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College of Education online master’s program ranks No. 8 nationally

The Curriculum and Instructions program within the College of Education was ranked No. 20 out of similar programs in the nation. | File Photo

The College of Education’s Curriculum and Instructions online graduate program ranked No. 20 in a list of similar online programs from the U.S. News & World Report. | File Photo

The College of Education online master’s program ranked as one of the best in the world in the U.S. News & World Report 2020 list.

The list placed that COE program at no. 8 based on factors like student engagement and technology tools. Margaret Hale, chair of the Curriculum and Instruction department, said she felt the biggest factor is the faculty members who have worked in Houston and know how to cater to diversity. 

“We have students across the nation and other places,” Hale said. “Because of our experience in diversity, we can bring what we’ve learned about that and urban education to students in the world.” 

The Curriculum and Instructions Program, which focuses on teaching students the design and implementation of an education program, was also ranked No. 20 in a list of similar online programs by the report. 

Hale said the faculty relied on the Center for Information Technology and Education that helped keep them on top of the latest tools for online use. The college also has a program area in learning design and technology, whose faculty inform the COE on the newest ideas for online teaching. 

“All of us have learned to go beyond what a typical online class looks like,” Hale said. “We use tools inside and outside Blackboard to mirror what you’d find in a real life class setting.”

The college uses tools like Blackboard Collaborate, which breaks students into smaller groups to work on projects. The professor can drop in on the group virtually to monitor work and provide recorded videos for the class, which are meant to mimic lectures.

“I’ll record the video so they can watch it on their own time,” Hale said. “Then we come together synchronously to discuss it.” 

Sara McNeil, associate professor and coordinator at the Instructional Technology Graduate program, said her program focused on education first.  

“Our program focuses on how to learn the best, then how to design effective instruction and then how to use technology to support that,” McNeil said.

One of the ways to engage students online is “gamifying” the class. Students are in the role of a space explorer, tracking a villain across the universe, landing on planets and learning about instructional design the entire way. 

“We’re trying to put some fun into it and make it relevant at the same time,” McNeil said. 

McNeil and Hale both agreed that the success of the program is a result of faculty’s commitment to treating the online program the same as if the class took place in a physical room. 

“We have a faculty full of educators who work constantly to make sure their online instruction is just as engaging and rigorous as their face to face instruction,” Hale said.

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