To PhD or Not to PhD: Is That Your Question?
Concurrent Session 7
With the field of instructional design evolving and new leadership pathways emerging, what are the considerations for advanced study for the instructional designer and those in related roles? In this Career Forum Roundtable, panelists discuss their decisions to pursue a PhD (or not), and the benefits and drawbacks of their decisions.
As the strategic goals of institutions change and technologies become easier to use, the role of the instructional designer is evolving. What once was a more technical, hands-on role in building online courses is now a more collaborative role that supports not only designing learning experiences, but also learning spaces, academic program redesigns, and other strategic initiatives. Senior leadership roles with titles like “chief academic technology officer” and “dean of digital learning” are becoming more common, as is the argument that the instructional designer should be classified as an academic role. The PhD seems like a valuable credential in this trajectory.
And yet, instructional design is a practitioner field, with expertise not only in pedagogy, but also project management and quality assurance processes that don’t meet the standards of academic rigor. And there is a rich ecosystem of professional development opportunities that enhance practitioner expertise, in areas such as design thinking, experience design, universal design, and change management, in non-traditional fast-paced modes. The kind of lateral thinking and broad expertise that can be an asset to the practitioner can seem at odds with the narrow focus and time commitment required to earn a terminal degree.
With the profession evolving and new leadership pathways emerging, what are the considerations for advanced study and professional development for the instructional designer, and related roles in faculty development, instructional media, and education technology?
In this Career Forum Roundtable, panelists in different roles in learning design, faculty development, and innovation will talk about their decisions to pursue a PhD (or not), and what they see as the benefits and drawbacks of their decisions. While this session may be of general interest, the target audience is instructional design professionals and those in related roles.
Discussion will focus on questions such as:
- What learning experiences have been most valuable to you? How have they informed your practice?
- What do you see as your career pathways? What are the experiences, credentials, and skills that best prepare you for those roles?
- Is the PhD essential preparation for senior roles in academic reporting lines, or is it a credential in service largely to getting faculty and administrative buy-in?
- What do you look for in hiring? How much does formal training weigh in your decision-making?
- With more credentialing opportunities available, do you see the value of the traditional degree changing for the experienced professional?