in 2012.

11. Entry Requirements: A Master's degree is not required for entrance. What IS required is that you are working full time currently as an educator (in the K12, community college, higher education levels, or in industry) and have extensive experience in your field. Having a master’s degree does not hurt your application, however.

12. GRE: Taking the GRE is required. However, there is no minimum score. Your score is one of many factors that are considered for admission. These include your transcripts, letter of intent, etc.

13. Building a Cohort and a Community: The establishment and support of this cohort of students is something they are paying particular attention to. Social media tools will play an important role in this community building as will a strong commitment to meeting students’ needs and requirements.

14. Some Relevant Links:
1. Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education:

2. Overview of New Program:

3. Course Sequence:

4. Program Milestones:

5. MSU Hybrid Ph.D. Website:

If you want more information, you can always write to Punya at Hope you enjoyed this interview. The times are definitely a changing for the field of educational technology. Those who adapt will survive. Those who do not…may not. Which category is your program in? Where are you today? Where will you be tomorrow? Perhaps at Michigan State...or perhaps at Minnesota or Florida State or UT-Austin or Pepperdine or Nova Southeastern or Old Dominion University or Hanyang Cyber University or Jones International University or Walden or the Open University of Malaysia or ??? Time will tell. Right now it seems Michigan State is the one to catch. Or is it dear ol' IU?
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 6:34 PM  
  • At 8:19 AM, Blogger Dr. Anna F. Brown said…

    Hi Curt,
    Thanks for the post; I will pass this on. Just want to mention Pepperdine's blended EdD program in learning technologies (formerly educational technology). Here's the link for more info:

  • At 11:28 AM, Blogger Mary said…

    Thanks, Curt. Good to know about more online Ed Tech programs when people ask about what is out there. University of Florida has an online EdD in Ed Tech as well. The second cohort will start in Fall 2010.


  • At 2:13 PM, Blogger jmaddrell said…

    ... and as you know, Old Dominion University has an "at a distance" Instructional Design and technology PhD program headed up by IU alum Dr. Gary Morrison (and with IU alum Dr. Jim Marken). We tend not to call the ODU program an "online" program as most people still tend to think "asynchronous" when they hear "online" program. However, all of the ODU ID&T courses incorporate web conferencing technology to facilitate weekly live lectures and discussions that include both the students sitting in the classroom with the professors on the Norfolk campus and the folks who attend lectures and discussion sessions at an off-site facility in Virginia ... or students (like me) who connect into the live class sessions from our personal computers (anywhere in the world).

  • At 2:17 PM, Blogger jmaddrell said…

    Here is the URL to more information on the Old Dominion University distance learning option ...

  • At 5:08 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Thanks for the links Jennifer, MAry, and Anne. Seems this post has drawn a lot of eyeballs and brains already. SMile.

  • At 9:48 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

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  • At 10:53 PM, Blogger Lisa Chamberlin said…

    The current big pitfall of the online doctorate is the lack of funding normally associated with on campus doctoral programs. Programs are emerging, but do these online students have the same opportunities for teaching assistantships, fellowships, etc., normally used to defray the cost? Why not? Couldn't they teach undergrad courses online just as their campus counterparts do face-to-face? Couldn't they help co-author papers, do research, etc., all the same with the aid of tools like Skype, Google Docs, and other ed tech collaborative tools?

    When the brick and mortar universities step up with online degree offerings, the concern from their side is to ensure quality. From the student side, however, there needs to be opportunity for financial e-quality as well. It is this lack of support funding that will inhibit the growth of the online doctorate.

  • At 9:34 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    But Lisa, online programs usually cost less (in state instead of out-of-state) and you do not have to leave your job, family, etc. and park your car. Hence, you typically do not need the same amount of funding. You can get loans like I did. I think the online will attract enrollments without funding. Personally, I find it interesting that grad students expect to be funded. I thought there was value in the degree. I quit a job as an accountant, CPA, and corporate controller to go to grad school at Wisconsin without any funding and to make less money when I completed my master's and Ph.D than before I started. There is something about volition and passion that are more important than funding. That being said, you do make a good pt that face-to-face and online students are not trested equally in terms of funding opportunities.

  • At 9:24 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    So many opportunities today to learn online! This is just a start I think.

  • At 1:59 AM, Blogger LT said…

    I am all for online degrees and wish the movement can be pushed further, with professionals who know about online pedagogies. Online student services will be equally important to doctoral students as to undergraduate level students. Online programs can solve problems of classroom scheduling but good "customer service" is the key to keep any online programs alive. Lori

  • At 11:00 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Thanks for commenting Lori. Yes, services--counseling, mentoring, tutoring, and other students services will be growing in demand (or so you and I hope). Smile.

  • At 11:51 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

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  • At 11:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 11:23 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    No spam please.

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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.

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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.

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