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Graduate Programs Prepare Teachers for Virtual Learning

Erin Galway

No matter where you teach, or in what format, being able to communicate necessary skills and concepts in a way students can understand is crucial. Being able to communicate and engage with students in a virtual environment is becoming increasingly vital.

While designing Immaculata University’s recent graduate-level endorsement program for online instruction, KC Testerman ’19 Ed.D., kept in mind the best practices of Universal Design for Learning: “design for all,” whether it be for online or face-to-face instruction. However, Testerman predicts that more learners will choose the online path for their education, so she encourages educators to be prepared. Testerman recognizes that teachers who can show best practices with incorporating technology in the classroom are in high demand and marketable in today’s ubiquitous technology environment.

Although online learning began in the mid-1990s with the proliferation of the internet and the World Wide Web, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed virtual learning into the mainstream. Immaculata’s College of Graduate Studies is responding to the needs of educators throughout the region and across the state of Pennsylvania as the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the educational landscape and the route students take to pursue their educational goals.

Immaculata’s online instruction endorsement program offers professional development to prepare teachers for hybrid and remote learning. This 12-credit program is available fully online with classes focusing on design, development, assessment, professionalism, and emerging trends of online learning, and on delivery techniques for online teaching.

“There are so many possibilities of collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication that could be opened up when technology is introduced to the learning space,” states Testerman, who has 24 years of experience in the education field and is currently a principal learning consultant for Canvas, a learning management system. She also teaches courses related to instructional technology at Immaculata University and Widener University.

The faculty in Immaculata’s Education Division emphasizes to their students the fact that every student learns differently and it is the teacher’s job to recognize and adapt to these differences. To support the next generation of educators, Immaculata is now offering its PK-4 teaching certification fully online. This program is geared toward those who already hold a bachelor’s degree and are interested in entering the education field.

Having earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, Kate Crowley began teaching art. She is currently an art teacher at Saints Simon and Jude School in West Chester, Pa. However, Crowley knew she needed her certification to continue teaching. Many of her teaching colleagues are alumni of Immaculata’s education program and encouraged Crowley to inquire about its PK-4 teaching certification. Living in West Chester, she discovered that Immaculata was a perfect match. Crowley appreciates the flexible seven-week classes and the fact that she can receive her PK-4 certification while earning a master’s degree in Educational Leadership with only four additional required classes. With a desire to earn a master’s degree, Crowley acknowledges that the combined offerings helped her make the decision to enroll at Immaculata. She enjoys the flexibility of the online classes and the confidence that she is gaining as a teacher. Plus, she really enjoys her classes.

She explains that during the pandemic, she lost her sense of normalcy at first and found that her Curriculum and Instruction class with Dr. Karen Miscavage filled a void during a very uncertain time. “I would go to my basement and was excited that I actually had a class to look forward to…to be able to talk to people,” she says acknowledging the comradery she forged with her fellow classmates.

Besides filling a void and making connections with teachers who serve at various educational institutions including day care facilities, Crowley has grown as a teacher while earning her PK-4 certification.

“I love working with the little kids,” Crowley says. “They look up to you – you’re such a role model. They hang on your every word and come to class ready to learn.”

In addition to the education field, the College of Graduate Studies is continually accessing today’s educational needs and providing flexible and convenient ways for students to earn a college degree. For example, busy healthcare workers, aspiring to lead in these challenging and unique times, may enhance their credentials by earning a Master of Science in Nursing or a Master of Healthcare Management. Immaculata is now offering these two degrees in a fully online delivery format.

“The educational experience is evolving and Immaculata, with 100 years of experience teaching, is dedicated to finding innovative ways to support our students in achieving their academic and professional goals,” states Marcia Parris, Ed.D., dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

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