If there were ever any doubts about the staying power of online learning, the COVID-19 pandemic put those to rest. Online learning has exploded during the last few years, as the realities of the pandemic required educators to look beyond the traditional classroom model to deliver instruction.
While the pandemic shift was largely due to necessity, that move has illuminated some significant benefits of online learning, including convenience, breadth of choices, personalization, flexibility, increased storytelling options and even improved accessibility, as articulated in this post from Educations.com. Because of this, education professionals are taking steps to turn online learning from an ancillary part of what they do to a fundamental part of their learning environment. It’s not replacing traditional models of instruction, but educators recognize that online learning could become a valuable tool in their lesson planning in a primary, complementary or supplementary capacity.
The Need for Online Learning Directors
With this growing interest in online learning programs, the demand for positions like online learning directors is growing. These educators are typically responsible for coordinating the online learning environment of their schools and serving as guides for fellow faculty members. With online learning still a new tool, many educators often need an expert to help them understand and implement these practices. Given the ongoing growth of online learning in education, online learning directors play a pivotal role in helping their schools adjust to the needs of today’s learners and the expectations of the future workforce.
Most online learning directors pursue a graduate degree, such as a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Curriculum & Instruction – Educational Technology. The advanced degree online program at Southeastern Oklahoma State University prepares graduates with the know-how to develop and maintain innovative digital learning environments in any school setting.
The program includes required courses such as Introduction to Learning Technologies, which provides students with the practical and theoretical foundations necessary to infuse technology into learning environments in meaningful ways. Additional specialty courses include Learning Technologies to Bridge the Digital Divide and Innovative Leadership for Digital Age Environments. These courses teach students how to bridge digital literacy gaps and provide meaningful instruction, as well as implement research-informed practices and navigate legal considerations when using new digital learning tools.
Online learning directors must be able to successfully share these skills and information with their peers since they are typically the leaders who spearhead digital learning in their schools. Degree programs such as Southeastern’s also help to hone these professional development and communication skills.
Implementing Online Learning
In a K-12 setting, online learning directors work closely with teachers and other educators in their schools to support integration of research-informed practices and strategies for teaching with technologies in ways that align with the learning sciences, build empowering online learning opportunities and facilitate job-embedded learning. Leaders must also plan for ongoing evaluation of technology integration efforts in order to make adjustments when necessary. Every school has different needs, and online learning directors should be able to effectively collaborate with all stakeholders to best address the needs of their school community.
When it comes to digital learning, online learning directors are the experts. They help develop learning policies that work best for different departments in schools and try to create online learning opportunities in those areas. This assistance includes adapting digital learning tools to suit the many different needs of students, including language and comprehension needs.
On a more logistical level, they also work to create a smooth orientation process for students and a robust instructional design that fosters strong engagement. Effective online learning directors can cultivate a learning atmosphere that is both convenient and meaningful for students.
Professional opportunities for online learning directors vary based on the organization, but in a K-12 environment, ZipRecruiter notes the average salary range fall somewhere between $65,869 and $93,258. It also states that compensation is often dependent on the size of the organization, meaning that higher education could present opportunities to earn more. However, most of these positions prefer or even require a master’s degree. Visit Southeastern’s program website to learn more about how the online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction – Educational Technology program could create new opportunities for your career.