The program’s success is based largely on its focus to apply core competencies in the classroom instead of passing tests.
A leading education choice website ranked Texas Tech University 10th in the nation for its online master's degree in special education.
Best Choice Schools used their lists as well as lists from College Navigator, Edudemic, TheBestSchools, GetEducated.com and Best College Reviews Online to examine programs based on faculty-student ratio, acceptance rate, graduation rate and net cost. Texas Tech is one of four Texas schools to make the list. West Virginia University (No. 13) was the only other Big 12 Conference school in the top 30.
Dee Brown, coordinator of the special education program in the College of Education, said the competency-based program offers students many benefits they may not see in other programs, including the national recognition of Texas Tech's online programs has earned, the variety of specializations and the resources available for each specialization.
The College of Education is accredited through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, which Brown said is a difficult accreditation to earn.
“A lot of ‘online' programs are not connected to a brick-and-mortar institution, so we're providing instruction out of a scholarly atmosphere, not from a for-profit institution,” she said.
Students can choose from nine specialties: deaf and hard of hearing; educational diagnostician; general special education; orientation and mobility; visual impairment; dual sensory impairment; applied behavioral analysis; autism; and special education transition. Students in master's level courses can get a master's degree, a graduate certificate or certification in a specific area.
The College of Education also is home to the Burkhart Center for Autism Education & Research and the Virginia Murray Sowell Center for Research and Education in Sensory Disabilities, which offers students, both on-campus and online, the opportunity for more in-depth study into these programs.
The faculty work to provide the online students with the same opportunities and resources available to on-campus students, including distance supervision, mentoring and the classes necessary for graduates to earn state or national certification.
Additionally, said vice dean and professor Robin Lock, students are evaluated throughout the semester to judge whether they are learning and applying the needed skills, and faculty members will consider what individuals need in order to be successful. They use video of lessons and students' lesson plans to provide data-driven evaluations. The faculty members look for evidence that students can collaborate with parents, young adults and other educators to ensure a high-quality educational experience. Reading a textbook and passing a test is not an acceptable measure of mastery.
“What is so outstanding about this program is it is competency-based and online so students are not only evaluated on their development of knowledge and skills, they must demonstrate how they can actually use it out in the field,” Lock said. “People said this can't be done, but we're doing it.”
More than 500 students are enrolled in the online master's level program in special education, which is part of the university's nationally ranked Worldwide eLearning program.
“Texas Tech's College of Education is one of our largest providers of distance and online programs,” assistant vice provost Justin Louder said. “The college is committed to offering distance students a high-quality Texas Tech degree no matter where the student might be.”