A Walk around Walden Pond: Reflections on the Educational Technology PhD Specialization, Walden University

By Shepard, MaryFriend | Distance Learning, July 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

A Walk around Walden Pond: Reflections on the Educational Technology PhD Specialization, Walden University


Shepard, MaryFriend, Distance Learning


Preparing educational technologists for professional positions in the twenty-first century requires a revaluation of the way learners are engaged in the process of education in a digital age. At Waiden University, the educational technology PhD specialization provides cutting-edge e-learning in a fully online program of studies for adult learners. The newly redesigned program integrates technologies learners are using outside of the classroom into their learning experiences inside the classroom. Not only is the delivery of content accomplished digitally, learners demonstrate their learning through digital projects.

Like most online universities, Waiden provides all the benefits of distance education including anytime-anywhere learning for diverse, adult learners around the globe. What makes Waiden unique is our mission of social change. Lisa Rodriguez, a PhD student in educational technology, wrote, "one can feel a current of commitment to making this world a better place running through Waiden's curriculum, residencies, publications, and conferences. Social change is not just a phrase used as a slogan, but a guiding force for Waiden's students and faculty/' Our goal is that our graduates transform and change the social conditions in their part of the world.

Imagine Henry David Thoreau (1995) walking around Waiden Pond over 150 years ago, observing nature and finding valuable lessons of social change in his surroundings. The founders of Waiden University began our university 38 years ago so learners could share their vision for effecting positive social change inspired by the life of Thoreau. This remains the mission of our university, and is reflected in the educational technology specialization.

The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership is the home of 10 PhD specializations, three EdD programs, 13 master's programs, and a postbaccalaureate teacher education program with an master of arts in teaching option. All are fully accredited, online distance education programs. A constant challenge for Waiden has been its phenomenal growth. U.S. News and World Report ranked Waiden as the largest online graduate university for educators. Since its inception, over 28,000 educators have completed masters' and doctoral programs. Distance education and educational technology programs today require continual and ongoing updating to reflect the technological revolution in society.

THE COMMITMENT: COLLABORATION

Online learners may not naturally know how to connect with each other or with faculty when they begin an online program. Isolation and fear may result, preventing learners from gleaning the best from their doctoral programs. We believe that helping to build online communities where students engage not only with faculty, but with each other, is essential to success.

Our commitment is to provide a rich blend of content and technology in a collaborative environment. Faculty and learners struggle together as we reflect about solutions to authentic problems in class discussions that facilitate the development of scholar-practitioners. Our graduates become technological leaders and decision makers in education, business, or the corporate world because they have used emerging tools in their education that they may propose for adoption in their industries.

Strong faculty-student interactions, along with engaging student-to-student connections, permeate the classroom environment. The technological tools learners use with their friends and family are brought into classroom learning experiences. Collaboration using wikis, Google docs, and social networking tools are a regular part of our classes. Communication is enhanced beyond the classroom discussions and chats in eCollege, through the use of technologies like blogs, Skype, and Twitter, as deliberations evolve beyond the class content. Connecting with a network of learners is the norm, and something our students take from their doctoral experience.

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