On Track for Success: From a MasterTrack™ Certificate to a Master’s Degree

On Track for Success: From a MasterTrack™ Certificate to a Master’s Degree

At Yale University, Kelly is deeply engaged with both sides of the education process. By day, she supports students and assists a professor with coursework and research. By night, she works to complete her online courses. Her academic environment has influenced her motivation to continue her own studies. 

By studying the intersection of tech and education, she’s redefining what’s possible for her career with the Instructional Design MasterTrack™ Certificate from the University of Illinois on Coursera. In her own words, Kelly shares how she’s successfully navigated the world of online learning to reach her goals.

My professional background is pretty varied. I’ve been a retail department manager, an alumni relations director for a private K-12 school, an executive assistant, and an office manager at a hedge fund. Currently, I work as a special assistant to a professor at Yale School of Management. 

I took a non-traditional path to earn my bachelor’s degree. I started out  at a traditional four-year school, spent time at a community college, and then my studies took a long pause: about 16 years! I wanted to complete my degree but as many non-traditional students know, it gets more challenging as the years go by and our lives become busier with responsibilities and activities.  One day, however, I decided to make it a priority. Ultimately, I determined that online programs were my best chance for success. 

I had no intention of stopping my career, so I needed the flexibility of an online program that allowed me to work full-time. In 2016, I graduated with a Bachelor’s in General Studies, concentrating in social science. 

Returning to higher education as an adult gave me a new perspective on the capacity of the mind. 

While I worked to complete my undergraduate degree online, I took a few courses that really sparked my interest in learning theory. In particular, I wanted to apply my online learning experience to enhance teaching and learning. 

After I graduated, I took some time off from academic work, but eventually began to search for a Master’s program. I knew I wanted to prepare for a transition to a new career. I also wanted to remain in higher education, so I knew that a master’s would be helpful. 

It took longer than I anticipated to find a program. Some programs I considered were primarily technology-focused, while others focused on adult learning  or higher education administration. Nothing really grabbed my attention. Last July, I got an email from Coursera advertising the new Instructional Design MasterTrack™ Certificate from the University of Illinois. It was just right in terms of subject matter, so I looked into the features of the program.

After experiencing major success with online learning, I was excited to enroll and try out degree courses without committing to the full program. My primary goal was to learn more about instructional design and determine whether it was something I wanted to pursue further. 

“The decision was easy for me. The program was what I wanted to study and came from an excellent school. I could either take the MasterTrack™ courses for a standalone credential, or apply the credits to a full degree program if I was accepted. There was nothing to lose and plenty to gain.”

Before my MasterTrack™ courses, I didn’t have an appreciation for the actual  process involved in the creation of a learning experience. Today, I see instructional design as both science and art.

Thanks to the Instructional Design MasterTrack™ Certificate, I finally found a Master’s program that will prepare me for the direction I want to take with my career. I was thrilled to receive my admissions decision letter a few weeks ago. I’m ready to start fall classes as an official Fighting Illini! 

“I was really hoping the MasterTrack™ program would be a springboard into a full Master’s program — and it was. So, goal achieved!”