Online master's program jumps in rankings
The online Master of Learning Technologies program in the College of Education and Human Ecology shot up to No. 38 in the U.S. News and World Report rankings among best online graduate programs in educational technology for 2020.
The three-year-old program provides students with the professional expertise to support learning with technology in education, corporate, nonprofit, government settings and more.
The streamlined curriculum is tailored for part-time and full-time students.
“The massive jump from No. 157 in the rankings to No. 38 reflects the concentrated work that has gone into recruiting talented students into the program and offering a plethora of different learning experiences,” said Ana-Paula Correia, associate professor and co-coordinator of the master’s program.
“The 30 hours of required, online courses range from theory-driven topics to applied courses on instructional design, videography and multimedia.”
Rick Voithofer, associate professor and co-coordinator who initially created the program, named a key feature that equals a quality online learning experience.
“An online program doesn’t function well unless it’s supported by more than the faculty,” he said. “From day one, our department’s student services is incredibly responsive to online students in setting up communications.
“In addition, our university-level infrastructure offers 24/7 tech support, the college’s Academic Technology team assists students during business hours, and we have a broad suite of online learning tools.”
Kui Xie, program chair for Learning Technologies, associate professor and Cyphert Distinguished Professor, emphasized that program quality is the faculty’s first consideration.
“We first made sure courses were designed according to pedagogical principles. We ensure that students have authentic projects, and we use selected, up-to-date articles to guide course reading rather than texts.”
“We also work to prevent isolation, a frequent disadvantage of online programs,” Xie said. “An app lets us see each other on the same screen so students and faculty get to know each other.”
Quality also comes from results of each faculty member’s research, which they apply back to the courses, and they pay close attention to students’ course evaluations and feedback.
“We make minor revisions to courses all the time,” Xie said. “Our first refresh of the entire program will come at the end of this academic year and repeat every three years.”
The practicum experience: Elevating real-world learning
A highlight of the highly competitive program is the required, real-world practicum.
Each student is admitted to the program to work with a specific faculty advisor. Mentoring is especially valuable as students decide on their practicum experience. They may choose a subject related to their work or to an outside interest.
Alumnus Patrick Littrell, ’18 MLT, focused on creating more meaningful ways for students to use their laptops in his social studies classes. The Colorado teacher then developed an overall strategy to train the rest of the teachers at Fountain Middle School. He created a manual and website to house the district’s paid, academic, technology-based programs that teachers are required to learn and use.
Teachers tell Littrell his work has helped them use technology more effectively in the classroom. Students also benefit directly because Littrell tied each program and teaching strategy to the school’s plan to improve all students’ academic achievement.
“Completing the MLT program at Ohio State has really put me in a great place,” he said. “I am a technology leader among my peers, lead teacher and a valued asset to my school and district.
“I recommend the MLT program to all current and new educators who seek a program to significantly improve their ability to make 21st century learners.”
Alumna Karen Bruce Wallace, ’18 MLT, is a learning and performance specialist at Nationwide Insurance. She worked full time in neonatology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital while completing the MLT program and used her learning to deliver real value to her employer.
In her practicum experience, Bruce Wallace worked in consultation with neonatal nurse practitioners to design online training for neonatal nurses.
"My practicum gave me the opportunity to do meaningful work, helping new nurses gain the skills and knowledge they need to take care of very sick babies,” she said. “It also prepared me for the real world of instructional design work. I was able to take a position as an e-learning designer and developer soon after graduating."
Creating community in an online program
The team emphasizes a high-level of teaching and the importance of social presence in the online courses. The faculty intentionally foster an online learning community that goes beyond class.
To boost social presence, last semester the faculty hosted a virtual gathering for all students at Woody’s Tavern, an eatery at Ohio State’s student union.
The event allowed online students to see and interact with Columbus students in the Learning Technologies master’s and doctoral programs.
They used Correia’s laptop camera and screen to connect with the students. Senior Lecturer Tracey Stuckey-Mickell, who teaches remotely and understands exactly what students experience, also attended. Carmen Connect, the university’s synchronous online learning platform, lets everyone see each other and chat.
“Everyone introduced themselves in an informal way, as you would at a party,” Correia said, “Students talked about their classes, their professional backgrounds and future plans. It was a low-key event, but students truly enjoyed it.”
The Master of Learning Technologies program is accepting applications for the next academic year now through March 1.
U.S. News and World Report evaluates programs based on four general categories: participation in courses, services and technology, faculty credentials and training and expert opinion.