Online M. A. Program in Educational Technology Debuts at San Diego State University
Distance Educator.com: Dr. Ritchie, recently, you announced the expansion of the distance education offerings by the Department of Educational Technology at San Diego State University. Would you tell us about the origin and recent history of your online program?
Dr. Ritchie: We began offering students the ability to take our distance courses in 1996. At that time we were only allowing two or three students at a time to participate with our campus courses as we tried different distance formats to see how we could engage the students in relevant coursework. In 1997, we applied to the university to offer a five course Distance Certificate in Instructional Technology. When this was approved, we moved into teaching courses that were composed totally of distance students.
In 2002, we applied and received approval to offer our masters degree online, which we have just begun this fall.
Distance-Educator.com: Why do you think the online Certificate program in Educational Technology was successful?
Dr. Ritchie: There are a variety of reasons. First, we have been offering courses in educational technology for over 25 years, so we have a very strong foundation in both the theories and practical applications of our field. Second, we didn’t jump in overnight and try to put up our entire program. We’ve taken our time, tried different techniques, kept those that were successful, and continually strove to make the best possible program. Third, we’ve tried hard to do more than simply put up information. There is a big difference between information and instruction, and all of our courses include a lot of activities and feedback to students that engage them in relevant problems—many of which the students bring to the courses. We did a lot of research on online pedagogy, and realized early an online course isn’t simply putting up PowerPoint slides. And finally, we’ve tried to help the students feel part of a community of learners. We include a lot of personalized attention with the students, have a fair amount of teamwork on projects, and engage them in online chats. We want them to realize that the program is more than simply completing a bunch of static courses.
Distance-Educator.com: What prompted the Department to expand the Certificate program and offer the entire MA program online?
Dr. Ritchie: There seemed to be a definite need by our clients for more knowledge than what the five course certificate could offer. The master’s degree engages students in 12 courses, which allows them to hone their skills and knowledge. Many of the jobs that our alumni are in require a high degree of knowledge, and moving to an online masters degree allows them to gain these qualities without having to travel to San Diego.
Distance-Educator.com: You have also announced a new an Advanced Certificate program in Distance Education. Would you please elaborate on that announcement?
Dr. Ritchie: We recognize that not everyone has the time or need to complete the entire masters program. Many people come to us with an advanced degree and already serve as a manager of an e-learning enterprise, or see that their job or interest is headed this way. If they already have the introductory skills and knowledge of the field of educational technology, they can go directly into the Advanced Certificate. These courses expect a lot of prerequisite knowledge to already be held by the participants, so they are not for everyone. But for those with the knowledge, it catapults them into the advanced courses.
Distance-Educator.com: Where can interested potential students find more information about the program?
Dr. Ritchie: The first place students should look is to our web site at http://edweb.sdsu.edu/edtec/distance. This provides information on what courses are being offered, how they can apply, the costs, and what minimum technology requirement is needed. Once they examine this site, they can always call me at 619-594-5076. I’m always willing to talk with prospective students.
Dr. Ritchie began his public teaching career in a small community in southern Ohio. After trying other professions, he returned to public education in Riverton, Wyoming, where he taught a variety of science courses for twelve years. Dr. Ritchie joined the faculty at San Diego State University in the Fall of 1990 after completing work at IBM’s Educational Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dr. Ritchie’s current research projects involve problem-based learning environments, infusing technology into the teaching/learning process, and the delivery of instruction through a variety of distributed course delivery methods.