Featured Alumni: Nafiza Akter

Nafiza Akter is an instructional designer at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. She has an M.A. in Educational Technology and B.A. in Psychology, both from Adelphi University. She graduated in 2013.

What was your experience at Adelphi’s EdTech Program?
One of the best things about the program is that the professors there are student-centric. They work extremely hard to ensure students have the flexibility and individualized attention they need to create their own learning path, which makes the program such a rewarding experience.

Featured Alumni Nafiza Akter

An example of their openness is that I was always given the opportunity to openly voice my disagreements. This may not seem like an important part of instruction; however, knowing that I was able to do so, gave me the freedom to think critically. Which I find, is a crucial part of working in any professional field, as you will need to articulate your argument to peers and supervisors wherever you go.

Furthermore, the programming aspect of the curriculum was personally really rewarding for me. It provided me a leg up during my interview for my current position, at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), which is a predominately STEM focused university. I feel that a programming background helps you stand out amongst your peers, because not many individuals with a degree in educational technology are going to have that technical skillset. In addition, the programming curriculum at Adelphi provides you with working knowledge of both the front end (HTML, CSS & JavaScript) and back end (Python) of most user interfaces, as well as insight into how technology impacts users. This affords you with the skills you need, to utilize the right technology for the demographic you are trying to appeal to. It also provides much needed insight into what the technology really has to offer.

…the programming aspect of the curriculum was personally really rewarding for me. It provided me a leg up during my interview for my current position…

In what other ways did the program help you obtain your current position?
Actually, one of my professors recommended that I start applying for positions, prior to finishing the program. I didn’t really realize that it would be strategically sound for me to apply prior to graduating, however this advice proved to be very valuable information and is another example of the student centric mentality of the program. Also my current employer, NJIT, was very impressed with my programming background.

What classes did you find the most valuable in regards to your current position besides the programming courses?
I think all the classes were really useful. They certainly gave me a great foundation and served as a starting point of knowledge for an ever-evolving field.

Another great thing about Adelphi’s EdTech program is the program’s structure. In my current position, I have worked on revising or reviewing program structures. This helped me appreciate the structure of Adelphi’s EdTech program. The program is well laid out to ensure that students can graduate on a timely manner and gain the required core knowledge necessary to remain competitive in the field.

In regards to any innovative field like EdTech, you can pursue a lifelong career in just learning everything there is to know about the field. However, Adelphi’s program provides a good foundation or introduction into Educational Technology by covering all of the major topics in the field. Basically you are exposed to not only the philosophy aspects of EdTech but the curriculum design and programming aspects as well.

The program is well laid out to ensure that students can graduate on a timely manner and gain the required core knowledge necessary to remain competitive in the field.

What led you to pursue your M.A. in educational technology?
Prior to obtaining my Bachelor’s in Psychology at Adelphi University, I worked on the Virtual Video Project at Global Kids (GK). They’re a non-profit organization that works mostly with New York City’s urban youth and prepares them to become Global leaders of their community. At GK, I worked with the team that created machinima, which are films created on 3D platforms. The Virtual Video Project used Teen Second Life, the teen version of the online virtual world created by Linden Labs, as the platform. I also used Teen Second Life to run virtual workshops to educate other teens on global issues. My time at GK sparked my initial interest in digital media.

After working with Global Kids, I began my Bachelor’s in Psychology at Adelphi while working at the Faculty Center for Professional Excellence at the University. I worked as a Student Instructional Technologist and my focus was training faculty on Moodle the learning platform. I continued to work at the Faculty Center as a student technologist until competing my Bachelors in May 2012 and then made the decision to begin my Master’s in Educational Technology in January 2013.

My time at GK…. sparked my interest in digital media, leadership, social justice, and educational technology. From then on, I stayed involved in education and technology, even incorporating it into everything I did. This is why I loved working at the Faculty Center while competing my Bachelor’s, and then moved on to the MA in Ed Tech to pursue a in depth academic background in the field.

What is the difference between instructional design and instructional technology?
Depending on the strategic plan of the company or university you work with it, the difference between the two may vary a little.

Even though I focus more on the curriculum development side of the job at my current position, I still help instructors choose or find the appropriate technologies for their curriculum.

I also look at their curriculum map and see where we can add things or remove things. I also try to find ways to assist faculty with students who are struggling in certain area, or ways we can improve the curriculum with technology. Nevertheless, the main goal is to ensure their student success.
As an instructional technologist at Adelphi, I focused on teaching faculty how to use technology, specifically Moodle in their classrooms.

(This is a great question to ask future employers by the way.)

Can you take me through the process of your day to day as an instructional designer?
I’m currently working as an Instructional Designer in NJIT. At NJIT, I get to work with faculty on a wide array of things. Sometimes I’m working directly with faculty and program directors on various degree programs. I also utilize my expertise in the various programming languages as much as possible and I am very grateful to have learned it at Adelphi. I have also helped with curriculum development. Worked with faculty on current research projects. I sometimes help faculty select appropriate technology for the needs of their curriculum. I even partner with faculty to deliver instructional components for certain lessons.

Also on a day-to-day basis, I recommend and use the various Google Apps. I personally also love using the Adobe suite, especially Photoshop and Illustrator.
As far as my job, in addition to working with faculty to develop courses and programs, I am a big part of the Converged Learning Initiative, which is a significant portion of NJIT’s strategic plan; the idea is that students get to choose how they attend each class session, whether its face to face, remote via a video conferencing tool, or asynchronously watching recorded learning objects. Instructors teaching in this way get paired with a Student Technician that is trained by me to help resolve all technical issues in the classroom and with remote students. This can relay any questions remote learners have to instructors.

I work with faculty and students to understand what their needs are in terms of learning spaces, and I work with faculty on research and grant projects. Most recently, I worked with a faculty member on a MOOC that was on Canvas called the Strategic Communicator’s Toolkit.

What do you think is the most exciting or interesting new things in about careers in educational technology or instructional design?
Some of the ideas or technologies I currently find interesting are adaptive/just-in-time learning and wearable technologies.

I also recommend media creation and editing tools, like Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro for video production and Photoshop and Illustrator for graphic design, as important tools to know. I feel that video and media production will be an ever-growing trend.

One thing I worry about wearable technology is how can faculty maintain a level of academic integrity in the classroom. For classes that are very technical and students need to recognize and reiterate that they grasp key terms and concepts, it’s pretty essential that the testing environments are fair for everyone. I do not have a solution for this, but it poses a great question for future instructors. Adaptive learning is student specific and helps differentiate learning for students, which will keep students engaged and motivated based on their learning level.

What advice would you give someone who is just starting out in Adelphi’s EdTech program?
Always ask questions! Ask yourself: What do you like to do? What are you interested in? Do you want to do this for a living, or just as one part of your job, or just something as a hobby that you keep up with? If it’s one part of your job, what is the maximum percentage that you be happy with? How can you integrate this into other courses you are taking? What can you add to your portfolio? How can you highlight your skills in your portfolio? For instance, if you want to work in media creation, perhaps you can submit, along with your research paper, a video you created on your research.

These are some of the main questions I would ask. They help me focus on my work and goals. Other things you might want to ask: Where do you want to work? What kind of environment do you want to be in? Do you want to be in a startup, a big company that’s been established for a long time, or do you want to be in Higher Ed or K-12, or do you want to go abroad?

Interview conducted by current EdTech graduate assistant, Ameenat Kadree, on January 2016
If you’re a prospective student and would like to know more about Nafiza’s experience about the program, you may contact her at: i.am.nafiza@gmail.com

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