I’m originally from Texas but am currently living right outside of Washington, D.C. Aside from the content and structure being the best fit for me, UW–Madison’s program also won me over for two other big reasons. First, I was really blown away by how responsive and thoughtful the program coordinators were while I was applying. I considered several other programs but only formed a personal connection with the faculty at UW–Madison during the application process. Given that my degree is fully online, it was important that I felt supported by (and liked!) the people running the program, and I definitely do. Second, the online and asynchronous structure of the program allows me to continue working and living in D.C. while completing my degree. This is a huge advantage and a strength of UW-Madison’s program. And as a bonus, I thought it would be really exciting to be part of the very first cohort of a brand new program.
What is your major (or field of study), and how did you choose it?
I’m a student in the learning analytics master’s program. For the last three years, I’ve worked at an education technology nonprofit based in D.C. I think an important question any educational program or curriculum can ask itself is whether or not they are meaningfully impacting student learning. To answer that question, it takes many people working together: teachers, students, researchers, experts in learning and design, and individuals who know how to make meaning from data and communicate findings. I’m very interested in being part of a team that answers questions about the impact and effectiveness of educational programs and initiatives. This program focuses on learning how to analyze, interpret, and ultimately make meaningful use of the huge amounts of educational data amassed by schools and ed-tech companies.
What do you like about online programs? Why is online the right fit for you?
The online, part-time format of the program is ideal because it allows me to develop new professional skills while continuing to work here in D.C. My company is doing really interesting and important work. I’m grateful that I can continue being a part of their efforts while furthering my own education. An emphasis of the learning analytics master’s program specifically is that the learnings in the program should inform our work, and our work should enrich our learnings in the program. So, it really feels like the best of both worlds. I also want to give kudos to the team who helped design this program for creating many opportunities to engage with other students and learn from them despite being online and asynchronous.
What are you most looking forward to this semester?
The first class in the program is theory based. We delve into several interesting topics related to thinking and learning. This fall, we’ll have our first methodological course focused on qualitative and quantitative research methods. We’ll begin learning how to ask and answer educational research questions in this class, and I’m really excited to get started.
"The online, part-time format of the program is ideal because it allows me to develop new professional skills while continuing to work here in D.C. My company is doing really interesting and important work. I’m grateful that I can continue being a part of their efforts while furthering my own education. An emphasis of the learning analytics master’s program specifically is that the learnings in the program should inform our work, and our work should enrich our learnings in the program. So, it really feels like the best of both worlds."
What did you learn from the pandemic? Is there a lesson or experience you had that will stay with you in years to come?
Admittedly, I’m still wrapping my head around the events from the last 18 months since we are still in it in many ways. But I think the pandemic has understandably shifted many of our priorities toward health, in all its forms, and the well-being of our loved ones and ourselves. As a result, I notice that people are willing to share their needs more readily and honestly.
What are your future (career or other) goals?
Professionally, I’m really interested in exploring opportunities to conduct and contribute to educational research. Personally, my main goals are spending time with my people, traveling, being outdoors, and reading as much as I can.
Do you have any advice for other students who are weighing their options to go back to school for a master’s degree?
Every program has its unique flavor and emphasis. It is essential to consider what specific skills you’re hoping to develop or refine and identify how those match up with the courses included in different programs. Take time to comb through the courses and explore the teaching staff and their areas of expertise. Connect with program coordinators to share what you are interested in and see how it aligns with what the program offers. What are some of the expected outcomes for graduates? Does that align with what you are hoping to gain from a degree? Aside from academics, you should also consider the other opportunity costs associated with different programs. For example, if you’re seriously considering a program that would require you to quit your job, move to a new city, and costs twice as much, are the outcomes (opportunity-wise or financially) going to be significantly better than the alternatives in which you can keep your job or pay less? Maybe the answer is yes, but maybe not. Again, it ultimately depends on your goals, but I encourage people considering going back to school to weigh those factors alongside the academic ones.