Double Gator Tonika Jones, assistant director of student affairs-operations at the UF Warrington College of Business, was inspired to embark on a new educational journey after having the opportunity to build a campus course module.
With a background in parks, tourism and recreation management, this was her first experience with educational technology and instructional design, but one that ignited a lasting passion and interest. In fall 2019, she began the online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction specializing in Educational Technology to explore that passion further.
As her first degree fully online, Tonika shared she felt some initial apprehension. But she couldn’t deny the benefits the online setting offered and having already gained two degrees from UF, she knew the high quality education she would receive no matter the format.
“I was already working full time, so me being able to take the courses online and go through the online program — that allowed me to be able to maintain my employment and continue to earn work experience while gaining my education as well,” she said.
Now in her final semester, Tonika shared she is so glad she didn’t let that apprehension stop her from enrolling.
“I definitely feel that it was a positive experience and I’m really glad that I moved forward with pursuing the degree online,” she said.
Despite the asynchronous nature of an online program, Tonika believes the M.Ed. in Educational Technology is designed to cultivate meaningful connections among students.
“You have a sense of community, a sense of belonging,” she said. “Even though half the people I’ve never actually met them in person — you still feel like you belong to something.”
Bridging the time and distance that typically divides online students, Tonika believes she has gained the opportunity to engage with and learn from peers who she would not have otherwise had the chance to connect with. In doing so, her experience has been all the more enriching.
“It just gives you a different perspective and allows you to kind of think about education through the eyes of someone else,” she said.
In addition to invaluable peer connections, Tonika shared the program is structured to promote student success. Through hands-on courses, she has not only gained the knowledge but also the firsthand experience to succeed in the field.
“I feel like with each one of the courses there have been tangible skills that I’ve obtained that are now in my arsenal,” she said. “… I would say that’s been like the most rewarding thing.”
Based on her experiences and ignited passion for the field, Tonika decided to continue her education even further — enrolling in the college’s Ph.D. in Educational Technology program. She begins this fall.
“I never imagined that I would be doing that, but when opportunities present themselves and you’re [you know] in the time it is right, you just have to pursue it,”she said. “I definitely would recommend it (the program) to peers and colleagues, and I actually have already.”