Kristi Collins in her graduation cap holding her diplomaKristi Collins began her UA journey over 20 years ago but left the Capstone to complete her bachelor’s in Communication at San Diego State University, closer to her hometown of San Jose, California. However, the place where legends are made stayed in the back of her mind. In 2019, she returned and earned her master’s from UA without ever leaving the Golden State.

Kristi had been teaching computer classes at the K-12 level since 2003 when she decided to pursue graduate school. Looking for a master’s program that would elevate her knowledge and skill set, UA is one of the first places she checked. She was interested in the 100% online MA in Instructional Technology – a perfect fit for her career.

“Bama was on my radar because of my undergrad, and other than the fact that I wanted to earn a degree from UA, one deciding factor was that it was so much more affordable than other programs.” She was so surprised by the competitive tuition rate that she had to double-check with UA faculty that the price was accurate. She was accepted into a similar program at the University of San Diego, but even with in-state tuition, “the price was at least double what I would pay at UA.”

UA’s program also offered courses that were more intriguing to her, including virtual reality and game-based learning classes. She reached out to the faculty coordinator of the program who now serves as the Associate Dean for Graduate Academic Affairs, Dr. Andre Denham, and found him to be personable, accessible and helpful to her through the decision-making and application process. In January 2019, she began the program.

When she’s not teaching computer classes, Kristi teaches dance and performs with a dance company in San Diego. Between her full-time workload, rehearsals and performances, going to school inKristi and another dancer at a rehearsal person would not have been an option. “With Bama By Distance, I could do it all because I made my own schedule. I found myself laughing at how convenient it was at times – so different from when I lived on campus at UA years ago. I had a very old laptop with AOL dial-up then, but now I could be sitting in a restaurant or on a plane and completing assignments on my phone.”

By July 2019, less than two semesters into the program, Kristi accepted her current position as a Microsoft Learning Consultant where she works with K-12 schools and universities to train faculty and staff to use Microsoft tools. She said having begun the master’s at UA was a positive factor for her. “It helped me stand out in the application process and has elevated my career. I get to be in this really cool, fun position and I’m loving this job. Being in the master’s program absolutely helped me get here.”

Kristi enjoyed the program’s coursework and feels like it has enhanced her ability to perform both in her prior role as a K-12 technology educator and as a corporate technology trainer. She particularly appreciated courses taught by Dr. Denham and Dr. Vivian Wright. “Building and learning how to utilize instructional technology tools was fun, and it pushed my own skills. I had a project where I had to look for new applications with video editing, and I was able to use the Adobe creative suite since we had access to that as students.” She added that the segmenting techniques she learned for instructional technology practices and the focus on accessibility were also very helpful aspects of the coursework.

Kristi in front of Microsoft corporate officesShe has enjoyed the networking benefits and friendships she has formed through the program as well. “We did a lot of group work and interacted through discussions, and I’ve kept in contact with several classmates. I helped one classmate who was an LSU professor with some Microsoft tools, and saw another classmate on TV! He worked for UA’s football team with technology, and I saw him during the national championship congratulating Mac Jones.”

Kristi graduated in Summer 2020, and in Spring 2021, she was honored as the Most Outstanding Student for the MA in Instructional Technology program. Now that she has her master’s, she plans to stay in educational technology and has considered the possibility of teaching at the college level one day.

“Besides the way the digital delivery afforded me the ability to work full time and continue to dance, there was just so much ease in the way it worked together. I could be standing in line in a store and working on Blackboard on my phone. Those times you can squeak in assignments during the other downtimes in your life because of the convenience of online coursework are really helpful.”

Published: May 12th, 2021