April 13, 2023

Strong reputation, ranking of College of Education’s Learning Design and Technology program a big draw to online master’s students

Qian Xu was attracted to the College of Education’s Learning Design and Technology program for the faculty approach to learning and research. The graduate program’s strong reputation was an added draw for the career Xu envisions as a university professor and researcher.

“The faculty members and advisors in Purdue’s Learning Design and Technology program are so understanding and care deeply about students. And the global reputation of the program is awesome,” says Xu, who completed her master’s degree in curriculum studies and is now a graduate assistant, teaching online master’s students as she pursues her doctorate from Purdue.

The Purdue LDT master’s program ranks No. 8 nationally in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Programs. And its 2023 ranking, released in January, means it has remained in the top 10% of all Education online graduate programs for five years among 1,800 U.S. colleges and universities.

“In our information society, all professions have training needs, and LDT graduates are prepared to go into those environments and help create and implement the type of training that is required,” says Timothy Newby, professor of learning design and technology in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “It is exciting work that produces products that help people and organizations succeed. That is why the LDT program is in high demand. 

Since Purdue’s College of Education launched its online LDT graduate program in 2011, it has graduated over 900 students as instructional designers. Of those graduates, about 40% are classroom teachers and administrators, and the remaining 60% are now working in health care and other industry and corporate environments.

“The program enabled me to develop a skill-based portfolio that got my foot in the door when applying for instructional design positions,” says Zac Leghorn, an instructional designer at Goodwin University in East Hartford, Connecticut. “I also made professional connections that have helped me branch out into areas or applications of instructional design that I wouldn't have encountered otherwise.”

Jennifer Richardson, a Purdue professor of learning design and technology, says alumni are now in careers ranging from corporate trainers and curriculum specialists to instructional designers and learning and development managers. LDT students, she adds, have completed practicums with far-ranging organizations such as the American Medical Association, Artisan e-learning, Miso Energy, SAP Software Solutions, Ascension Health, Techsmith, FlightSafety International, JG Summit Holdings Inc. and the military.

We have aligned our program competencies with the instructional designer competencies of the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction,” Richardson says. “This means the professional benchmarks that we provide are aligned with the field, and I think this helps our students be successful.”

From a teaching and learning perspective, Newby says a strong point of Purdue’s LDT program is the atmosphere that fosters in-depth classroom discussions between students and faculty – even in the virtual setting. 

“What I love about it is the ability of all students to think reflectively before making a response,” Newby says. “They can review what has been said, compare that with previous posts as well as their readings, and then critically add their ideas, thoughts and comments. Later, they can always come back and go over what occurred in the discussion and reflect on it further. I find these discussions often get to a much deeper level than I get within my face-to-face classes.”

The Learning Design and Technology MS Online program began being discussed and planned in 2008 and officially launched in 2011 as Purdue’s first fully online program. In addition to Newby and Richardson, the primary faculty involved with the program’s inception and implementation are James Lehman, Peg Ertmer, Bill Watson, Minchi Kim, Scott Schaffer and Johannes Strobel. Although some have retired or left the program, Newby, Richardson and Watson (as well as several added faculty members) continue teaching and working within the program. 

The regional and national organizations of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association have cited the Purdue program for its outstanding quality. Specific LDT faculty also have been recognized through various national and international citations and awards for their excellence in teaching and service. Newby says the LDT program’s primary focus has always been on designing learning to be more effective, efficient and appealing.

“We help our students understand and dissect key learning theories to identify and implement effective instructional methods, strategies and technologies,” Newby says.

“They learn to do this whether they are focused on the learning of first-graders, retail customer service reps, trauma nurses and physicians, manufacturing safety engineers, or corporate executives. Our students learn to identify and use key strategies and tools that help them dissect and solve learning problems presented by unique learners, content and learning environments.”

Writers: DeEtte Starr, Phillip Fiorini

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