Starting Fall 2016, the Master of Arts in educational leadership at The American University in Cairo (AUC) will combine classroom and online instruction, making it the first master’s program at the University to be offered in blended format and giving more flexibility to mid-career professionals who want to pursue a higher education degree.“The purpose of blended program delivery is to provide access to a degree program,” said Ted Purinton, associate professor of international and comparative education and dean of the Graduate School of Education. “AUC’s master’s degree programs are designed for traditional graduate students. If you live too far away or work late in the evening, you can’t participate in a master’s program. Students in the blended program will have the option to participate in online courses so that they don’t have to come to campus a few nights per week, each week.”
Blended learning is emerging as a global trend. According to the 2015 New Media Consortium Horizon Report, one in 10 higher education U.S. students were only taking courses online as of 2012, and 13.3 percent were combining online and face-to-face instruction.
The educational leadership MA degree in the blended format is no different than the degree currently offered for regular sessions on campus. “The program has a different schedule of delivery, but it’s the same exact courses, course material and faculty members,” said Purinton.
The blended program will consist of a cohort of approximately 15 students who will participate in online activities and meet face-to-face on scheduled Saturdays throughout each term. Online activities include participating in asynchronous online discussions, pre-recorded video lectures and even collaborative projects by communicating through Skype or other online platforms.
Professionals who have educational leadership positions will benefit from the blended format schedule. “There’s no reason why we should limit the capacity of qualified students applying to our program just because they’re not able to attend regular class sessions,” noted Purinton. “This program opens the opportunity for a new audience, including principals, and administrators in schools and universities from Egypt.”
According to Purinton, one of the reasons why blended learning is effective is because it requires from all students a much higher level of individual participation than in most traditional face-to-face classes. “In some traditional classroom formats, students can choose to be less participatory. A blended format of delivery will often increase the amount of interactivity between students, often through asynchronous discussion boards or other synchronous or asynchronous technological tools,” said Purinton. “It’s not as easy to hide in the back of the classroom.”
With the rise of technology revolutionizing the way we learn, an online education provides students with appealing online resources and exposes faculty members to advanced educational tools. “In some ways, a classroom-based learning experience is outdated,” stated Purinton. “Particularly for educational administrators in schools and universities, the people who will most likely enroll in this program, a blended format provides the opportunity to better combine theory and practice.”
The educational leadership MA blended cohort is putting AUC ahead of the curve of educational development in Egypt and the region, noted Russanne Hozayin, associate professor of practice and chair of the Department of International and Comparative Education. “The educational leadership blended program provides analytic and practical skills and tools for schools and universities that create significant change in education,” she explained. “Having a blended program at AUC is an advantage for educational leaders in Egypt.”