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An open letter to Master’s degree holders interested in Educational Technology:

​What are you going to be doing for the next 3-4 years? Have you ever thought about extending your educational technology expertise with a doctoral degree? If not, we think maybe you should consider it. Now is a great time to strongly consider that option, because we are pleased to announce that Central Michigan University is now accepting applications for the next cohort of our Doctorate in Educational Technology, offered completely online.

What is a Doctorate in Educational Technology?

The CMU Doctorate in Educational Technology (D.E.T.) is a terminal degree, the highest degree available in its field. It is designed with professional research in mind. That is, the research we train you to perform is primarily designed to provide rigorous evaluation of educational technology or technology-based training in a local context. It is not research for research sake, but research with an explicit purpose, typically specific to where you work or may want to work. In this way, the goals of the D.E.T. are different than a PhD degree, which are primarily about advancing core knowledge in the field.

As you consider this option, know that the D.E.T. is not designed like a longer and more difficult M.A. experience. In many ways, it is a completely different way of thinking. You will be exposed to the various tools of social science research, both qualitative (e.g., interviewing, focus groups, observations) and quantitative (statistical analysis of objective data), and learn how to use these to ensure that you know, with the highest degree of confidence, how well educational technology or technology-based training programs are meeting their objectives. In so doing, you become an expert in that specific area and are prepared for any number of leadership positions related to it.

What does the D.E.T. experience look like?

As noted above, this degree is offered completely online. There are no required visits to campus, no required weekend visits to far-flung places, and no summer face-to-face requirements. However, the expectations for what you do online are significant.

There are 12 courses offered in cohort fashion. They are offered in 16-week semesters, and you are expected to take two at a time year-round (Fall, Spring and Summer semesters). The courses involve reading, writing, video production, discussion, debate, and thought – all online. At times the activities will be asynchronous and at other times synchronous. This means you are expected to be very comfortable with Web-mediated communication in multiple forms.

At the end of the third semester, you participate in a preliminary evaluation of your skills. During the fourth semester of the program, you complete an Independent Inquiry Project (IIP), which is a small research project, presented to faculty and classmates. We believe that the independent nature of the IIP is something that is important to your individual development. We are here to support you in this process, as are your classmates. As such, we have developed the early courses in the program to explicitly scaffold the IIP within the framework of the courses themselves. You also will have your advisor and an additional faculty coach acting as your IIP guides.

During the first half of the seventh semester, you participate in a comprehensive evaluation of your skills. These activities are designed to ensure that a broad foundation of understanding in the field has been attained through coursework, and also evaluate progress in your research area prior to the dissertation.

Finally, the latter portion of the D.E.T. experience is your dissertation. As faculty, we designed this first and foremost with a sense of practicality in mind. Based on the research you perform, dissertations will be comprised of several “shorter” sections that are each independent and “publishable.” In so doing, we expect that you will provide several different lenses on the data collected that together demonstrate an expert depth of understanding for the phenomenon under investigation. This is commonly called an “alternative dissertation.” Manuscripts that you write will also be targeted toward specific, peer-reviewed professional publications that are beneficial to your individual career goals. Once again, the expectations for independent work on the dissertation are high. However, you have a committee of faculty members to help work through the research and writing, and a dissertation chair to provide even more extensive support.

What can a D.E.T. do for you?

The D.E.T. at CMU prepares you for a myriad of jobs that are currently in demand in K-12 schools, virtual schools, community colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities as well as corporate, industrial, and military settings. For example, D.E.T. graduates will be prepared to apply their skills in jobs such as: faculty member, instructional designer, online curriculum specialist, director of technical operations, evaluation and research associate, educational researcher, educational developer, educational research assessment analyst, online intervention specialist, learning coordinator, curriculum coordinator, instructional technology specialist, learning and development facilitator, academic technology professional, training integration specialist, and education services specialist. As we write this letter, all of these jobs are advertised on major online employment sites. The best part about the D.E.T. is that it also prepares you for related jobs that do not yet exist and will be increasingly in demand.

For some, the D.E.T. will do more than prepare you for a promotion or a new job. It may change the way you think. Once you have been exposed to the foundational research in educational technology and technology-based training, and the analytical methods to evaluate them rigorously, you may find that you see your career in a different light. You may decide that you want to devote your career to exploring some of the more emergent practices in this field. You may also decide that you want to take your new analytical mindset and apply it to a job rather far afield from your current understanding. You will have that opportunity, and many more.

Some odds and ends…

First: Advisors – You are assigned an advisor upon acceptance into the program. All D.E.T. advisors are full time tenure-track CMU faculty and leaders in the field of educational technology, actively engaging in research consistent with the vision of the program. Advisors also facilitate personal connections made across the program with all D.E.T. students. In addition to building a supportive, personal, relationship with their advisees, the advisor’s role is to help each student find their dissertation topic passion needed to complete their degree. While it is not uncommon to have your advisor become your dissertation chair, as students get to know the faculty and their own research interests, a different faculty member may be best suited to become your dissertation chair. During the application process, if there is a specific faculty member you would like to request, you will be afforded this opportunity.

Second: Life – We assume that most students in the D.E.T. will be working while they progress through the program. This does not mean that we have reduced the expectations compared to other doctoral programs. However, it does mean that we understand that sometimes life has a way of being unpredictable. Combined with the flexibility afforded by being a fully online program, our understanding of this reality ensures a greater sense of support during the entirety of your D.E.T. experience.

Third: Money – We have priced the D.E.T. experience in a way that we think will make it available to a broad applicant pool. That said, we understand that higher education is not inexpensive. For those of you that moved through CMU’s M.A. program, know that the same financial support and counseling that was available to you then through CMU is still just a phone call or email away. There are also limited paid graduate assistantships available with faculty for research and/or teaching experiences. Just know that if you are interested in earning a doctorate, we will be here to help you manage the financial implications from day one.

So, what do you think?

CMU’s D.E.T. is one of the more unique educational experiences available right now. We think you will find that to be the case from your very first interactions in recruiting and enrollment through your dissertation defense. The CMU D.E.T. is poised to become a model program for 21st century learning that trains forward thinking leaders in an increasingly vital field. We hope you agree and decide to explore how the D.E.T. might work for you.

If you are interested, please call (877-268-4636) or e-mail ( CMU’s Global campus soon.

You should also feel free to contact individual program faculty directly with questions you might have.


Dr. Jennifer Weible, D.E.T. Program Director (
Dr. Michael DeSchryver (
Dr. Kathryn Dirkin (
Dr. Raymond Francis (
Dr. Troy Hicks (
Dr. Mingyuan Zhang ( ​

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