Courtney Hyland didn’t exactly have a handle on what she was getting into when she enrolled in the Master of Education in Instructional Design and Technology online program at the University of West Florida.
She always knew that she wanted a master’s degree due to her love for education; however, she was unaware of all instructional design and technology entailed when she enrolled in the program.
“I knew I liked to use blogs in my classroom and things like that,” she said. “I didn’t know I was using instructional technology until I was in the program.”
Once Hyland graduated from the master’s program in 2017, she promptly enrolled in the Doctor of Education in Instructional Design and Technology online program at UWF. She is on track to graduate in 2021 and will continue to work as a UWF graduate assistant online.
Because Hyland’s husband, Matt, is in the military, the couple moves every three to four years. This meant that she had to find a program that worked for her remotely.
“My husband is in the Coast Guard, so we ended up moving to Rhode Island,” she said. “I always knew I wanted my master’s degree, so I jumped at the chance. I decided to stay at UWF for the doctoral program because I developed such a close relationship with the faculty and had an opportunity to participate in some of the great research the staff is doing. I thought I’d sign on for another few years.”
In addition to the time she devotes to UWF, Hyland works full-time as an administrative assistant for the Town of Hopkinton, near her home in Westerly, Rhode Island.
“I’m a pretty Type A personality as it is, so I plan my life to a tee,” she said. “I do maybe a little school work in the morning, a little school work in the evening and plan out my week. As a graduate assistant, I work 10 hours a week and fit in an hour or two [of study] each day. I try to do that Monday through Friday so I feel like I get a weekend. I’d rather have more work during the week and less work on the weekend.”
Hyland graduated with a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of South Florida in 2011. She spent most of her career as an elementary school teacher before the move to Rhode Island four years later.
“My current job just kind of fell into my lap, and I love it,” she said. “I’m not bringing home the same workload I was as a fifth-grade teacher. I’m not spending hours on lesson plans. It afforded me that ability to spend more time and dedicate myself to school.”
Hyland hopes to eventually return to an educator role with the help of her online degrees from UWF.
“It probably won’t be K-12,” she said. “I feel like I’ve broadened my horizons. I’m still certified to teach K-12 and special education, but I would possibly love to look into working at a university or a college.”
Although the curriculum in the M.Ed. in Instructional Design and Technology was new territory for Hyland, she was able to adapt and thrive.
“There was an adjustment period for me because I felt like I was out of my league in the world of instructional design and technology, but the professors really try to make you feel like you’re not,” she said. “You see all of these other people who got into the field of instructional design but who initially started their career as teachers or started in a completely different field and realize you’re not alone in that respect.”
Hyland soon developed a love for the online format.
“I just loved the style in which the courses are taught online,” she said. “It was really structured. You always knew what to expect. All of the expectations were laid out . In one of the courses, you got to build your own lesson for your classmates, which really helped to apply everything I learned in that class and other classes.”
One course in particular she thoroughly enjoyed was EME 6414C: Web-Based Instructional Tools for Educators, taught by Dr. Byron Havard.
“I have always considered myself to be pretty tech savvy, but it taught me a lot of things I didn’t know, including screencasts and building videos for instructional content,” she said. “I never really played around with that before, and I saw the value in it — not just in education, but I’ve used screencasts in my job.”
In fact, Hyland has used an extensive amount of knowledge from the master’s program at work.
“I did my final project at my job, so I was definitely able to pull it together enough and apply it to what I’m doing now,” she said. “I work for a smaller municipality, so they don’t have instructional technologists or instructional designers or even really a human resources department. I’ve taken some of the learning and applied it to working with the staff at my current job.”
Hyland, whose mother and aunt are both educators, is the only member of her family to ever earn a graduate degree.
“My family is all very excited,” she said. “Initially, they were thrilled about me being in the master’s program. Then, before they knew it, I was applying for the doctoral program. They’re already calling me ‘doctor’, which is a little too much pressure when I still have quite a few years to go!”
Although she was not able to attend the graduation ceremony for her master’s degree, Hyland plans to go back home and walk the stage once she completes the doctoral program.
“I look forward to meeting and shaking hands with all the professors that I’ve developed close relationships with over the years,” she said.
For now, Hyland will keep plugging away at work and school while she enjoys traveling with her husband. The couple went to Norway, Amsterdam and Iceland in 2016.
“We went in the middle of September, so school had already started,” she said. “I was able to keep up with that abroad with Wi-Fi, which was very helpful.”
Even though she didn’t know much about the M.Ed. in Instructional Design and Technology program at the outset, Hyland said she was perfectly set up to succeed.
“I was scared with the online program,” she said. “I’m a front-seat, in-the-class kind of gal; I like that face to face. I went in with the expectation I wasn’t going to like the online program very much, but I was going to do it anyway. UWF just completely changed my view of that. They have quality instructors and quality instruction. I’m so thankful I took the plunge, and I’m looking forward to another few years learning from and working with UWF.”
Learn more about the UWF online M.Ed. in Instructional Design and Technology program.
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