Teachers are facing more challenges than ever—find out how this master’s degree can help


joy hearrington una educator master's degree
There’s no time like the present to achieve a goal. (Erin Elise / @e_elisephotography)

Completing her Master of Science in Instructional Technology and Design has been a goal of Joy Hearrington’s for nearly 15 years now. Thanks to the University of North Alabama (UNA), that dream is about to become a reality for this Madison teacher—here’s how.

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Meet Joy Hearrington

joy hearrington una
Volunteering with Operation Christmas Child is a year-round passion of Joy’s. (Joy Hearrington)

A Toney resident, Joy teaches STEM and Career + Technology Education at Liberty Middle School in Madison.

Though she’s happy to be in the classroom now, Joy hasn’t always been so sure about her career path, which led to her initially enrolling in an instructional design master’s program at a university in Florida back in 2007. Now, she is passionate about guiding her students to develop a plan when it comes to their career as she continues to chase educational and career goals in her personal life.

After the summer semester, Joy will be just two classes away from receiving her master’s degree from UNA. Here are three reasons that UNA’s M.S. in Instructional Technology and Design have been a great fit for her:

1. Phenomenal instruction

Natasha Lindsey UNA
Dr. Lindsey’s instruction has made all the difference for Joy. (UNA)

Joy couldn’t say enough good things about Dr. Natasha Lindsey, the program coordinator and instructor for many of the program’s courses.

“(Lindsey) really is intentional. She makes sure she follows what she preaches.”

Joy Hearrington, UNA student

Joy said another thing that sets the UNA MSITD program apart from other courses she’s taken is its commitment to Quality Matters, a program that guides course design to be as successful as possible for students. Lindsey and other professors follow the QM rubrics closely, ensuring that the online courses Joy and other students take are state-of-the-art.

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2. Convenience + proximity

Joy Hearrington UNA
Joy couldn’t say enough good things about her experience with UNA. (@e_elisephotography)

Another draw to UNA was the University’s partnership with Madison City Schools. Through the UNA LEAD program, Joy was able to take the remaining classes for her degree at a reduced rate. Teachers at Huntsville City Schools and Madison County Schools can also take advantage of the LEAD program to obtain graduate degrees from the College of Education.

Plus, the fact that UNA is a state school in Alabama—and only about an hour from home—was a priority for Joy. Having taken classes from colleges all over the country, she knew it would be important to receive instruction from the same state she’d be teaching in.

“The convenience of it being online and a state school within Alabama, I think that’s really important because you’re teaching Alabama students, so it’s really helpful…We’ve lived in multiple states, and so it’s very important to know, what do people in the educational field really want to see in your classroom.”

Joy Hearrington, UNA student

3. Tools for teaching in all circumstances

Joy Hearrington una
Joy’s new degree will help her in the classroom and elsewhere—students with this degree go on to educational administration, government work, the corporate world and more. (Joy Hearrington)

Though the principles Joy is learning in her coursework are certainly useful in her typical classroom work, she’s also learning skills that will help her maximize the learning experience for all kinds of students, from typical K-12 classrooms to online and adult education.

No stranger to online courses herself, Joy knows what it’s like to take a less-than-stellar class—though, thankfully, she hasn’t had to experience that at UNA. But, her UNA coursework in combination with the great instruction she’s received will help her save any of her students from that fate.

This is especially important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated online learning for students of all ages. When she finishes her MSITD, Joy will be completely equipped to take on the challenges of instruction in cyberspace and more.

Ready to be a student again? Learn more about a master’s degree in Instructional Technology and Design.

Sponsored by:

University of North Alabama

Reviewed by Sharron Swain

Emily Phillips
Emily Phillips
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