School Yourself - Tech Learning

School Yourself

Looking to freshen up your credentials but don't have the time to do the grad school thing at night? See which universities award real sheepskin for virtual degree programs.
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from Tech&Learning

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
www.online.uillinois.edu/
illinois.edu/

More than 1,000 educators have graduated 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
www.une.edu/admissions/online.asp
www.une.edu/

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
jonesinternational.edu/

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."

WILKES UNIVERSITY
www.wilkes.edu/

"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
http://online.gcu.edu/
www.gcu.edu/

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
www.waldenu.edu/

With a 38-year history and over 18,000 earned 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
www.wgu.edu/

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
www.fresno.edu/cpd/online/
www.fresno.edu/

"The 'Clickers in the Classroom' [eInstruction's Classroom Performance 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.

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