Webinar: Online Instructional Design and Learning Analytics Virtual Open House

In this online MS in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics Virtual Open House, American University Assistant Dean of Online Learning, Stephanie Brookstein, discussed the program outcomes, courses, career opportunities, and more.

The following is a partial transcript of the archived presentation, which can be viewed in full here.

Program Structure

This is a 30-credit program. We have a 12-credit graduate certificate option available as well. One of the focuses of this degree program is to really enhance organizations and their learning and development departments through data-driven instructional design. We all know that data is everywhere in our lives now.

In the learning aspect, we can really use the outcomes of the program to make some significant research-based changes within an organization. Within this program, we will evaluate adult learning theories and develop integral business practices to assess the importance of integrity, accountability, and diversity across organizations.

Upon successful completion of this program, graduates will be able to identify and apply best practices in instructional design.

Adult learning is at the center of everything that we do in this program, not only from a content standpoint, but also from the student standpoint. We really want students to come out of this program evaluating a variety of adult learning theories, and being able to compare their strengths and weaknesses and think about what theories are most appropriate for different audiences.

Program Outcomes

Students should also be able to identify appropriate, descriptive, prescriptive, and evaluative analytic approaches for learning. Now that we have access to all of this data through different learning management systems and survey tools, it's important to know how to use that data to impact learning. Students will also be able to evaluate and assess learning initiatives for effectiveness and ROI.

While I like to believe all organizations really want to develop stellar training for their employees so that their employees succeed, it's also critical that the return on investing in a training program for their employees makes sense for them as an organization. This program takes both the learning and the analytics very seriously, but we're also integrating the business aspect into this program.

Throughout this program, students should also be able to create strategies for improving the planning, implementation, and management of strategic learning initiatives based on analytics. They should also be able to examine technological alternatives and trends to measure and evaluate learning.

This is not an instructional technology degree. However, we will be introducing different tools and emerging trends as far as the use of technology in learning and analytics. Students should come out of this program with a solid grasp of what tools and technology are currently being used, what's effective for different audiences, and how that can actually be a part of some type of technology implementation plan.

Students will also be able to assess the importance of integrity, accountability, and diversity in affecting virtual teams and projects. This is really important to us as a university, and also as a school. And the idea of integrity, accountability, and diversity is really at the center of all of our programs. Students should also be able to develop strategic problem-solving proficiencies for complex and sensitive learning and development issues impacting the organization, industry, or business unit. Again, getting at that business aspect of instructional design and analytics.

The Advisory Council

I've had the honor of working with a group of advisory council members that have a range of different experiences. Most of these people at this point in their career are at an executive level where they've either been through the instructional design and technology ranks and they're now managing a team or department or even an organization, and using instructional design on a daily basis to improve organizations and impact employees.

We met with the advisory council multiple times, for a length of time, to come up with a really unique curriculum that's going to get people who are interested in this field at a level within their employment that they can really succeed. One of my favorite opening lines in one of these meetings is, what do you want your employees to learn that they are not learning from programs out there right now? And we take that all very seriously and used all of that insight to develop the curriculum.

As a result of completing this program, we came up with a set of outcomes that students should be able to achieve by completing all of the classes in the curriculum successfully. And all these were discussed at length with the advisory council, as well as our faculty and staff here.


This program is 10 courses. The last course in the program is going to be a capstone. In every single one of these courses, we are having students complete an applied project. That is very, very important to us, especially when we're talking about adult learners who may be career changers or mid-level and looking for that advancement.

We don't want you to just take classes to take them. We want you to take them and apply what you're learning in your current situation or in a situation that you want to be inThe capstone gives each student a chance to really bring together everything that they've learned and all the different projects that they've done and apply it at a much larger scale within an organization.

Career Opportunities

One of the things that I love about this program is how flexible your path can be as far as the jobs out there. There are instructional design jobs in almost every industry. There are a lot of organizations, a lot of large companies right now, instead of reimbursing their employees for learning opportunities, they really focus on developing their own learning and development centers within the organization.

They have positions including:

  • Chief Learning Officers
  • Chief Compliance Officers
  • Organizational Development
  • Training Director
  • Learning Management
  • Systems Analyst 
  • Instructional Designer

The senior-level positions salaries can be around $110,000 according to Payscale.com.

Why American University?

One thing that we pride ourselves on at AU, is that students with graduate degrees usually find jobs. 92 percent of our students with graduate degrees find jobs or go on to further their studies within six months of graduation.

We constantly think about how these courses are applicable and meaningful. We use our advisory council to make sure the content is up-to-date and relevant so that you really can advance your careers or get a new job as soon as you complete this program, if not while you're in it.

The Online Platform

CASEY MANCHESTER: One of the things that make this program really special is the Learning Management System (LMS) we use for the classroom. We use is a system called Engage, and it's really different from a traditional LMS that you might be familiar with.

It's really a learning community. It closely resembles a social networking platform instead of others LMSs that are widely used. Engage was designed with a student focus. It's also heavily based on collaboration and community. There are several built-in features within Engage that makes it easy to interact with classmates and your faculty.

There are also opportunities to use well-known interactive tools like Skype, Adobe Connect, and other collaboration tools within it. Also, the online classes retain the rigorous academic standards and high-quality of instruction expected in all of our American University courses. It also allows you the convenience and flexibility of online learning.

From the Q&A

Casey Manchester: Is there any in-depth training on managing LMSs?

Stephanie Brookstein: While we will get into the different kinds of LMSs, and we'll be evaluating their benefits and uses, there's not going to be any technical training on supporting it from a technical end.

Casey Manchester: How is this program different from other programs in instructional design?

Stephanie Brookstein: I think there are two key differentiators. One is the analytics integration. That's definitely on the emerging end when it comes to curriculum design. Universities are starting to offer full degree programs in analytics. Then, they offer full degree programs in instructional design. There's very few out there that combine the two.

The other aspect is this idea of these professional skills. We received feedback from the advisory council stating that it's great they're getting people with these master's degrees in instructional design, and they can design with the best of them. However, when they need somebody to manage a team, they don't necessarily have those management skills.

Those professional skills courses are really geared at giving students that full-packaged skill set. So that yes, they're going to be strong instructional designers. Yes, they can analyze the data and make decisions. Yet, they can also have conversations with their stakeholders. Through these, they can rise in the ranks because they have those management skills and those leadership skills, too.

Casey Manchester: Do you need experience in instructional design to be able to participate in the program?

Stephanie Brookstein: No. I think if you have a little bit of a background or knowledge, it's definitely helpful, but we really are covering a lot of the basic designs and theories and principles in the courses. What I think is helpful more so than specific background in instructional design is professional experience. This program is meant to be for a professional audience who has a few years of experience in the workplace behind them.

It's really meant for that kind of audience because of that application level. We're not just going over principles and theories and asking you to do research papers. We're asking you to work with organizations and do the research yourself and learn from your own experiences in each of these courses. A professional background of having any type of full-time position within an organization is going to really benefit students to be able to attack those projects in a confident way.

Casey Manchester: Follow up question to that one. For the capstone, is it expected to relate the work you do now? What if you are not able to case study something in the day to day work? Can you create a made-up example?

Stephanie Brookstein: So in the capstone, as well as the other courses, it really is expected that you're working with a group of people. You don't have to be working with your employer or even a potential employer. We might ask you to work with a community group or even a group of-- you might be analyzing a group of friends that you have that are willing to help you out and be the base of your project.

We really do want the capstone project to be with an organization that's going to help you advance your career. We do have some resources in place. If you're not comfortable working with your current employer or you're not able to find somebody, we do have an Adult Career and Coaching Center that works with our advisory council that is going to be able to help make some connections. We can't guarantee any placements, but we can help definitely get you in contact with places that are willing to work with our students.

To learn more about American University’s online MS in Instructional Design and Learning Analytics program, contact an admissions advisor at 855.725.7614 or request more information.