9/18/2008 By: Sascha Zuger
Top education colleges are giving out real sheepskin
for their online graduate programs. Read how it works.
Feeling stagnant in your current position or considering
expanding your knowledge base (and salary potential!)? The
thought of schlepping down to a local university after a long
day in the classroom might seem daunting. For some, "local"
could meet hours of commuting that just doesn't fit into a
busy teacher's schedule. Thanks to the emergence of technosavvy
universities, online degrees can offer the same benefits
as those taught on campus.
Many students feel they get more interaction with both professor
and peers in the online format, as the flexibility of an unlimited
connection isn't restricted to a once-a-week two-hour session.
A number of traditional universities now offer online options,
which can make sifting through the long list of offerings intimidating.
We've highlighted some of the top programs below.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
More than 1,000 educators
from specialized programs
such as "Middle Grades Endorsement," earning necessary
certification to work in a departmentalized middle grade setting
and "Global Studies in Education," assisting P-16 educators to
work with educators around the world to incorporate global perspectives
into their curricula and challenge their students to
develop a more international outlook. New Master's Degree programs
include Educational Leadership and Policy, New Learning
and New Literacies, and Teaching Critical Thinking.
"Our online programs have the same admission criteria,
course requirements, and instructors as campus programs,"
says Scott Johnson, Associate Dean for Online Learning.
"There is complete flexibility, however, we require weekly 'virtual
class meetings' where students and the instructor interact
live using video and audio technologies. Learning to work with
others in a virtual environment is a critical skill for the future."
UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND
University of New England's
online graduate programs have a
current roster of 450 students with a
99% retention rate, credited to the programs' flexibility in working
with teachers on the job.
"University of New England is unique in offering six starts
every year," says Douglas J. Lynch, PhD, Professor of
Education, Chair. "The program is a manageable 18 months and
allows students to work full-time. We require access to a classroom as a great deal of what we teach is experiential. Students
graduate with a degree achieved by real-world experience."
"This course [highlighted] the importance of choosing
assessments. At times, assessments are mandated and then
tucked away in a child's folder," says Pam Mulcahy, second
grade teacher and curriculum coordinator. "I plan to use portfolio
assessment so students can take more ownership of their
learning and I can show parents their child's growth over time."
JONES INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
Six hundred and sixty students have successfully completed
MEd degree programs such as Elementaryor Secondary
Curriculum—Instruction and Assessment, MEd in K-12
Instructional Technology, and Education Leadership and
Administration with a 95% placement rate. Those seeking initial
licensure as teachers or in administration have an additional
four programs to choose from including the MEd in K-12
Instructional Technology, which addresses the field's current
need for tech-savvy teachers.
"The Master of Education (MEd) degree programs offer students
a project-based curriculum. Students explore theory and
its application to the solutions of important education challenges,"
says Dr. Robert Fulton, Dean of the School of Education.
"Each course offers students the opportunity to work closely
with a mentor—a leader or leadership team in the field—who
helps them to network within their local contexts and complete
projects that address relevant, authentic problems."
"The Classroom Technology
Master's Program is offered to certified
teachers who want to learn
more about how to use technology
to enrich the learning environment
for their students and increase student
performance to meet increasing accountability
demands," says Barbara Moran, Program Coordinator.
"Wilkes has also partnered with Discovery Education to
offer free accounts to DE Streaming in several required courses
in the program. Students can apply what they are learning
in their own classrooms. A new program offering, Master's of
Science in Instructional Media, will prepare teachers to
engage today's students in learning through digital media."
"The program encouraged me to stay up-to-date on current
technology and teaching practices," says Tammy Dutton,
Bethlehem, PA, middle school teacher. "I created some unique
projects involving my current students, including an archaeology
podcast. I would not have been inclined to attempt this if
I had not been taking the course."
GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY
Known regionally as a
teacher's college, Grand
Canyon University has a
sixty-year history, bringing 6,500 students to certification as
educators. Many on-campus professors pull double duty in
picking up online courses, while remote capabilities allow GCU
to pull in international talent. With an emphasis on field experience,
the college requires students to experience a wide variety
of classrooms and schools.
"My education at Grand Canyon University definitely prepared
me to be accountable for student learning," says Maggie
Kipp, 2007 College of Education alumnus. "I feel very competent
in aligning to standards, building performance assessments,
and analyzing student achievement."
The program concentrates on competency-based assignments.
The creation of eportfolios helps manage assignments and
submitted work projects, giving students comprehensive feedback
on their progress. The eportfolio, edited by student and
advisor on graduation, offers prospective employers an impressive
package that contributes to successful placement.
THE RICHARD W. RILEY COLLEGE OF EDUCATION AND LEADERSHIP AT WALDEN UNIVERSITY
With a 38-year history
graduate degrees, Walden offers the
largest online program by enrollment for
teachers and aspiring teachers to
explore options for career development.
Students choose from a wide offering of
programs, from BS to PhD level, to
either transition into teaching or a new
area of teaching, or to increase skills and
qualifications to advance their career
and earning potential.
"At Walden, we firmly believe that as
your knowledge grows, your influence
multiplies—in the classroom, among
peers, and throughout the education
community," says Dr. Kelley Costner,
Associate Dean-Masters Programs. "The
landscape of education is changing.
Walden has built upon its curriculum
themes to address topics that are prevalent
in today's classroom. These prepare
educators to take leadership in improving
the quality of education for an increasingly
diverse population of students."
WESTERN GOVERNORS UNIVERSITY
Western Governor's University is the
only exclusively online teacher education
institution in the nation to receive
NCATE accreditation. Its broad licensure
program includes a comprehensive collection
of BA degrees geared toward
specific subjects and continues with
online master's, and post-baccalaureate
teacher preparation programs.
"WGU's Master of Education
(Learning and Technology) graduate
degree fit very well into my current work
experience," says Charice Black,
Distance Education Specialist for Utah
Education Network. "I was able to work
my studies around my busy schedule.
My mentor was a huge help and provided
me with the best support system."
WGU Interdisciplinary Studies grad
and current MS in Special Education student
Jennifer West agrees. "The competency-
based assessments allow you to
master the material because you have to
get to a certain performance level before
you can move on."
FRESNO PACIFIC UNIVERSITY
in the Classroom'
System clicker] allows busy teachers
to earn certificates in technology that
demonstrate to their colleagues and principal
their expertise in integrating technology
into the classroom," says Matt Gehrett,
Executive Director. "Our courses are led by
master teachers who currently are or have
been in the classroom."
"Many teachers find it difficult to have
a piece of hardware or software dropped
in their laps without any training or guidance
as to how to use it to make a difference
with their students. This meets that
need for training," says Ed Warkentin,
Middle School English Teacher and
Clicker Instructor. "Students interact
with each other, and other users of
"Clickers" around the world, solving
technical problems, sharing management
tips, lessons, and best practices."
Sascha Zuger is a freelancer, public
radio commentator, and author of Girl
Overboard, a young adult novel, under
the pseudonym Aimee Ferris.