Professional Learning

Introducing The Art of Education University

Hello, I’m Derek Balsley, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at The Art of Education (AOE).

In 2011, my wife, Jessica, and I founded The Art of Education to improve professional development for art teachers like you. Today, eight years later, I am proud and incredibly honored to make a significant announcement regarding the future of The Art of Education.

The Art of Education (AOE) is now The Art of Education University (AOEU), the world’s first fully-accredited graduate university exclusively serving K-12 art teachers like you.


Since releasing our online graduate courses in 2011, we have received a tremendous number of requests from art teachers around the world to deliver an online master’s degree specifically for K-12 art teachers.

These art teachers, like Jessica, were saddened and frustrated by the lack of online degree programs that were affordable, convenient, and most importantly, truly relevant to their teaching practice!

In 2015, we set out on a journey to turn AOE into a fully-accredited graduate university, furthering our institution’s mission to “grow amazing art teachers by providing rigorous, relevant, and engaging learning at every stage of their career.”

Recently, we hit several major milestones toward this goal:

  1. In June of 2018, The Art of Education was institutionally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). (This allows AOEU programs to be recognized by other institutions/states/school-districts across the country.)
  2. In October of 2018, The Art of Education’s (AOE) Master of Art in Art Education was accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). (This allows AOEU to grant an official diploma to graduates of the Master of Art in Art Education program.)
  3. In October of 2018, The Art of Education (AOE) was registered by Iowa College Aid and legally changed its name to The Art of Education University (AOEU). (This allows AOEU to operate as a university in its home state.)
  4. In October of 2018, The Art of Education University was approved to participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA). (This allows AOEU to offer programs nationwide.)


Does that mean you’re now offering a master’s degree?

Yes, it does. Starting today, the Art of Education University (AOEU) is offering an online Master of Arts in Art Education graduate degree to art teachers in all 50 U.S. states! Read through to the bottom of this article for more information or to become one of the first to apply.

Why are art teachers so underserved by the existing system of higher education?

The sad truth is that there aren’t enough K-12 art teachers in any given geographical area for traditional brick-and-mortar colleges to justify the necessary investment in curriculum and instructional infrastructure needed to properly serve them.

To solve this problem, we had to rethink the model itself.

We began by asking ourselves a series of questions, which helped us envision an entirely new kind of university.

  • “What if universities weren’t something you attended, graduated, then abandoned — but instead were valuable learning institutions you invested in for life?
  • “What if universities didn’t try to offer programs for every student imaginable — but instead, specialized by serving one specific type of student as deeply as possible?
  • “What if universities not only offered traditional degrees — but a full spectrum of lifelong learning opportunities to reflect each student’s unique needs?

We didn’t just want to be another traditional institution, but instead a true “University for Life,” an institution devoted to serving a very special group of students, K-12 art teachers, over an entire career instead of just a few years while they pursue a degree.

Team Confetti Narrow

What is a “University for Life?”

Lifelong Learning

Today you may need a master’s degree. But, over the coming years, you may only have time to attend a conference or listen to a podcast on the way to work. AOEU offers traditional courses and a degree program, but we also support our lifelong learners with weekly podcasts, daily articles, annual conferences, on-demand professional development platforms, and much more. When you choose AOEU, you’re choosing a “University for Life.”

Relevant Learning

Art teachers like you shouldn’t feel like an afterthought. AOEU focuses exclusively on serving a single type of student — K-12 art teachers. This focus means we can provide our students with a deeper coursework selection and a more broad set of learning options. Everything we do is designed by art teachers, for art teachers, and taught by art teachers.

Diverse Learning

Most institutions of higher learning provide traditional courses, in traditional classrooms, rolling up into traditional degrees. This is great, but it’s not the whole story. AOEU offers an incredibly diverse selection of lifelong learning opportunities including daily articles, weekly podcasts, online conferences, professional development platforms, and more. Your best days of learning are ahead of you, and we want to be your “University for Life.”

What does the future look like?

As we grow and serve art teachers in new ways, we wanted to ensure we stay 100% focused on our mission and continue to serve art teachers as we always have with amazing articles, podcasts, events, and more. As such, we have embedded our values into the services we offer, the content we publish, and the internal processes we follow. Our values even extend into the institution’s official seal.

The official seal of The Art of Education University (AOEU) showcases the institution’s core values and principles and serves as a guiding light as we chart a path toward the future.

Sun and Moon
The sun and moon represent an art teacher’s full life of learning. AOEU serves its students from the beginning of their careers (sunrise), until retirement (nightfall).

Tree of Personal Growth
The tree represents an art teacher’s personal growth and expanding knowledge. The tree is a maple, which is a subtle nod to Osage, Iowa, the small, unassuming town AOEU calls home.

Ladder of Lifelong Learning
Each rung on the ladder represents a unique approach to learning. While most institutions focus on only a few rungs, AOEU believes each rung (degrees, courses, media, events, software, etc.) plays an essential role in personal growth.

Owl of Athena
The Owl of Athena has its origins in art and art history. Buried amongst the rubble of the Athenian Parthenon, the owl is a symbol of Athena, the goddess of knowledge and wisdom. Inscribed beside the owl were the letters “AOE” (alpha, theta, epsilon) meaning “Of the Athenians” in ancient Greek.

So, about that master’s degree…

AOEU Master's Illustration

Today, in addition to releasing a new university, we are incredibly proud to be announcing a brand new online Master of Arts in Art Education degree for K-12 art teachers.

Here are 3 reasons we know you’ll love it.

1. It’s Relevant

The program features methods-based courses, each designed exclusively for art educators and the unique challenges faced in the art room.

2. It’s Convenient

The program is 100% online and self-paced. There are no cohorts. Students can graduate at their own pace in as little as one year or in as many as five years.

3. It’s Affordable

The program is half the cost of other popular programs. View total tuition and fees costs and individual course credit costs at Tuition and Fees.

You can start the process of becoming one of the first AOEU students enrolled in the program, here.


In Closing

For myself and Jessica, today represents the realization of our dream. It brings us closer than ever to fulfilling the institution’s mission and building the type of university art teachers deserve.

For the rest of the team at AOEU (45 team members and growing), today represents the culmination of many years of hard work, fun, and genuine sacrifice. A proud moment in a career they can look back on fondly. A heartfelt “Thank You” to them on this important day.

Most importantly though, for our students, readers, and fans, it’s our hope that this institution we’re building together as a community of art educators can help you find success, enjoy your career, and become the best art teacher you can possibly be!

In the years ahead, we look forward to working with you as your “University for Life,” helping you reach your personal and professional goals!

Derek B. Balsley
Founder and CEO
The Art of Education University

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Derek Balsley

Derek Balsley is AOEU’s Founder. He is an entrepreneur and branding/CX expert who advocates for supporting lifelong learners.

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