I see this question posted time and time again on LinkedIn so I figured it was time to blog about it.Here is a list of things you should look for and consider when looking into that ISD Master’s program.
1. Do your research – Not all instructional design programs are the same. Some focus on K-12, Corporate, or Higher Ed. Some focus on all three but more than likely focus on one more than the others.
2. Who are the professors? Do you recognize their names? Have they worked in the field? For instance, if you are planning to go into the corporate world after graduation, make sure the professors (or at least some) have worked in the corporate world as full time instructional designers (not just consulting either but full time jobs).
3. Look at the professors resumes and/or website. Do they have degrees in Instructional Technology (or similar field as our field has 20 different names)? Where did they go to school? Are they involved in professional organizations in the field?
4. Are the professors publishing? Do they present at conferences? Do their topics interest you? What organizations do they belong to and work with? Does any of that align with your goals?
5. Are the professors full time or adjunct? Adjunct professors usually have other full time jobs meaning you and your class may not be their highest priority. A program should have mostly full time professors.
5. What does the program look like? Do they have a comprehensive website? Do they have a facebook page? Twitter? LinkedIn? Not that these are vital but they do show the program is keeping current with social media. Additionally, a facebook page can be a great place to learn about the students and alumni in the program. I would encourage you to join it and see if its active. An active social media page indicates there is a lot of interaction in the program.
6. Where do the students who graduate from that program end up? What kind of jobs do they get?
7. What kind of reputation does that program have? You may not really be able to find this, but are they from a respected university? If you cannot find information about the program from their website (like who are their professors), I would be very hesitant of that program.
8. Talk to students from that program if you can. Students will offer advice that differs from professors.
9. Please before you apply, talk to a professor in that program (PLEASE make sure you talk to a professor in addition to anyone else you talk to). Have a list of questions for them and see what kind of feeling you get – even if its a phone/skype meeting: Please have it. This is a sign of the kind of access you will have to faculty once you enroll.
10. Do you get to work with real clients or is an internship required? You need at least one real experience before you graduate if you want to get a job in instructional design. Look at the job market, every single jobs asks for some experience and everyone else you will be competing with in the job market will have that internship.
I hope that helps. While this list is not everything you need to look for, it is a great start.