Published on 2013/12/04

New Opportunity and Advancement: The Promise of Higher Education

New Opportunity and Advancement: The Promise of Higher Education
Ongoing learning can provide incredible opportunities for career change, growth and advancement.
There are several reasons to return to college once you become a working professional. I’ve returned to college not once, but twice, in my adult life. The first time was for a purposeful career change; I made the switch from graphic design to education. The second time just happened with no real plan. I was at a crossroads in my teaching. With a master’s of education degree and professional experience, I was able to teach design-related classes at the junior college level. I needed an additional 18 credit hours in order to teach art history, or to teach design at the university level. At the same time, I had become enamored with online distance education and wanted to not only learn more, but do more with distance education; maybe even become a course designer.

I began looking into my options. Programs had to be delivered online. The fine arts master’s programs I found were not available completely online, and in the end, online distance education won out simply because of the available program. I enrolled at University of Maryland University College (UMUC) for a graduate certificate program. My intention was to earn a graduate certificate in technology in distance education and e-learning, and within a few semesters, I did.

Then everything changed. By the time I completed the certificate I had been offered a contract position as an online coordinator at a small art school where I teach as an adjunct instructor. Those first few semesters redefined what I thought of as my professional calling: teaching art and design. I came to find distance education as an amazing and completely undervalued delivery method for education. I turned into a distance education proponent and cheerleader, and tried to talk everyone I knew into taking classes online — my husband received the brunt of this as he was finishing his last few semesters of college at the time.

I had never considered that I would enter a role in academic administration prior to my position at the art school. Not only was I designing courses and helping other instructors to properly present their courses for online delivery, I was in a position to establish best practices for online delivery of hybrid courses. To do this well, I realized I needed to learn more, so I returned to UMUC to earn a graduate certificate in distance education, globalization and development. That was coupled with the fact that I didn’t have the credit hours I needed to step into the next level of teaching and pay grade. Once I completed the second graduate certificate, I decided I was finished with classes. Even though I toyed with the idea of earning a second master’s degree, I had no intention of doing so.

I did return to UMUC one more time to complete the degree. An opportunity presented itself, but in order to be considered, I had to have completed a master’s degree in distance education by a certain date. Unfortunately, the opportunity did not work out. However, it emphasized my need to finish the degree program; just four more courses. I was able to concentrate my focus into the areas of online distance education in which I would like to work: open education resources and Massive Open Online Courses.

I began taking classes in distance education for professional development and to learn more about a style of teaching I enjoyed. Returning to school for the master’s in distance education has provided unexpected opportunities, and areas of career growth I could not have imagined.

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Readers Comments

Tyrese Banner 2013/12/04 at 1:51 pm

Interesting insight into how lifelong learners make decisions about whether to return to school, which type of credential to pursue and where to complete their education. This shows the need for institutions to have robust academic/career advising available as prospective/current students reach these decision points.

I wish Ms. Medeiros the best in her future endeavors.

Chuck Schwartz 2013/12/04 at 4:26 pm

Reading this article, it reminds me that institutions that primarily cater to adult students should aim for maximum program and transfer credit flexibility. As Laura says, you never know where life is going to take you. This is especially true for adult students who may enrol in a program not knowing what to expect and discovering that the subject either bores them or isn’t relevant to their career goals. (This happens more often than you might expect.) Programs should be designed so that adult students can move between them if necessary without losing time, money or credits already earned.

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