Performance Technology and Instructional Design Degrees – Strategies for Graduate School

So, you are contemplating a degree in instructional design. The first thing to know is that there are various instructional design degrees and instructional technology degrees available, but the specific preparation and concentrations may be different depending on what you want to do when you graduate. At present, most colleges and universities only offer instructional design degrees at the graduate level. These are ” MS, MA, MEd, EDS, and PhD programs.

Second, consider what instructional designers to, an how that relates to your professional goals. Also, remember that the instructional designers task is to develop instructional content that is to be used by teachers, trainers, instructional designers, with the goals of enhancing learning outcomes. Hence, instructional technologists make decisions on the effectiveness of delivery methods, instructional outcomes, and learning experiences. It therefore requires the instructional designer to have a good working knowledge of educational psychology, selecting instructional media, and understanding learners.

As a prospective graduate student, it is vital to take into account various factors when selecting your ideal instructional design program. Hence you should keep in mind your future career goals, your area of expertise and professional interests, online learning options, and how much it will cost you to complete your program of study.

Another thing to consider when conducting your research is how the program my be titled in the catalog. Common program names are Educational Technology, Computer Education, Instructional Technology, Instructional Design and Development, Instructional Systems Technology, Instructional Design, Learning Technologies, Instructional Design and Technology, Instructional and Performance Technology, and Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation. It is quite useful to now this as it generally is a good indicator of the coursework that you will be engaged in during the program.

The next important thing to consider is whether the program you select is accredited. Accreditation means that the instructional program has undergone a self-evaluation process, been reviewed by peers, and other accrediting bodies. Accrediting organizations evaluate programs on the conformity to standards, which address mission, goals, and objectives, curriculum, faculty, students, administration and financial support, and physical resources and facilities. Most potential employers require a degree from an accredited university. Also, if you ever have to transfer or join a new programs, your new institution might not accept the credits if the school is not accredited.

Instructional programs prepare graduates for different areas of specialty. Whether the job title is instructional technologist, e-learning specialist, or instructional designer, one can expect to work in higher education, corporation, K-12 schools, government, military or non-governmental organizations.

When feasible pay a visit to the college you are interested in and talk to both faculty and students in the program. Ask questions about internships and future employment. Also ask questions about the programs of study available to you. This will better assist you in making a final decision. Observe what computer, classroom, and library resources are available.  

You will generally have an academic advisor assigned to you to help you develop a good program of study. Various institutions have different course requirements and some departments do offer special tracks such as multimedia or evaluation specializations. This however is dependent on the overall structure of the program and the available electives.

The field of instructional design is developing quite rapidly and is ideal for those who enjoy working with learners, training, developing instructional content and multimedia. The instructional technology profession has a good base in educational psychology, instructional media, and computing. The field continues to expand as more organizations adopt e-learning, performance improvement, and other instructional methods.