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M Ed Educational Technology

J. Michael Blocher, PhD

Face-to-Face in Educational Technology

"Online Educational Technology students were willing to attend part of their coursework in Flagstaff during the pleasant summer weather this year ó even to the point of traveling halfway around the world."

Northern Arizona University has been a leader in distance education for quite some time, with students able to take coursework via interactive instructional television and in online learning environments. The Educational Technology Program, one of the earliest graduate programs delivered completely online, was approved by the Arizona Board of Regents in 1999 to support NAU’s mission of serving students in rural and distant locations who have limited access to educational opportunities.

Since then the program has grown to approximately 350 students, primarily from various locations throughout Arizona. However, Ed Tech students are also enrolled from many other locations within the U.S. as well as internationally.  Students can choose to pursue a certificate or an M Ed in educational technology.

The Educational Technology Program is one of a very few programs that has received national recognition for meeting both the Technology Facilitator Standards and Technology Leadership Standards from the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE). However, the strength of the program is really in its students, who are educators who serve many different types of learners in many different learning environments. While most Ed Tech students are practicing P-12 classroom teachers, others are school district technology coordinators or trainers for school districts, business, industry, and the military.

Sharing small-group projects

Ed Tech faculty are committed to providing students with an engaging and interactive experience and approach their courses with that in mind. One of the primary goals of the faculty is to engage the students, not only with the course content but with each other, through peer interaction. In addition to having the opportunity to engage in rich discussions, Ed Tech courses often includes collaborative projects and activities that gives students from many different locations the opportunity to work together virtually on papers, web sites, and other engaging activities. Indeed, graduation often includes scenes of students who’ve never met their peers or faculty in the flesh embracing: they know each other well, but only virtually.  

This past summer that changed for one group of Ed Tech students who were given the opportunity to take two of the foundational Ed Tech courses as hybrids, which included both online and face-to-face meetings. Students traveled primarily from various parts of Arizona to attend, but one student came all the way from India to be part of this group.

The course was designed with the first week online and included the usual online introductions, academic readings, and interactive discussions. The second week, however, students met in Flagstaff for three hours a day for each course over the course of four days. During that period, students worked individually and in teams on various hands-on projects involving technology tools, including learning how to use many of the Web 2.0 tools to enhance learning environments. During the final three weeks, students continued to work online.

Visiting masterís students worked with education undergraduates one afternoon during the pilot program. The undergraduates shared their facility with technology; the masterís students, most of them practicing teachers, shared their knowledge of what works in the classroom. (Photos by Melissa Riggs)

The hybrid courses were conducted as a pilot to investigate several things:

  • First, the faculty wanted to see if there would be students interested in attending some part of their coursework in person.
  • Second, they wanted to see if traveling to Flagstaff to attend the face-to-face classes would better support building a learning community.
  • Finally, they wanted to see if, by having the face-to-face classes, students would become more familiar with and comfortable using all of the technology tools that the week’s classes focused upon.

While it will take time to come to full conclusions on some of these questions, students reported enjoying the time spent in classes and mentioned that they would take other classes with a similar hybrid design. One question seemed to be clearly answered, however.

Students were willing to attend part of their coursework here in Flagstaff during the pleasant summer weather—even to the point of traveling halfway around the world!

—J. Michael Blocher, PhD, Associate Professor and Educational Technology Program Coordinator

Kavita Mehta

“There were three things on my mind when I started looking for a master’s program in educational technology,” Kavita Mehta says.

“First, the degree should be totally online as I have restrictions of distance (I am from INDIA!) and time (I work full time!). Second, it should be accredited by a reputable organization (the NAU Ed Tech program has received Technology Leader national recognition from ISTE!). Third, there should be a variety of courses to suit my needs.”

“Being here at NAU this summer was an incredible experience and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet my professors and classmates from the cyber world. I thank the professors who thought of this pilot program and hope they will continue it in the future.”