Instructional Design Graduate Programs – My Choice


I do not work in the instructional design (ID) field and I do not plan to switch careers.  I have always been interested in training and my workplace lends itself to e-learning so I wanted to learn about ID in the hopes of incorporating distance learning into my current position.  Consequently, price was an important factor for me when I was searching for instructional design graduate programs.  Your situation may be different and lead you to weigh factors differently.

With so many instructional design graduate programs available, which program did I choose and why?

Instructional Design Graduate ProgramsI decided to enroll in the certificate program at the University of Wisconsin –Stout (UW-Stout).  Below are some of the factors that went into my decision.


UW-Stout offered one of the least expensive instructional design graduate programs.  The tuition at the time was $415 per semester credit hour and there were no hidden technology fees, distance learning fees, etc.  Each three semester hour class cost exactly $1,245 ($415 x 3).  The tuition was the same for in-state and out-of-state residents.  Many of the other institutions charged $600 to over $1,000 per semester hour.

Program Length

The University of Wisconsin – Stout program was also one of the shortest programs.  The certificate required the completion of 12 semester hours.  This meant I could complete the program quickly (eight months) and the total cost would be among the lowest available.  A number of other programs required 15 or 18 hours to earn the certificate.


The certificate required that I complete four graduate classes.  The classes were offered in a specific sequence and there were no electives.  I liked that one course was specifically geared for computer-based training.  As someone without any formal ID experience, the course sequence seemed appropriate.

Institution and Accreditation

The program met my basic qualification of being a fully accredited university.  I had never heard of UW-Stout before and a little research determined that it is more of a regionally known school.  Although I had never heard of the Stout campus, I was familiar with the University of Wisconsin and I felt a school in their system would offer some name credibility throughout the country.  There were other “big name” universities offering certificate programs, but at a premium price.  I decided UW-Stout offered sufficient name recognition (by association) for my purposes.


The certificate was offered 100% online.  I was not interested in any on-campus requirements so I did not consider programs that were “mostly” online but required a campus visit at some point.  A campus visit was an unnecessary expense and hassle in my opinion.  The classes at UW-Stout were also asynchronous, meaning I didn’t have to be online and “in class” at a certain time.   Some instructional design graduate programs I found had a synchronous component where the students attend class online at the same time for an hour or two once per week.  I was not opposed to the idea of a regular class meeting, but an asynchronous format seemed a little easier.

Application Process

The application process at UW-Stout was very easy.  I did not have to apply to the graduate school, submit references, take the GRE, etc.  There were no prerequisite classes and no application fees.  It could not have been easier to get started.

Transfer to Master’s Degree

Going into the certificate program, I was somewhat intrigued by the idea of getting a Master’s degree after earning a certificate.  Therefore, I wanted to make sure that I could maximize the amount of transfer credit from the certificate program to the Master’s degree.  I found that all 12 hours of the UW-Stout ID certificate were transferable to the university’s Master of Science in Education degree.  Some master’s programs will only allow you to transfer 9 hours, even if the certificate required 12-18 hours.


I did a lot of research into the University of Wisconsin -Stout program and found several online resumes and portfolio projects from former UW-Stout students.  I reached out to several of these former students and heard back from two of them.  Both former students were very complimentary of the program and recommended it to me.  At this point, I was mostly looking to confirm my decision to start the UW-Stout program and this input from former students helped seal the deal.


The UW-Stout website was pretty comprehensive and answered most of my questions about the ID certificate program.  Some instructional design graduate programs seemed like an afterthought on their schools’ websites and that did not make me feel very comfortable about the institutions’ commitment to the certificate programs.  I like to know what I’m buying and I felt the Stout website offered plenty of information to make an educated decision.  I did have a few questions so I emailed the program contacts listed on the website.  They responded quickly and answered my questions.  This also helped me feel comfortable about the program.  Visit the official UW-Stout Instructional Design program website.

instructional design                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Next:  Read my review of the UW-Stout program


2 responses to “Instructional Design Graduate Programs – My Choice”

  1. […] With so many instructional design programs available, see the factors that led me to choose the University of Wisconsin – Stout certificate program.  […]