“It has been a long time since I was an undergraduate,” says LuAnn Phillips of Lake George, New York. “I really have always wanted to get a master’s degree, but I just never did get around to it. Being a Mom and trying to work at the same time pretty much filled up my life.”
In addition to life getting in the way, LuAnn was also unsure of what she would want to study. As the Virtual Worlds Coordinator for eXtension, a national technology initiative of the USDA Cooperative Extension Service, her goal is to teach over 15,000 educators about immersive 3D virtual worlds and help some of them develop projects. When she looked into Marlboro’s Master of Arts in Teaching with Technology program, she saw where that program could fill in the gaps.
“What I found is that I didn’t really understand the pedagogy and instructional design issues for developing education in virtual worlds,” says LuAnn. “Marlboro had some courses taught in Second Life that were about Second Life. Since that’s where I do most of my developing I thought this was probably a good fit.”
Because LuAnn often works out of her home, she is very comfortable with doing the online coursework, but also greatly appreciates the in-person classroom time offered by Marlboro’s blended learning model. “I have a feeling of actually being at school, but it’s not taking all my time everyday so that I can work,” she says. “But the best part is how family-like it is. It is like going into somebody’s living room, there is always coffee on the table which is nice. It is like Cheers, everybody knows your name.”
Furthermore, LuAnn is very impressed with how current the academic content is. “My sense is that behind the scenes they are always looking to evolve the program to keep on top of trends in the industries that they are addressing. That is really important, especially in technology because what was true five years ago is not necessarily true now.” To attest to this, she says that some students who were graduates of the program a few years ago are back to update knowledge and skills in the rapidly developing field.
In addition to the content that she is learning in the MAT program, LuAnn explains that her confidence level, when giving lectures at conferences to people with PhD’s, is much higher. She is also excited about getting the chance to put the name ‘Marlboro College’ in her bios at these conferences, “I think that it is such a great program that it would be nice for more people, who are looking for a way to complete a degree program, to know about this school and how current it is in terms of what it offers.”
LuAnn is using her Capstone Project as an opportunity to develop a strategic plan for Cooperative Extension in virtual worlds, using her current employer as her Capstone Project sponsor. What LuAnn plans to do is develop a strategic plan and knowledge base for the organization so that they can learn about virtual worlds through her practical set of guidelines, assess the best ways to implement this technology in the future, and then apply that knowledge to particular working environments. “This job didn’t exist before they asked me to do it, I sort of invented it. What I want to do is formalize it, and set it up so that if I needed to leave the position, somebody else could come in and pick right up where I left off.”