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Distinctive Approach: Tulane’s MEd Faculty Prepare Students for the Future of Education

May 6, 2024

From funding to safety to equity to technology to policy, American education faces a litany of complex, evolving issues. In Tulane’s Master of Education program, faculty prepare education leaders for today’s challenges — and tomorrow’s.

Tulane’s faculty includes Stoney Gaddy, a senior instructional designer and adjunct professor in the Information Technology and Learning Experience Design (LXD) programs at Tulane University’s School of Professional Advancement (SoPA). Gaddy, who holds an MS in education, curriculum and instruction from Pittsburgh State University, guides faculty and students through challenges and opportunities posed by innovation, research, technology, and competitive nature in the realm of teaching and learning.

We met with Professor Gaddy to discuss his career and the future of education leadership.

Your background is in information technology and educational program development. How do these topics intersect in your work at Tulane?

It is a long and winding road. My background is in business information systems — not as a traditional programmer, but in business information systems, in getting this system to talk with that system. I was into databases and data analytics before data analytics was a household term; and then to data visualization before data visualization was even a term. I was drawn to the visual aspects of data and also in telling a story.

For my first 13 years, I was a faculty member in information systems. As a faculty member, I was heavily involved in program and curriculum development and assessment of student learning, which all fit in well with data analytics. Then I also started teaching online in the late 1990s. In 2001 or 2002, my teaching role evolved a little bit into web design, and then information architecture. All of which fits very well into learning experience design.

There are so many roads that lead to Rome. This was mine.

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SoPA students can earn an MEd with a concentration in Learning Experience Design—or they can obtain a certificate in the same subject. In what situations would a prospective student choose one option over the other?

It depends on their learning goals, their current working situation, their future goals, and what education they have already attained.

Right now, we have a handful of students in our certificate program who already have a master’s or a PhD. A college faculty member who has a PhD and has been teaching for two or 20 years may want to get that LXD certificate to not only enhance their current teaching abilities but possibly also work as a learning experience and/or media designer in a consulting capacity.

Someone with a bachelor’s degree who has been teaching K-12 for several years may want to advance or change careers. They could enroll in the master’s program to earn that master’s credential with the LXD certificate. That would be the traditional approach.

In fact, a person might take the LXD certificate path as a primer. Then, if they like what they see and want to get that master’s degree, they already have 12 credit hours under their belt. Now, all one has to do is take those foundational Master of Education courses. This might seem a little unorthodox, but a student completing the LXD certificate first should be substantially prepared to succeed in the foundational core master’s degree courses.

In any variety of situations, the master’s degree or the LXD certificate are perfect opportunities to expand or enhance their current skills and credentials. 

Technology in the classroom is growing, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. How does Tulane’s MEd program prepare educators for the future of educational technology?

Classroom teaching and learning are not going away. Still, higher education and the corporate world have been steadily moving more and more learning opportunities to the online environment. This has been true for the past 20 or so years.

I’ve said this a million times: Teaching online has made me a better classroom instructor. Exams were already set. The bookstore had plenty of Scantron sheets in stock. …and I remember walking into class two minutes before class started, knowing what I’m going to talk about, and would lecture and engage learners for an hour, or five.  

We’ve learned and grown from those days, growing into the online environment while maintaining and enhancing those classroom aspects that are pedagogically sound. From the learning activities to the engagement activities to the assessment activities to the reflection activities, there are good models and frameworks that coincide with learning theory — if you just plan it out correctly, it could work in a classroom, it could work online, a hybrid approach, in any scenario.

Through our expert educators with many years of practical experience in all modalities, we have put together a program with several specializations (certificates) that is experiential, authentic, and mindful of the trends that are both disruptively innovating and fleeting.

You have worked in higher education online learning in many capacities. What do you think is the future of online learning?

I’d like to say the future is here, but we have a long way to go. There are lots of storytelling, gamification, and immersive opportunities that we’ve been slowly infusing over time. But curriculum development, course development, program development takes a lot of time. To do these things well, even with a robust learning design and development team, it’s still very difficult to scale and even sustain.

However, we now have artificial intelligence opportunities like ChatGPT and many, many others. And while artificial intelligence has brought numerous challenges, it’s also brought amazing opportunities and we’re fully embracing them to generate realistic case studies, scenarios for interactive lessons, grading rubrics, and so much more.

As for the future, I see more opportunities for immersive storytelling and simulated learning experiences — where students get to be part of the story.

In our LXD program or certification path, we have the Lunate Institute, which is a faux learning experience design firm in which students are part of the org chart. Lunate, by the way, is an anagram of Tulane, and also means crescent … a subtle nod to the Crescent City, New Orleans. In one course, they’re the learning experience designer. In another course, they might be on the media design team. We use AI to come up with scenarios that are built into the course. We, including our students, have opportunities to generate situations and solutions to situations that might have red herrings here and roadblocks there. We couldn’t have done that five years ago, but we can now… and more so into the future to create immersive, gamified learning environments.

That’s where I see the future of online learning going, and what we are already implementing in the LXD courses … placing students in scenarios where they not only do, but they’re also learning as they’re doing. That’s unique. And they are getting that feedback from us, the instructors, which enables them to analyze and write and create in authentic ways that best prepares them for the future beyond Tulane University.

What is your advice to students on how to get the most out of their online education?

In such an immersive learning environment, one of the things that I would like to see from our students is to not be afraid to take risks in their course projects. In our authentic and project-based approach, students will have plenty of opportunities to shoot for the stars and devise innovative perspectives or approaches for a classroom or for an online course. Who knows? It might end up being a good research project down the road to take back to their classrooms or current roles. They can experiment in our courses, get quality feedback, and take it with them to apply in their world.

A second piece of advice I would give is to be comfortable sharing their work and ideas with others. Having a nurturing environment to learn and grow from one another is an important aspect of our courses. We’ve built social learning opportunities into our live sessions and online discussions that foster a growth mindset. Take advantage of it.

Why should prospective students choose Tulane for their online MEd degree?

Here’s how I would sum up our LXD certificate track and our MEd programs and courses: immersive, experiential, and authentic. We obviously infuse theory and frameworks into our courses, but all within practical hands-on experiences.

So even in the first foundations course in the LXD specialization that I’m currently teaching, students don’t get into their Lunate Institute project right away. There are a number of modules where we explore what LXD is, job prospects and opportunities, learning theory, frameworks and models, and so on before we even get into the project.

In building our LXD courses, we heard from many instructional designers/learning experience designers that they wished they had more hands-on learning experiences … in designing for learning experiences. Our Lunate projects are also part of a larger portfolio development strategy. We want to make sure our graduates have practical experience with tangible artifacts to build upon and grow.


Professor Gaddy built his successful career by staying ahead of the curve in education design and technology. It is a skill that has equipped him well for his role as an instructor in the online MEd program at Tulane University. Gaddy helps his students visualize the future of education through risk taking and valuable communication skills.

In Tulane’s Master of Education program, faculty members empower students every step of the way, encouraging them to test limits and collaborate within a nurturing environment. Hands-on experiential learning, flexible scheduling, and a robust curriculum produce students prepared to lead with knowledge and confidence and advance positive change in the dynamic field of education.

If the MEd approach, with expert faculty expertise and its unique curriculum, sparks your interest, reach out to an admissions advisor for more information or start your application today

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