Christine Bailey has worked in information technology for more than two decades, many of those years as a systems analyst for K-12 public education.
At age 47, she is ready to make her impact in a new way.
“For 11 years, I worked in special education for a different public school district, managing the robust data inherent to the department and myriad required state reporting. Early on, I was on the ground floor, converting the department from a paper-based management process of writing IEPs to an electronic one,” Bailey says.
Now, she says, “my interest has migrated slightly away from state reporting, noting compliance of indicators and managing data and more toward how technology can help us to learn. My current position has evolved toward partnering closely with Curriculum and working more closely with teachers on the work of education.”
The resident of Canton, Connecticut, has found that pathway in the NIU Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment’s BSAM-ITTE degree.
Designed specifically for transfers, the fully online program provides the opportunity to bridge directly from a discipline related A.A.S. degree or an A.A./A.S. degree to a B.S. with prior learning credit for the relevant technical knowledge and skills students have developed.
Students complete 40 hours of coursework at the 300 and 400 levels with curriculum that includes instructional media literacy; learning in the digital age; human performance technology; instructional design models, strategies and tactics; instructional architecture for learning applications; and learner-centered educational courseware development.
Indeed, for Bailey, it’s “the first program that really aligned with my interests, existing work experience and background. It is a good complement to my professional experience.”
“I am not sure what it is exactly, but NIU and my educational intentions are aligned so things have clicked. My other attempts at finishing my degree involved career changes,” she says. “I think when things all come together more organically, it is a sign that this is where I am supposed to be.”
Jacqueline Hall, who earned her associate degree at Waubonsee Community College, also feels at home in the NIU College of Education.
“Better question: Why not NIU?” she asks. “Not only does the university offer quality education from highly qualified educators, but you also get to experience how much the staff genuinely care about the success of their students. To know that you have a team of supporters rooting for you is extremely comforting and motivating.”
Hall, who is pursuing a career in developing computer software or websites, always has “enjoyed analyzing a solution and figuring out the best solution.”
“Growing up, I was already the person people came to with their problems because they knew I’d find other angles to solve situations. This skill always benefited me with the workplace as well,” says Hall, a Patient Services representative at Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora.
“I’d often collaborate with management as well as HR to analyze policies, procedures, and workflow in order to achieve goals within the company,” she adds. “After doing this for so long, I figured it was time for me to get the proper training and education that would strengthen my skills.”
She appreciates the electronic course delivery as well as the inspiration from her faculty to “never stop enlightening yourself, never stop communicating and never stop asking questions.”
“Throughout the BSAM-ITTE program, I’ve faced multiple challenges and obstacles due to my middle child’s health conditions. I remember nights I’d be at the hospital with my son and doing homework,” says Hall, 31. “The BSAM-ITTE program being remote offered the flexibility I needed.”
Motherhood also drives Bogusia Wrzosek, a graduate of Harper College who just completed her first semester at NIU.
“I’ve been in the workforce for over 10 years but just recently started focusing on expanding and growing. I have two children, and as a single mom, it is not always easy to focus on yourself,” says Wrzosek, 37. “Now that my kids are a bit older, I can spend more time on study and focus on personal growth.”
Employed by Bank of America, she plans to build her career there and believes the technology-related degree she is completing at NIU will make possible “a broader range of opportunities.”
Among those, she hopes, are roles that open her to new experiences, tap into her creativity and allow her to “spready my positivity.”
“Instructional technology is a great tool that many workplaces use to educate and train their employees, and I think it’s a field that will keep on growing and being utilized more and more,” she says. “NIU offers me a course that is attainable within my needs and resources. I love the flexibility with online courses that don’t feel overwhelming when time and workload is managed properly.”
For Bailey, NIU “has broadened my aspirations. I intend to pursue a graduate degree once I have completed the BSAM program, if not for professional advancement then to further my personal perspective.”
“I have loved learning about curriculum development. I would be an asset in a role that connects me more with users, perhaps as an instructional technology director-type role or more deeply in the classroom to match solutions with needs,” says the graduate of Northwestern Connecticut Community College.
“I remain open to possibilities because I expect there is something more out there than what I can yet conceive of myself. I am happy continuing to connect with educational professionals,” she adds, “and learning how I can use my education, skills and background to support them and their students, and to problem-solve with them to create a robust and fulfilling learning experience for students.”
Educational technology offers that, she says, “especially during COVID, when we all had to really get up to speed quickly into a new and virtual learning environment.”
“There is a balance that I feel is important in our lives, and sometimes technology absolutely comes in the form of a piece of paper and a pencil, but there are also great tools out there to really take learning to a level that certainly was not around when I was a child,” she says. “Tools like DreamBox, for elementary math instruction, seem really engaging for children and allow them to advance in the subject.”
Like Hall and Wrzosek, Bailey loves the online delivery.
“I work full time in a professional role where hours swell to needs. I also own a yoga studio, and teach older adult fitness, now online,” she says. “I am carrying a full-time course load as well so having flexibility do my schoolwork on a varied schedule during the week is crucial. This semester, I had my first synchronous class, which has been cool, but it’s also been a little bit of a burden on my schedule because it is so structured.”
Yet she is gaining confidence through those studies and realizing “that I really have learned a lot in my many years of working and in my 15 years in education.”
After years of developing applications with the focus of “getting it set up – usually quickly – and on the logistics of how people will use it,” she now is seeing how it functions in practice after her work is done.
“My classes give me perspective deeper into the actual tool use, to the challenges for teachers and students then using it,” Bailey says. “I appreciate the knowledge I have gained to better empathize and consider further downstream for all of the technology available to classrooms.”