Opportunity Calls: High Demand for Skilled Learning Designers

The world of education and training changed forever in 2020. The widespread move to online learning has triggered high demand for instructional designers and learning designers, a profession that Inside Higher Ed is now calling “The Hottest Job in Higher Education.”

The need for effective, professionally designed educational and training materials is not limited to K-12 public schools now wrangling with the transition to online education, nor to the countless colleges and universities seeking ways to deliver high-value online learning experiences to their students. 

Businesses and corporations across nearly all sectors, government agencies, nonprofits and organizations of all shapes, sizes and missions are also ramping up the shift to remote and online training modalities — understanding that the social and physical distancing protocols made necessary by COVID-19 will result in permanent changes to the way we work, and the way we learn. 

This changing balance between onsite vs. remote engagement — both in education and in the workforce — creates unprecedented career opportunity for educators, trainers and others who have the skills needed to create online education and training materials, designed with user experience and optimal learning in mind. 

Welcome to the future of learning design.


Inside the Master of Science in Learning Design and Technology Program

Here at the University of San Diego, we have been established leaders in online education for many, many years, continually improving our top-quality online degree programs and creating innovative new ones in response to demand.

Today, the demand for instructional designers and learning designers gives rise to exciting possibilities for anyone seeking to launch or advance an instructional design career in education or business, or to work as a freelance learning design consultant.  


Learning Design [Fast Facts]

  • The global online education market is projected to grow from $29 billion in 2019 to $205 billion by 2026, according to a report by Zion Market Research.
  • 88% of instructional designers reported having a graduate degree (study by the University Professional and Continuing Education Association – UPCEA)

The online Learning Design and Technology (LDT) program is ideal for current professionals working in education or training or for those considering a career change to more intentional work with learning design.


Who is the LDT Master’s Degree Program For?

While educators and professionals involved in training in any capacity will find value in this program, the LDT master’s degree is focused on candidates with at least two years of professional, post-baccalaureate experience who have a strong interest in Learning Experience Design and Technology.

Degree candidates may come from a variety of professional backgrounds, including:

  • Working instructional designers seeking to expand their skillset
  • Postsecondary educators and designers
  • Business professionals or admins involved in training/onboarding
  • Learning and development (L&D) and library science professionals
  • Human resources professionals
  • Corporate eLearning professionals
  • Career transitioners

Innovative Curriculum Tailored to the Needs of Learning Designers

The Master of Science in Learning Design and Technology is a 30-unit project-based program that is offered 100% online using the Blackboard learning management system. Students will develop a comprehensive understanding of the science of how people learn, as well as proficiency in the leading technology tools currently used in instructional/learning design.

Designed to be completed in 20 months over five semesters, the program requires students to take two seven-week-long courses each semester, including a Capstone course that synthesizes the topics covered in the preceding courses.

The Capstone project engages students in demonstrating their achievement of all program learning outcomes through a peer-evaluated portfolio project. This culminating project is a fully designed portfolio showcasing the student’s technology and design skills.

To prepare students for the requirements of the profession, most courses will include practical application of theoretical concepts where students will produce a learning artifact such as an eLearning module, program plan or online course that they can add to their portfolio. Additionally, students will critically examine theories, pedagogies and technologies to advance the field, challenge preconceived notions, and shape the future of teaching and learning.

 The curriculum is enhanced by a focus on student-centered education including topics such as:

  • Learning experience design
  • Digital literacy skills
  • Emerging technologies
  • Leadership
  • Facilitating high-impact teaching practices in digital environments
  • Implementing best practices in learning design

In addition to accessing instruction through the Blackboard LMS, students will be exposed to various educational technologies that develop a current technology toolbox for career development opportunities. For example, students will be able to explore rapid eLearning software such as Articulate 360 (including StoryLine 360), Adobe Captivate and Camtasia. They will also gain experience with graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Canva and Gimp.

Courses include:

  • Introduction to Instructional & Learning Design
  • Introduction to Learning Technologies
  • Advanced Learning Theory and Design
  • Learning Media Design
  • Leadership in Virtual Learning
  • Program Design, Assessment and Evaluation
  • Emerging Technologies and Design Approaches

The Faculty: Real-World Experts, Hands-On Instruction   

The faculty members selected for USD’s Learning Design and Technology master’s degree program have a distinguished combination of academic and industry experience, including expertise in curriculum design, teaching, training, digital media and graphics design, and leadership in a variety of educational settings.

Their background and experience includes educational technology, learner experience design, corporate training, organizational performance data analysis, information and learning media design and development, and K-12 and higher education leadership. Faculty members have terminal and/or doctoral degrees.

Each faculty member is engaged in working closely with students to make the LDT learning experience one that you can use to transform your career and achieve your most important goals.


Program Goals and Learner Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, MS-LDT graduates will be able to:   

  1. Integrate foundational models and professional practices in learning design and instructional technology. Graduates will be able to apply knowledge of adult learning theory, online pedagogy and andragogy, and social justice principles to design, develop and deliver sound and equitable learning experiences and construct appropriate technology solutions in education and training contexts.
  2. Employ sound practices in program planning, data collection and data analysis. Graduates will be able to accurately and reliably assess the needs of diverse learner populations by applying ethical and objective data collection methods and employing appropriate data analysis techniques to use in learning design evaluation.
  3. Critically evaluate trends, issues, practices and methodologies that impact the field of instructional design. Graduates will recognize historical social disparities in education and training contexts and engage in discourse that challenges the current perspectives in learning design to drive the discipline forward.
  4. Critically examine educational technology trends and apply empirical rationale in the development of instructional multimedia that supports the needs of a diverse audience, enhances cultural understanding and increases global awareness. Graduates will employ principles of media design in the creation of end-to-end learning objects to deepen learning and reduce elements that impede cognitive processing. Students will be well-versed in Universal Design for Learning strategies and be able to utilize digital tools that integrate with adaptive and assistive technologies.
  5. Engage learning project stakeholders in achieving the optimal student experience and meeting organizational goals. Graduates will be able to effectively oversee the development of a learning project by applying project management techniques and frameworks. Graduates will recognize and exhibit high ethical standards in project leadership, consultation, negotiation, collaboration, and milestone, data and budget management.
  6. Ensure quality of instructional design and technology implementation. Graduates will be able to define and apply information literacy and ethical use of content, and discuss the implications of quality management in educational product design and evaluation of learning technologies.

Careers in Learning/Instructional Design

Demand for learning designers now cuts across all industries to keep pace with the expanding need for skilled specialists to create educational programs, online courses and training materials for institutions, organizations and corporations.

Salaries vary widely based on many factors, such as the responsibilities of the job, the industry, the employer and the location (going forward, it is expected that more and more jobs in the learning design industry will be performed remotely).

Employment website Glassdoor reports that top companies hiring instructional designers include: Apple | Amazon | Fidelity Investments | Bank of America | UnitedHealth Group | Lockheed Martin | HubSpot | Facebook | Google | Southwest Airlines | AstraZeneca | Booz Allen Hamilton | IBM | AT&T | Microsoft | Zendesk | Fitbit | Nokia | LinkedIn | Nike | the United Nations | the U.S. Government | and a long list of top universities 

Go to LinkedIn and search jobs in “learning design,” and you will find more than 30,000 listings for positions at Salesforce, Netflix, Humana, J.P. Morgan, Wayfair, Barnes & Noble, Deloitte, Blackboard and even more top universities and corporate employers. 


Admissions (Earn Your Degree in 20 Months)

Potential applicants include educators such as K-12 teachers, university or school librarians, faculty support staff, museum educators and full-time or adjunct faculty at universities or community colleges.

As mentioned, many professionals from in the corporate sector may also be interested in and benefit from instructional and learning design education. Examples here include individuals who provide:

  • Onboarding for new employees,
  • Professional development training for staff
  • Customer training around products or services
  • Etc.

The program also expects to attract students who are re-skilling for more job security, work-at-home options and career change possibilities connected to learning development. 

Admission to the LDT program will require a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution with strong academic credentials. Candidates for this program will be expected to have professional work experience, however, it is recognized that the majority of applicants may not be well-versed in educational theory or online pedagogy.

Each program applicant will be asked to share a statement discussing their background and fit for the program, their interest in learning design and technology, and their goals from completing the LDT degree program.

Students are admitted throughout the year for enrollment into one of three semesters (Spring, Summer and Fall). Each semester two courses are offered, with students focusing intensively on one course at a time — a total of seven weeks for each course.

Admission applications are accepted on a rolling basis. A decision will be recommended by the Review Committee within one week of your application being submitted. For details on specific requirements needed for admission, please visit our Admissions page


A Few Words About the Program 

“The pandemic has dramatically expanded learning design and the use of technology to create highly effective education and training offerings that can be accessed remotely. Fortunately, we began planning our LDT degree program before the crisis hit, so we had a head start. With or without the pandemic, we had already identified this as a crucial area of need.” – Academic Director, Lisa Evans


Tuition 

University of San Diego tuition rates are competitive with other leading institutions. The cost for each program varies by credit hour; the Master of Science in Learning Design and Technology program requires a minimum of 30 total credit hours. 


Financial Aid

One of the University of San Diego’s highest priorities is to ensure that sufficient tuition and financial aid support is available to all eligible students. The first step in applying for aid is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

In addition to financial aid, the University of San Diego provides assistance in securing additional financial support for students to further their education, including scholarships and grants.

Learn More About Financial Aid at USD


Accreditation 

Accreditation is an important quality indicator for college and university degree programs, generally regarded as a stamp of approval that ensures you will be able to apply for financial aid and transfer your credits if you decide to switch schools. Most state universities and private non-profit universities will have a regional accreditation. The University of San Diego has earned both regional and national accreditations.

Accreditations include:

The WASC Senior College and University Commission – WASC is a regional accrediting agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as certifying institutional eligibility for federal funding in a number of programs, including student access to federal financial aid. Learn more about the importance of selecting a regionally accredited program


Enrollment and Academic Advisors

Applying to a graduate program can be complicated — that’s why our team of advisors is here to help answer all of your questions.

When you first inquire about our Master of Science in Learning Design and Technology program, you will be assigned a personal Enrollment Advisor who will be available to answer your questions, help you assess your eligibility for admission and guide you through the application process.

In addition, each of our graduate degree programs has an Academic Advisor, who is responsible for evaluating applications and admitting new students, monitoring your academic progress and providing guidance as needed. Program Advisors also serve as instructors for their respective programs.

Right from the start, you’ll receive support and guidance from experienced advisors who are invested in helping you achieve your education goals!

Speak to a USD Advisor


Online Learning at USD

Designed for busy working professionals who want to earn their master’s degree while balancing the demands of work and family life, the University of San Diego offers convenient, yet rigorous online learning programs that enable you to achieve your educational goals on your own schedule.

As an online graduate student, you will have access to your classroom at any time and can view your assignments, syllabus and course resources from any computer with internet capability.

The degree you’ll earn as an online graduate student is the same as that earned by campus-based students. The online courses embody the same learning outcomes, educational rigor and high level of academic excellence.

Learn More About Earning Your Master’s Degree Online at University Of San Diego


Awards

The University of San Diego, established in 1949, is a highly rated private, Catholic university that regularly earns accolades and honors from academic websites and publications. USD citations include: 

The Princeton Review

  • #3 Most Beautiful Campus
  • #12 Best-Run Colleges
  • #23 Top 50 Green Colleges 

U.S. News & World Report

  • #13 Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
  • #25 International Business
  • #58 Best Colleges for Veterans
  • #66 Best Value Schools
  • #90 Best Business Programs
  • #91 National Universities

Business Insider

  • #14 Best Colleges in the West
  • #12 Best Business Schools for Networking

Kiplinger

  • #60 Best College Values (Private Universities)

 CEO World Magazine

  • #85 Best Universities and Colleges in the World
  • #69 World’s Top Business Schools Rankings (2019)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are classes scheduled to accommodate working professionals?

Yes. The Master of Science in Learning Design and Technology degree program is designed specifically with working professionals in mind. The online program can be completed on your own schedule (as long as deadlines are met).

What if my GPA is slightly below the minimum? Do I still have a chance to get accepted?

Absolutely! We understand that you are more than your undergraduate GPA . We will look at your entire application package holistically, and your undergraduate GPA may potentially be offset by work experience, an admission essay or fulfillment of a graduate-level course to show readiness for success in your graduate degree. Our Academic Director may also ask for a pre-admission interview with you to better understand your career goals and identify any ways our team might be able to better support you through your graduate studies. Ultimately, our goal is your success. We want to ensure that the students who are admitted to our program have the experience, tools and resources they need to graduate from the program and pursue their career goals.

Does USD offer career development/advising support?

The University of San Diego is committed to steering you on a path toward educational and professional success. Right from the start, you’ll receive support and guidance from experienced University of San Diego advisors who are invested in helping you achieve your education goals!

Is the program online or on-campus?

The MS-LDT program is a 100% online, fully asynchronous degree program.

What makes this program one-of-a-kind and innovative?

The MS-LDT program is designed to provide working adults with a short, fast-paced, but manageable path to entry into the field of instructional/learning design. Some program aspects that may make MS-LDT the right choice for you include the various ways we attend to the needs of adult learners. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Faculty who are subject matter experts and ID practitioners. Our faculty are connected to the field in various ways across various industries.  
  • Access to the MS-LDT Academic Director from pre-enrollment to post-graduation 
  • 7-week courses that allow you to complete 6 credits per semester, but focus on one course at a time
  • Active engagement from our student success team members who provide a range of support that will keep you on track and ready to graduate in 20 months
  • Automatic enrollment in your courses each term so you have one less thing to do
  • Course design support by our in-house Learning Design Center which means standards of good online course design is consistent across all MS-LDT courses
  • A focus on preparing you as an instructional design, learning design, and eLearning design practitioner, which means assignments are thoughtfully planned with your future career in mind
  • An emphasis on supporting your effort to build an ID Portfolio that you can present to prospective employers and clients
  • A commitment to staying grounded in foundations of the field (i.e, ID as a process) and being intentional about keeping our students connected to shifts and trends in the field (i.e., embracing design thinking)
Why do students choose the MS-LDT program at USD?

Students choose the MS-LDT program because it provides a fast-track to entry or promotion in the instructional/learning design career they seek. Our fully asynchronous program is attractive to full-time working professionals who want and need the flexibility to manage when and where they engage with their courses. We are a year-round program, which means we offer our two foundational courses every semester. This makes it convenient for students to decide when the best time is for them to begin pursuing their academic goals.

Does or will the program include any live (Zoom or in-person) components?

While the program is fully asynchronous, office hours are an opportunity to have live discussions with faculty. The program will offer webinars throughout the year as an opportunity to engage with industry professionals and explore topics in the field.

Is the main focus of the program online and tech-based learning?

The main focus of the program is on establishing a foundation and building the  knowledge, skills, and abilities that are demonstrated as the competencies expected of ID professionals. While many of the course assignments require the use of eLearning authoring software and other learning technologies, the competencies you develop are grounded in theory about how people learn and are therefore applicable to designing materials for in-person training, synchronous and asynchronous online learning, and  eLearning.

Why was "Learning Design" chosen to use in the title of this degree instead of "Instructional Design?"

Learning Design was chosen for the degree title to reflect a shift in the industry that is more inclusive of adaptations to the systematic design of instruction that is found in traditional ID. Learning Design combines instructional design and design thinking to promote a more human-centered and creative thinking approach to designing learning solutions.

What is the difference between instructional design and learning design?

Instructional design involves creating learning experiences and materials to affect change in knowledge, skills, or attitude. Learning design utilizes approaches from instructional design, user-experience design, and design thinking to create these learning experiences.

Would a potential employer value a Master of Science over a Master of Education in LD/ID?

A potential employer is not likely to value one degree over the other because they are more interested in demonstrated knowledge, skills, and abilities more so than whether your degree is in LD or ID. Employers requiring or preferring that applicants have a master’s degree will be explicit about the skills they are seeking and typically will not distinguish between type of degree such as MS, MA, or M.Ed degrees.

What is the difference between the Group Discussions and the Discussion Board Forum?

Group Discussions are typically graded assignments posted to a discussion board embedded in each module. They require an original post and a response to peers by the end of the week. Discussion Forum is an open discussion on a variety of topics related to the course. The Discussion Board feature in Blackboard is used as the platform for these online conversations.

Who is teaching in this program?

Our instructors are subject matter experts. They are instructional design practitioners and online instructors who are fully aware of the needs of adult learners and online students. Learn more on our MSLDT faculty page.

How much will the program cost? Are there extra fees?

We are making a discounted license to Articulate 360 available to students that is included in an optional tech fee. The discount is roughly equivalent to two years of access to the software for the price of one year. Students may opt out of the tech fee but that does not exclude them from using an eLearning authoring software program to complete their eLearning course development assignments.  We’ve also compiled a list of free/freemium tools that students can use to complete their assignments. Students will have a Google Drive, Office 365 and YouTube account associated with her USDOne login.

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