An In-Demand Degree: Ph.D. in Instructional Design to Fill Workforce Gap

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Described as one of the fastest-growing degrees in the nation, the Idaho State University Instructional Design and Technology (IDT) graduate programs are focused on understanding how people learn and implementing solutions to help them learn more effectively.

In 2019, the IDT program admitted seven graduate students. Over the last two years, more than 40 students have been admitted. Given the increasing demand for degrees in IDT, the College of Education reopened the Ph.D. in Instructional Design and is now accepting applications for the Fall 2024 semester. 

Students in the IDT programs learn how to design, develop, and implement instruction for a wide variety of careers including P-12 schools, higher education institutions, healthcare, and various government or corporate settings. The IDT programs are flexible, affordable, and offered completely online and in an asynchronous (no set time) format. Students anywhere in the world can apply to these programs and be taught by experts in the field. Additionally, out-of-state students may qualify for in-state tuition and financial assistance. 

The program includes three degree options: Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Instructional Design and Technology, Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D) with an emphasis in Instructional Design and Technology, and the Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Instructional Design. Similar to the current Ed.D. program requirements, students who pursue a Ph.D. in Instructional Design will take a broad range of courses in instructional design and multimedia and complete a dissertation. The curriculum includes courses about theories of distance education, learning theories, project management, and multimedia design and technology-based courses in which students can learn how to use technologies such as Photoshop and InDesign, as well as audio and video production. The programs also offer courses in web development and artificial intelligence. In addition, students gain experience working with subject matter experts, conducting educational research and evaluation, and participating in collaborative research projects with their professors.

Dr. John H. Curry, IDT Professor and Chair for the Organizational Learning and Performance Department, and Associate Professor, Dr. David Coffland have helped to grow enrollment within both the master’s and doctoral IDT programs. Both Curry and Coffland have taught graduate students from all over the world, helping them learn critical skills in the IDT field, and they believe this is one of the most critical and high-demand degrees students can earn.

“With this degree, I could quit my job today and have a new one tomorrow,” Curry said. “It’s a field with a lot of opportunities. Anywhere that training or instruction is happening, they generally have one of us around. If you find your niche, you can do that forever.”

One organization that IDT students quickly become familiar with once in the IDT program is the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). AECT is the major international academic organization for students, professionals, educators, and researchers involved in instructional design and development. Both Curry and Coffland are active in AECT and encourage their students to participate in the various opportunities the organization provides. Each year, with support from the Dean’s Excellence Fund, they take a group of students to the AECT International Conference which allows them to network with leaders in their field, present their research, and learn more about career opportunities.  

Currently, four IDT students, a recent IDT graduate, and both Curry and Coffland have been elected to positions within AECT. One of those students, recent IDT graduate, Danni Fernandez, was selected as the AECT Harris Transformational Leadership Development intern. In addition, two current doctoral students, Theresa Huff, and Candace Boesiger, were one of three winning teams for the NATO international instructional design competition in 2023. 

“Having so much ISU representation in AECT leadership is a testament to the quality of the students and faculty we have in our program,” Curry said. “That’s a major part of what we do. They have embraced our philosophy of being a part of the academic conversation, and they are representing us well at the highest levels.”

Believing in the power of networking, Curry and Coffland always put students at the forefront by offering mentorship, guidance, and industry connections. With job growth expected to continue in the next decade, IDT skills are being actively sought out and IDT program graduates will have the opportunity to work and lead in a wide variety of fields such as P-12 and higher education, government, military, healthcare, and business. 

For more information about the IDT graduate programs, please visit isu.edu/olp. 


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