Online learning has become a fast-growing market in higher education, and Northwestern is contributing to this trend.
Northwestern has been working on putting together a graduate program for educators who are looking to further their degrees. The process of planning, researching and developing the new program began approximately the last three years ago.
The process involved hiring Stamats, a higher education marketing firm, to do market research in the area of education. Stamats researched where most education jobs are as well as which education jobs are in demand, while also comparing their findings to NW’s mission statement.
From the assessment, they found that there was a opportunity to create a master’s degree program in education. The education program will have a core set of credits that all the graduate students will take and then the program will offer two different tracks, one in early childhood and one in teacher leadership.
The early childhood track of the program will be catered toward people who are looking at working with children from infancy through third grade and are seeking to add a masters to their degree. The other track will be in teacher leadership, which will be more for educators in the middle school and high school levels.
Dr. Rebecca Hoey, director of online learning, explained why the college decided to go with a graduate program in education.
“Northwestern has had a really successful endorsement in Early Childhood that has been online since 2009, and the enrollment grows and grows,” Hoey said. “It was just a natural fit for us to look at the education department.”
Hoey has been working with the education department and retired MOC-Floyd Valley superintendent Gary richardson to research and put together this program.
“Gary helped us by setting up focus groups and meetings with the AEA leaders so we could pick their brains and ask them what some of the other area’s needs are that they see with educators in the field,” Hoey said.
Dr. Laurie Daily, associate professor of education and education department co-chair, sees the new program as a way to extend the reach of NW.
“This is a great opportunity to expand the work we are doing at NW to the adult population and non-traditional students,” Daily said. “Some of them might be past graduates and can now add graduate work if they haven’t had the opportunity yet.”
The teacher leadership track is to accommodate the State of Iowa’s move toward a teacher leadership and compensations system. This system takes teachers out of the classroom and puts them in leadership positions.
The hope for the future is that there will be more endorsements available in the program, including a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) endorsement, a reading endorsement and an ESL (English as a second language).
The program has gone through various boards and committees to be approved as a new program at Northwestern. The last step is for it to be approved by the Higher Learning Commission. This could take anywhere from 90 days to eight months.
“We are very optimistic to start the program next January, but that all depends on the Higher Learning Commission,” Hoey said. “If it takes them 90 days, then we will absolutely start it next January, but if it takes them 8 months then we won’t hear back from them until December. Then that is just not enough turnaround time to advertise the program and get people enrolled.”