An online master’s in online and distance education degree can do wonders for an educator’s career, and the demand for such programs continues to grow. As school administrators push for teachers to use more technology in the classroom and even develop some courses entirely online, the landscape of 21st century instruction transforms and becomes increasingly dynamic.
Educators who are considering earning a master’s degree in online instruction could always attend traditional classes, but what better way to learn about distance education than by taking virtual courses yourself? Students learn about the theories and best practices in online education, but also have the opportunity to observe current distance education professionals and consider what methods work most effectively.
Listed below are the 15 most affordable graduate programs in distance education, which schools often label “Instructional Technology,” “Educational Technology,” or something similar. Excitingly, many of these programs overlap with selections of the best online master’s degrees in online and distance education, thanks to ambitious schools that work to combine value with academic excellence. Schools are presented here in descending order by tuition, with tuition information being gathered from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator database.
Ranking Cheap Online Master’s in Online and Distance Education Degree Programs
Texas Tech University rounds out the list as the cheapest graduate program in instructional technology available, thanks to tuition that falls below $5,000 annually for in-state residents. Students typically complete the program in two years, taking two courses per semester in order to stay on schedule for this 39-credit major. The department explains that it is distinguished from other universities due to its truly comprehensive design, providing instruction that employs a three-pronged focus on creativity, efficiency, and effectiveness. "Start Class" awards Texas Tech a 91/100 Smart Rating, complimenting the affordability and research focus that apply to all programs, including this online master's degree in distance education.
The University of Maryland University College is a popular online wing of an even more popular public institution on the East Coast. The University of Maryland attracts students for its excellent academics and supportive community, which UMUC has taken online for the benefit of global learners. Students from all over the world can earn an online master's degree in online and distance education, choosing between specializations in technology, teaching and training, and policy and management. The school sets itself apart in an outstanding way through its partnership with the University of Oldenburg in Germany, which offers a doctoral degree to a select group of UMUC program grads.
The North certainly doesn't dominate this list, and the University of South Dakota deserves equal mention as its Canada-bordering counterpart. Its accredited online master's degree in distance education focuses on learning theories as well as systematic approaches to online program design. The 36-hour program covers topics in emerging technologies, instructional analysis, multimedia content, trending issues in technology, effective learning models, and useful promotional strategies. Alumni have described USD's top program as an "incredible impact" that has helped them solidify their careers and made them more willing to experiment with new technological projects.
Many University of Wisconsin campuses offer online programs, and the Platteville location is no exception. Uniquely, UW's program in online learning goes beyond expectations, featuring an emphasis on leadership that most schools do not provide. After studying research, assessment, analysis, critical issues in virtual education, classroom technology, and more, graduates can use their newfound skills to access top administrative and management positions in schools. Depending on their career goals, online learners might choose an emphasis in Corporate Training, eLearning Administration, Higher Education, General Management, or Leadership of Teaching and Learning. U.S. News ranks UW as the 5th best graduate education program in the country.
The University of North Dakota is a popular destination for online learners, as it provides valuable education at an attractively affordable price. This cheap online master's degree in distance education is made especially affordable by special regulations that offer in-state tuition to all online learners, regardless of residency. 100% online classes feature evening and weekend web sessions that pull students into the intersection of communication, psychology, and education. TheBestSchools.org has ranked UND as one of the 25 best educational technology programs available; it's currently listed as 24th, making it one of the best online master's degrees in distance education that the U.S. has to offer.
Students looking to attend one of the top-rated graduate programs in education (as ranked by U.S. News) might find their answer in Central Michigan. The 33-credit online master's degree in online and distance education, which has a focus on educational technology, is available to both educators and private sector employees. Those outside the teaching field can leverage this degree into a reputation as the "go to" tech savvy employee in their organization, while current certified teachers in Michigan can use the degree to earn NP endorsement. Classes include Advanced Educational Technology, Instructional Multimedia, and Grants and Fund Procurement, as well as seminar and independent study options.
Kent State University's Instructional Technology program represents one of the top choices out of all master's degrees in distance education online. ITEC students can combine this M.E.d. with a graduate certificate in Online Teaching and Learning, putting them in the best possible position for competitive jobs in schools, governments, and corporations. Students might also be able to earn an endorsement in Computers and Technology, but only if they already hold an existing teacher certification in Ohio. College Prowler gives KSU an above average B grade, noting the school's satisfied students and knowledgeable professors as top draws.
Teachers and other educational professionals looking to integrate technology into their classrooms should consider this graduate program at North Carolina State University. While in synchs nicely with other affordable online master's degrees in online and distance education, this program is also useful for teachers who want to improve performance in traditional classrooms. NC residents who hold a current teaching license might also be able to acquire a Technology Specialist add-on licensure over the course of the degree. The "Start Class" college ranking website awards NCSU a score of 93 out of 100 for its academic excellence, selectivity, affordability, and opinions of experts.
The University of Georgia's Online Learning component offers an online master's degree in distance education that covers learning, design, instruction, development, and technology. The comprehensive major trains students for a broad range of jobs, including those in healthcare, military, business, and of course education. UGA professors focus specifically on emerging technologies, ensuring graduates understand the latest and greatest in video presentations, eLearning modules, gaming simulations, and media creation. UGA boasts dual accreditations for its College of Education, including the National Council on Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Professionals (CAEP).
Nova Southeastern University touts a number of NCATE-accredited teacher education programs, indicating that their degrees meet the highest standards of excellence in teacher preparation. Students looking for a top online master's degree in distance education can turn to NSU's M.S. in Instructional Technology and Distance Education. Students learn to become engaging teachers in virtual classrooms, planning curricula strategically and utilizing delivery platforms effectively. Graduates can take their training to work in kindergarten classrooms or university courses, or even look to private industry. Students might even be interested in progressing to the Ed.D. program, which offers the most advanced training available for online educators.
The University of Central Florida's College of Education and Human Performance features a graduate program in Instructional Design and Technology. This affordable online master's degree in online education offers three emphasis tracks: Educational Technology, Instructional Systems, and e-Learning. Those looking for work in K12 schools and higher education should focus on either Ed. Tech. or e-Learning, while those seeking careers in industry would be better suited for the Instructional Systems concentration. The 39-credit program requires the completion of five core classes, four specialization classes, and three electives. U.S. News currently ranks UCF as the #3 best "Up-and-Coming" university in the nation.
UMass Online serves as an aggregate of all distance education programs between the institution's state campuses - Amherst, Boston, Lowell, and Dartmouth. This allows distance learners from all over the country to access some of the best online programs available. The degree in Instructional Design is similar to other online master's degrees in distance education, covering aspects of media, learning theory, and communication. Note that residents of Minnesota, Maryland, Alabama, and Arkansas are not currently eligible. Times Higher Education currently ranks UMass the 45th university in the world and the 22nd best in the United States.
George Mason University is an up-and-coming public institution located just outside the nation's capital. Students often choose to attend one of GMU's Virginia-based campuses to tap into all the benefits the region has to offer, but online learners also sign up for the university's excellent academics. The master's degree in distance education online, advertised as an "integration of online learning in schools" program, offers courses for $440-$670 per credit (depending on residency). The entirely K12-focused program boasts curriculum guidance from the International Association for K12 Online Learning's "National Standards for Quality Online Teaching." Classes include The Art of Online Communication, Understanding Online Presence, and even a Project Development Practicum, and are available to anyone who already holds valid K12 licensure.
Pennsylvania State University's "World Campus" is an innovative wing of this popular network of public campuses. As the name suggests, students from nearly any country across the globe can apply to the accredited online master's degree in online education at PSU. Designed with an emphasis on learning, design, and technology, the program offers courses in Computers as Learning Tools, Systematic Instructional Development, and Emerging Web Technologies, among others. Online learners can also pursue a certificate in Educational Tech Integration, completing all courses for less than $800 per credit. For multiple years, U.S. News has included Penn State on its list of top graduate programs in education.
Michigan State University, a primarily brick-and-mortar college offering all the benefits of a popular, athlete-focused, public institution, has recently branched into distance learning. Students from all over the world apply to MSU's online master's degree in distance education ("Educational Technology") in order to access the latest in distance education training. Current K12 teachers in Michigan can simultaneously earn their NP Endorsement, and any student can seek an additional graduate-level certification. One example is the "Serious Games" certificate, which covers topics in game theory and human-centered design for both researchers and teachers. MSU has a stellar reputation domestically, but also holds a 164th top international ranking from QS World University Ranking.
About the Author: Iris Stone began her writing career when she started working as a freelance writer and researcher in 2011. Her freelance business soon took off and she now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Despite the time it takes to run a business she still does much of the writing herself, and her work has included a variety of content related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and graduates’ careers. Her interests actually span far beyond writing, and she is currently studying to be a physicist! Check out her Google+ Profile.
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