Summary of Coursework

Summary of Coursework

MS Education: Learning, Desgin, & Technology

The Master of Science in Education: Learning, Design, and Technology, is a relevant program in a digital age full of alternative educational options. Every school and corporation requires a plan for instruction and, currently, distance education options are a necessity, which should mandate Instructional Designers.

This rigorous and thorough program equips Instructional Designers with the tools they need to create effective, meaningful, engaging courses across every discipline. This summary of coursework highlights key issues and topics from each class within the program and the impact they have had on me as a designer. The classes are arranged in the order in which I took them. 

ITEC 5020 Technology and Distance Education

Transactional Distance Theory Applied to Distance Education

Transactional distance theory discusses the physical and psychological distance between students, specifically how a decrease in teacher-student interaction can lead to more student autonomy in distance education.

History of Technology in Distance Education

To understand modern technology in distance education we must look back – and it was not long ago that TVs with VCRs were the height of learning technology. Technology will come and go, but the design and purpose of education stays largely the same, which should remind educators to not chase or focus on the newest, best technology but to use the tools at hand to provide the best learning experience possible.

Selection of Technology in Distance Education

With countless options for technology in distance education, how can an instructor select the proper tool for the situation – including what type of media to use and how to incorporate it – and what impact does that selection have on the learners?

Factors Affecting the Success of Students in Distance Education

While some factors are the same as for traditional students, distance education comes with unique challenges such as familiarity with the technology, prior experience with distance learning, feedback style, equity in access to technology, and often increased transactional distance. 

Implications of Relentless Innovation and Change

There will always be something new in distance education – including new technology, new theories, or new programs – however, the basic principles of how to teach and how to learn do not change. Teachers need to balance the excitement and enthusiasm around new technology with the fundamental ideals of teaching and learning.

ITEC 5160 Introduction to Instructional Design

Major Differences Between an Instructional Designer and a Teacher

The main differences between Instructional Designers and teachers are their areas of expertise, their practical applications, and their responsibilities. Instructional Designers are experts, and are continually learning, in the areas of technology needed for delivering content (from LMS to video creation to graphic design), while teachers are experts in their subject area and teaching practices.


Instructional Design Models and their Individual Uses

While there are a large, growing number of design models, their commonality is to improve instruction. Choosing a model for a particular application involves considerations such as the model and the designer’s theories of learning, the delivery format, the connection to the instructor, the learners, and the resources available. 


Major Elements of Three Theories of Learning as they Relate to Instructional Design

Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism theories each require Instructional Designers to find ways to translate their principles into instructional applications that solve the learning problem at hand. In order to do so, designers need to understand each theory’s strengths and weaknesses so they can select and apply the right strategies.


Aligning Learning Objectives to Assessments

After developing measurable learning objectives that apply Bloom’s taxonomy, an instructor needs to align their assessments, both traditional and non-traditional, to those objectives. The fundamental question to ask is, “How does this assessment allow the student to demonstrate mastery at the expected level?”

Applications of Instructional Design

ID varies greatly when applied in K-12, higher ed, and corporate environments. Within the corporate world, how varied the job descriptions are is based on the sector (education, business, etc) and the company. While fundamental principles of design remain the same regardless of the application, the job itself will change and along with it, the specific technology used. 


ITEC 5350 Multimedia Development

Effective Design Principles applied to Multimedia Projects

While multimedia instruction is generally preferable to single methods, multimedia elements must be added with design principles in mind in order to be effective.

Applications of Multimedia Technologies in Various Settings

The same technologies can be useful in a variety of settings, however, learner assessments should drive the specifics of each application.

Principles of Message Design

A designer must be able to determine their message and their method of conveying it; using elements and principles of design such as color, space, balance, emphasis, and unity, the designer can create visually appealing messages that convey the tone, feel, and intent of the message. 


The Importance of Adaptive Content and Accessibility

Modern digital content, including text, should be optimized for a variety of devices and disabilities. Accessibility in education is a legal matter and designers must work within federal guidelines to develop accessible materials, which often includes consulting with an accessibility coordinator and running an accessibility audit.

Techniques, Strengths, and Weaknesses of Multimedia Development

Creating artifacts using a wide variety of technologies showcased the particular uses, strengths, and weaknesses of each type of technology and revealed each designer’s personal comfort level with and interest in the various applications available.

ITEC 5010 Instructional Technology

The Preeminence of Design over Media

With the exceptions of the computer and the internet, the choice of media has surprisingly little impact on student outcomes. A well-designed experience is far more important to student success than the medium by which it is delivered. 


Seven Characteristics of Instructional Design

Regardless of the method or model of instructional design, the process should contain seven consistent characteristics. A designer would do well to keep these universal qualities at the forefront of their mind through every stage of their design process.


How Technology Aids Student-Centered Learning

Instructional technology can shift the responsibility of learning towards the learner by giving them the ability to set the pace, the amount of practice, and the style of learning.


Trending Instructional Technologies

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a new and exciting technology that supports personalized learning, on demand tutoring or help, and constant assessment and feedback. Virtual Reality and gamification have brought about immersive, interactive, and engaging learning. 


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The Critical Function of Instructional Technology in achieving Learning Objectives

With modern technology, students’ learning objectives and their mastery can be continually assessed formatively and summatively,  monitored, and recorded, bridging the gap between teacher and student feedback that happens on an ongoing basis inside a classroom.


ITEC 5510 Communication in Distance Education

Barriers Preventing Teachers from using Technology in Education

Even post-pandemic, some teachers struggle to implement available technology in both distance and in-person education. Barriers include the teacher’s comfort level with the technology, their knowledge of how to implement the technology they are comfortable with, and student engagement.

The Value of Audio in Distance Education

Podcasts specifically, but other forms of audio as well, add value to distance education by increasing connection between the teacher and the learners, allowing both students and teachers to express themselves more naturally, and teaching or reflecting on a topic in a powerful way that encourages critical thinking. 


Evaluating Communication in Online Learning

In order to select, and then later to critically evaluate the effectiveness of the method of communication, the designer must ask and answer questions including the goal of the communication, how the method facilitates communication, how easy or challenging the method is to implement, and student engagement and feedback.


Implications of Social Media in Distance Education

There are ethical and practical challenges to implementing social media in education, and teachers specifically are concerned about the amount of time it will take them to have an effective social media strategy. With some intentional design and planning, it can be done well and be incredibly useful for students.

Designing and Moderating Discussions

Text-based discussions are a key element of online classes and can build connection, engagement, and critical thinking. Factors to consider include the level of instructor participation, the expectations of posts and replies, how to clarify expectations, and how to moderate the discussions.

EDRE 5530 Introduction to Research

Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Research

In order to determine which type of research to use in a given situation, a designer needs to understand the characteristics of each type of research and when each type is appropriate to use.


Developing Research Questions

Even after a designer has a research topic, they have to review the existing literature to determine what has already been studied and what questions arose from those studies. Then, the designer refines their research and asks the specific questions they will answer. The questions need to fit the method of research as well.


Maintaining Ethics in Research

Before research begins, designers must determine their guiding principles in areas including societal concerns and social values, professional conduct, and treatment of participants. Additional considerations apply when research directly involves humans or animals.


Differentiating Weak and Strong Research Designs

In order for an experimental research design to be strong, it must control the influence of the confounding extraneous variables and have high internal validity. Designers need to know the various methods of establishing strong designs in order to validate their research.


Understanding the Validity of Research Results

Four types of validity – construct, statistical conclusion, internal, and external – are used to evaluate how accurate the research, and the results and inferences of the research are. Designers need to be able to determine the validity of their own research and that of others.


ITEC 5000 Theoretical Foundations in Learning, Design, and Technology

Transformative Learning in Distance Education

Meizrow, in his transformative learning theory, asserts the necessity of reflection and meaning-making as critical components of learning (Illeris, 2018), which under some circumstances will lead to a perspective shift. Even though technology-rich digital learning and organic inward transformation have seemingly divergent natures, a well designed learning experience can result in personal transformation.

Brain-Based Learning

In education, there is controversy over the roles of educational neuroscience and basing instruction on the science of learning and of established practices and conventions. A positive outcome of brain-based learning is the belief that intelligence is not fixed, but can be enhanced.


How Learning has Fundamentally Changed with the Presence of Digital Technology

Digital technology in the classroom has impacts far beyond connecting with students remotely. It has enabled new levels of personalized learning, equipped students to be self-led, empowered students with the exact skills they need, and freed up class time for academics better suited to live instruction.


Activity Theory

Activity Theory considers all components of a system, including the community a learner is a part of, while also integrating tools and other actors and tends to focus more on “How can we” instead of “How does it?” A designer can look at a system and ask which component needs to change in order to achieve a desired outcome.

From Constructivism to Constructionism

While constructivism asserts that knowledge is built upon prior knowledge by making meaning, constructionism gives the power to the students to build upon prior knowledge through mental models they construct through active learning. The heart of constructionism is that when a learner is given tools to use to build upon prior learning, they will make discoveries and add knowledge – and this applies to every level of learning.

ITEC 5560 Development of Instructional Systems

The Necessity of both Instructional and Learning Experience Design

A good design does not, by default, mean a learning experience will be useful; thus, a designer must ask both how easy a learning experience is to use (instructional design) and how useful the learning is (learning experience design). The two are closely related, but a wise designer understands the nuance and considers both in order to design effective learner experiences.


A Taxonomy for Comparing Instructional Design Models

In Survey of Instructional Design Models, Branch and Dousay develop a taxonomy of design models for designers to use when determining which model to utilize. The taxonomy is intended to help designers consider the characteristics of a design context and select a model or aspects of specific models (Branch & Dousay, page 38).


Determining which Design Model best fits an Individual Designer

Dr. Cain explained that “gravitating towards a particular model of design can have lasting implications for the ways we approach and commit to different projects.” The taxonomy of designs plus hands-on experience with various models assisted each designer in selecting the model or combination of models that are a best fit for them.


Crafting Design Proposals

An Instructional Design proposal, whether in the business or education realm, goes beyond a plan for the class to include elements such as key milestones, the roles of each player in milestones, project management, development processes, media design, budgets, and success factors.



By delivering (or obtaining) information in narrow, focused pieces, specific skills can be taught and retained quickly. A hands-on experience with microlearning demonstrated its effectiveness even in highly technical skills and its application in professional development.


ITEC 5550 Theory of Change

Three Well-Known Theories of Change

Kotter’s 8-step change model focuses heavily on gaining enthusiasm from all parties involved, while Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation explains how and why people adopt new behaviors. Lewin’s “Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze” model, while similar to Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation theory, is challenged for its simplicity but is easy to understand and implement.

Innovation in Education

Innovation is not limited to technology, but is found in new ideas, teaching tools, methods and approaches, and even new mindsets or perspectives. Innovating in education occurs regularly and an instructional designer needs to work closely with educators to innovate for the benefit of the learners.


The Role of Technology in Change

Technology both requires and inspires change. People have to adapt to the constant updates, versions, programs, plus technology can be used to encourage (or manipulate) people to make changes, which means a designer needs to take the ethical components of using technology into consideration.


Why an ID Needs to Understand Theory of Change

Grasping the theory of change is a key component for an Instructional Designer in that not only do they need to innovate and change to keep up with the constantly evolving field, but they also need to be an agent of change, often helping others overcome frustration and fear when change is hard but necessary.

Writing a Book Review

It’s not often that a single assignment becomes a key element of a graduate program; however, Dr. Williams’ clear instructions for writing an academic book review and her explanation of the role a well-written review plays in an academic conversation is pivotal to her students’ ongoing success.

ITEC 5870 Visual Design and Media

The Psychology of Color in Design

Color evokes an emotional response, and understanding those responses aids the designer in selecting colors to match the intended message and reaction.


The Works-Every-Time Layout

Ideally, designers will understand the psychology behind layouts and gain some measure of expertise in being able to visually develop their message; however, having a layout that works every time, especially when time or resources are limited sets the designer up for success.


Personal Philosophy of Communication

A personal statement that reflects academic and professional knowledge and theories and experiences that have shaped the philosophy. It defines a designer’s approach to communication, including visual design, and is useful for applying for jobs and for self-evaluation.


Creating a Design Vision Inventory

Every project requires an overarching vision that defines the style, theme, values, aesthetics, rules, color schemes, typeface, and images. A design vision inventory also gives other stakeholders a visual understanding of the project.


Multimodal Design

Incorporating elements other than text into a design is not as simple as adding a video or an infographic; it requires considering the learner audience and creating clear connections between the elements as part of an overall design. However, the benefits are worth the effort, as learner engagement and outcomes tend to improve.


ITEC 5090 Masters Capstone

Professional Associations

Membership in professional associations offer benefits including staying up-to-date on research and practice, understanding what is occuring at a legislative level, and sharing with and learning from others across the nation. 


The Role of Information Literacy in Lifelong Learning

Life long learners are those who are curious and continually seek the answers to their curiosity, so being information literate means they can effectively find those answers. Additionally, information literacy is the ability to evaluate the information and add it to one’s base of information and have it transform their thinking, or reject it and understand the implications of it. Life long learners need to be able to critically evaluate the answers to their questions; otherwise they will be subject to confusion over conflicting ideas and they may believe and incorporate false information.


Approaching Challenges as a Designer

I approach challenging problems by assessing, gathering data/feedback, creating a prototype of some kind, and then diving all in on a first iteration. I work best when I can put a product out, watch it in action and get feedback, and then adjust (which is why the AGILE model is my favorite).


Final Reflection

Before this review, many of my classes ran together in my mind. Revisiting syllabi, projects, papers, and modules has served as a valuable refresher of what I learned and has reminded me of some elements of design I want to go back to study and apply. Two classes that surprised me were Theory of Change and Introduction to Research, both taught by Dr. Williams. Theory of Change taught me how to systematize change and view it from multiple perspectives. It also gave me tools to be involved in organizational change and helping others change, which will be vital as a designer. I initially expected to dislike Introduction to Research, but I ended up loving the power of Mixed Research and have incorporated it into my own classes. I also feel I have a better understanding of how to interpret data and find the bias in other research, which is an important life skill, outside of design.  Dr. Cain’s Instructional Technology course pushed me outside my comfort zone and I researched Artificial Intelligence Assisted Personalized Learning, something I have since built an entire course upon. This course has made dramatic changes in a positive direction for my students and my fellow instructors, and I was able to present it at the Wyoming Innovations Conference, which was professionally an incredible experience. 

Dr. Wasilik’s classes are shining examples of online classes in terms of layout, clarity of expectations, release of modules, meaningful discussions, aligned assessments, flow of subject, and an available professor. Most notably, her semester-long projects that build in stages are excellent hands-on experiences that give her students real-world exposure to the situations they will encounter professionally. I have taken so many practical ideas from her that I incorporate into my own classes that make a tremendous difference. I chose to take Introduction to Online Teaching with her because I felt it would be beneficial for me. Indeed, it was exceptionally beneficial as she reviewed educational theories and applied them to online learning, and then built upon them with specific strategies and techniques to address online learning’s unique issues. Even though it was not a required class, I would recommend it to all students in this field as a foundation for everything to come.