Capella University's Instructional Design for Online Learning Program: Successes in Preparing Future Leaders

Article excerpt

The Instructional Design for Online Learning (IDOL) specialization at Capella University is a dynamic online graduate program that produces graduates who are sought for their skills and expertise. IDOL is a program that is part of an accredited, online university that provides adult learners with high-quality education in a flexible, online format. What contributes to IDOL's successes with their learners and in the ID field? As is often the case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Capella has created a strong, energetic program by focusing on the elements that contribute to the success of its graduates in the marketplace. This article explores some of the factors that experience has shown are foundational to its success.


Professionals with expertise in instructional design for online learning are in demand and are important to the changing learning environments made possible by the rethinking about learning, the Internet, and other distance learning technologies. Capella University, founded in 1993, offers graduate degree programs in business, education, human services, information technology, and psychology, and bachelor's degree programs in business, information technology, and public safety. The IDOL specialization began in 1997 with a master's degree and was followed in 1999 with the PhD degree. The IDOL specialization now has a decade of finetuning its graduate programs, and enrollment in both the MS and PhD programs continues to grow.


Learners in IDOL are usually professionals in their fields who are returning to school to gain additional skills and knowledge about instructional design in the online environment with a goal to lead the online education agenda within their organizations. At Capella University, enrollees are called "learners" rather than "students." The term learner more aptly describes the working adult women and men enrolled at Capella and in IDOL. Capella is the only accredited, online institution that provides IDOL degrees at the master's level, and at the current time, only one other institution offers an online PhD in this area.

The master's degree in IDOL prepares professionals working in educational institutions, corporations, the military, health care, and government agencies to achieve a high level of competency in instructional design in order to advance their careers and serve their organizations. The master's program focuses on the practice of instructional design and prepares instructional designers to solve real-world problems by applying theory and best practices. The goal of the IDOL master's degree is to create practitioner-scholars who can implement systems and strategies for analyzing and resolving problems, synthesize theory into application of instructional and performance interventions, implement methods for online delivery, manage projects, and have an understanding of software tools that make the process efficient and effective.

Extending the focus beyond the master's degree, the goal of the IDOL doctoral degree is to create scholar-practitioners who have developed research skills and can apply theory and research strategies to implement instructional and performance solutions, and begin to share knowledge through scholarly research, publications, and presentations. The PhD degree in IDOL prepares professionals to lead and manage instructional challenges in a variety of online settings in various work settings as well. The focus is on the theory and leadership of instructional design. PhD learners move beyond the master's level competencies to consider the higher levels of analytical and critical thinking related to research, theory, and leadership in instructional design.


Capella University is committed to academic excellence and has grown to more than 19,000 current learners from all 50 states and 56 countries. Likewise, IDOL continues to grow in enrollment and to attract learners from a diverse population and professional audience. …