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Technology is changing the landscape of education, from lectures on YouTube to real-time feedback devices in classrooms and even entire degree programs that can be completed online. Progressive teachers are making use of the latest innovations to improve course delivery and learning outcomes. Keeping up with this developing technology is in itself a full-time job, and many schools and universities employ educational technology directors or support personnel to help teachers integrate technology in the classroom.
Online educational technology degree programs can be an ideal way for motivated students to gain first-hand experience of both the topic and the medium of study which may give them an edge over students attending traditional brick-and-mortar courses. Additionally, the flexibility offered by online educational degree programs can suit recent high school graduates, working professionals and career changers who cannot attend traditional educational settings due to work, family and other commitments.
Instructional Design vs. Educational Technology
There can be a subtle difference between instructional design and educational technology depending on the school of thought.
- Educational technology refers to the practical application of integrated technology that can be used in the development and administration of curriculum in an educational setting.
- Instructional design focuses more on training and development for employees of organizations using technology tools.
You may find that the two terms are often used interchangeably. You may also find an overlap between the two fields and an individual with a degree in instructional design may be employed by a university and vice-versa. These programs may also be referred to as instructional technology degree programs.
What do technology educators do?
Technology educators use their knowledge to help educators use technology in classrooms. Some of their duties can include:
- Making recommendations to design and improve instruction delivery methods using technology
- Developing instructional materials for technology-based redesign of courses
- Assessing the effectiveness of technology-based instruction methods
- Interviewing subject matter experts or conducting other research to develop instructional content
Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals
Professionals in this field usually have a respect and love for education as well as a keen understanding of how much technology can add to the educational experience. The degree program you choose can help you explore the aspects of the educational technology field that interests you the most. According to O*Net, 65 percent of respondents working as instructional designers and technologists held a master's degree.
Educational professionals in other fields, such as teachers or administrators, may be able to pursue certificates or graduate online degrees in educational technology to enhance their current skill set or move into more technology-oriented roles.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Educational Technology and Instructional Design
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?
Bachelor's degree programs can help you understand how people learn to use technology to develop instructional materials to meet organizational needs.
Typical duration: Up to four years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
Typical coursework: Curricula includes topics that can help you understand different theories of learning and how to apply those practically to design courses for online or blended learning environments. Some examples of courses are:
- Instructional design for e-learning
- Design concepts and application for online learning
- Curriculum design
- Ethical and fair use of instructional materials
- Collaboration in the virtual classroom
You may have to complete a capstone project as a part of your online bachelor's degree program in instructional design and technology.
Possible electives: Understanding today's instructional environments; diversity in education; 21st century learning
What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?
You may be able to gain employment to design curricula for a variety of different learning environments including K-12, higher education, corporate and governmental sectors. Some job titles include:
- Training and development specialist
- Audio-visual and multimedia collections specialist
- Learning development strategist
- Instructional consultant
Online Master's Degrees in Educational Technology and Instructional Design
What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?
Students can expand their knowledge on current and emerging technologies in the field of education, learn how technology can be used to enhance classroom experiences and facilitate student learning.
Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Typical coursework: Curricula includes topics that can give you a broad understanding of how educational technology works, how online learning programs are designed along with how to create educational materials using new technology. Some topics you may study include:
- Educational technology leadership
- Future of education
- Introduction to e-learning
- Learning management systems
- Strategic assessment and evaluation
You may also have to complete a practicum as a part of your online master's in educational technology degree program.
Possible electives: Computer and video game design for education; educational applications of multimedia; instructional design project management
What can I do after earning a master's degree?
Earning your master's degree in educational technology online can pave the way for a number of different occupations within the field of instructional technology. Some potential occupations include:
- Education specialist
- Curriculum development specialist
- eLearning analyst
- eLearning developer
- Instructional consultant
- Instructional content designer
- Instructional technologist
Online Graduate Certificates in Educational Technology
Undergraduates who may not want to pursue a full-fledged master's program may want to consider an online graduate certificate in educational technology. These certificate programs can take up to one year of study to complete. Depending on their focus, they may cover a range of topics from integrating technology with K-12 education to programs designed for teachers delivering online courses.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Educational Technology and Instructional Design
At this level, doctoral degrees are available in instructional technology as a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).
- Ed.D.s usually offer an applied approach to educational technology. This can prepare students for careers as scholar-practitioners and may focus on evaluating the effectiveness of technology in the classroom through empirical research.
- Ph.D.s in educational technology often require students to focus on theory and original scholarship. They can help prepare students for careers as scholars and academics, as well as administrative or policy-making positions.
What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?
A doctoral degree program in educational technology is designed to prepare individuals to understand the latest innovations and its uses in a learning environment. Students can learn to research complex applications and to provide critical leadership in evaluating and implementing new technologies in the classroom.
Typical duration: Three to seven years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Master's degree in an educational field
Typical coursework: Online doctoral programs in educational technology are typically composed of two phases. During the first portion of the degree program, students complete coursework in both core areas and an area of focus. Coursework can include topics like:
- Teaching, learning and technology
- Global and cultural perspectives in educational technology
- Issues in education
- Research in educational technology
Dissertation: Once coursework is complete, students move on to the dissertation phase of the program. Ph.D. students typically carry out original research on a theoretical problem and write a dissertation about their results. Ed.D. students may write a traditional academic dissertation, or they may conduct an applied research project and complete a shorter doctoral project.
What can I do after earning a doctoral degree?
A doctoral degree can make you eligible for high-level roles in the educational field or allow you to pursue a career in research and academia. Some potential job-titles include:
- Curriculum director
- Curriculum specialist
- Educational consultant
- Instructional coordinator
Although it is a voluntary process, accreditation demonstrates that a particular college or program meets or exceeds the professional standards required in the industry today. Accreditation can be an important criterion when choosing an online educational technology degree program. Attending an accredited program can be a prerequisite for obtaining federal financial aid and scholarships. It can also play an important role while transferring credits, applying for an advanced degree or obtaining professional certifications and licenses. The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation is the main accrediting body for educational and instructional technology degree programs.
Specializations in Educational Technology
Educational and instructional technology is an emerging field. However, the wide number of applications has meant that there are plenty of specializations you may be able to choose from while earning your master's or doctoral degree in educational technology online. Choosing the right specialization can be important in order to pursue a career that interests you within the field. Some specializations you may be able to choose from include:
- Audio production and visual storytelling
- Game design
- Instruction systems
- Instructional design and technology
- Educational leadership
- Technology education, media design and technology
Certifications and Licensures
The requirements for professional certifications and licensure can vary depending on your job role and associated duties. While professional certifications may not be necessary, some employers may prefer to hire individuals with these certifications to their credit. Some examples of professional certifications include:
- International Society for Technology in Education Certification
- Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP)
Teaching positions would typically require you to hold a teaching license. According to the BLS, other jobs, like instructional coordinators for example, within the educational industry may also require you to hold a valid teaching license or an education administrator license.
Scholarships and Financial Aid Programs
There are a number of different scholarships and financial aid programs aimed at individuals aspiring to enter the field of educational technology. Scholarships may be offered by professional bodies, colleges or even state education departments. It can be a good idea to check with your school's financial aid office to see if you are eligible for any aid they may offer. Some scholarships to help you get started on your search include:
- ISTE Awards
- TCEA Educator Scholarships
- AFCEA Educational Foundation STEM Scholarships
- ISI's Graduate Fellowship Program
Other resources for those aspiring to work in the field of Educational Technology
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)
- International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
- National Education Association (NEA)
- State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA)
Occupations and Career Outlook
As more and more institutions utilize emerging technologies that offer new and scalable ways of reaching students, there is no doubting the drastic shift in the educational landscape. Using technology effectively in the classroom requires aligning new tools with learning objectives, student abilities and assessment methods. Educational technology professionals are employed at organizations such as libraries, museums, community organizations and more. Educational technology jobs are even found in the military and government - or any place where educational programs need to be brought into the technology age.
The table below lists occupations related to this field along with projected employment growth and associated wages using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.