Colorado Christian University’s College of Adult and Graduate Studies has officially launched both undergraduate licensure and non-licensure K-12 teaching programs that are hosted 100% online. Offered in a flexible format, students can now enroll in the Elementary Education, Early Childhood Education, or Special Education Generalist online programs — with the first cohort starting in August 2017 — and graduate in as little as 18 months.
This is in response to years of adult students asking if they could do their coursework online, according to Dr. Wendy Wendover, dean of the Curriculum and Instruction Education Division in Colorado Christian University’s College of Adult and Graduate Studies. “I’ve heard from many students, ‘I would have chosen this program, had it been online.’ The students that we have, as working adults, display a strong desire to access higher education that works with the busyness of adult life.” Dr. Wendover shared that her team found very few other fully online undergraduate education programs during their initial research for the pilot program.
Dr. Wendover explained that not only is this increasing accessibility for students, it’s also allowing the education programs to serve schools that have difficulty finding teachers. “Right now we hear from schools — especially rural schools — that they can’t find enough qualified, licensed teachers. That’s an access issue we hope to address.”
Educators Committed to Their Communities
She continued, “We’ve found that when an education student is from a rural community, often they feel a commitment to teach in their hometown community after they’ve received their teaching license. This commitment is rare for students from the Front Range area who teach in a rural community, as they may feel disconnected with the remoteness of their teaching placement.”
Finding placements that are suitable for the students themselves isn’t the only goal, it also benefits and stabilizes education across the board. “If you look at it,” said Dr. Wendover, “a school is the heart of any community, especially a small community. It’s the heart of economic development and the pulse for the health of the community. We want to graduate teacher candidates who are as committed to those communities as they are to their classroom.”
For students outside of the state of Colorado who want to enroll in one of Colorado Christian University’s online education programs, the licensure reciprocation process is the same as if a student moved from Colorado to teach in another state. That candidate would need to apply for their initial licensure for that state, through the state’s Department of Education. There are a handful of states that limit licensure reciprocation, and students are encouraged to speak to their state’s Department of Education to discuss licensure requirements.
Student Teaching in a Digital Classroom
As with all education programs, students enrolled in the program will be required to complete a minimum of 800 hours of supervised classroom experience. While students will complete and submit all of their coursework online, their student teaching experience will take place in a school that is local to them.
Colorado Christian University’s education program faculty work closely with the teaching candidates as they progress through their programs. Teacher candidates in the online program will be required to purchase a fisheye lens that adheres to either a cellphone or peripheral webcam — a more affordable and available solution than proposed alternatives.
Teacher candidates will use video software that is built into their courses on Blackboard, to capture video footage as they practice teaching. Field supervisors are then able to view the videos and provide time-stamped feedback to the teacher candidate. This allows the feedback to be more frequent and contextual — a value add that’s not available for in-person class observation. This software is already being used in Colorado Christian University’s Master of Arts in Counseling program, which has seen enrollment quadruple in two years since that program became available online.
Teacher candidates will still reap the benefits of peer-to-peer feedback through Blackboard discussion forums and the occasional seminar where students are required to be online at the same time. True to the asynchronous format of the program, faculty will provide options for students who are unable to attend a particular session.
The Virtual Future of Education
Dr. Wendover sees the remote education program as an opportunity to prepare teacher candidates for an increasingly digitally dependent educational system. “I think that when a student is taught 100% online, they are also better equipped to apply technology as they become teachers themselves,” she said. “We see an increasing number of virtual academies. Those schools need teachers who are prepared to work effectively in that online environment.” She added, “Again, it’s another way for both rural and remote schools to work with cutting-edge teachers who excel in delivering curriculum.”
When asked why Colorado Christian University’s educational program is distinctive, Dr. Wendover replied, “The quality of our teachers is not defined by the setting in which they are teaching; it is defined by the program and its delivery. Our program comes from a biblical worldview, so we see it as our biblical mandate to fully equip our teacher candidates to make a difference in the lives of K-12 students.”
Dr. Wendover continued, “Our adult students demonstrate a high degree of autonomy. They learn to manage their time and resources efficiently and effectively. Programs aren’t just the curriculum content; it’s a combination of the faculty, the field supervisors, the school partnerships, and the commitment of the students to the future of education itself.”
About Colorado Christian University
Colorado Christian University is located in Lakewood, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. Founded in 1914, CCU is the flagship Christian university in the Rocky Mountain region. A leader in higher education, the University was ranked in the top two percent of colleges nationwide for its core curriculum by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni — for the past five years. In 2016, CCU was named one of the “Best Four-Year Colleges for Adult Learners” by Washington Monthly.
CCU offers more than 100 degree programs for traditional and adult students through its College of Undergraduate Studies and College of Adult and Graduate Studies. More than 7,000 students attend the University on the main campus, in regional centers throughout Colorado and online. CCU is an NCAA Division II college in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC). The University is also a Division I member of the National Christian College Athletics Association (NCCAA).