With 15 years of classroom experience and a PhD in education, Jonathan Green knows a few things about teaching and learning. But even with such a wealth of knowledge, excelling at online education can be challenging.
That’s one reason Green, a senior lecturer at Thailand’s Mahidol University International College, enrolled in UW–Madison’s Professional Certificate in Online Education. This 17-week program gives university instructors, academic coordinators, corporate trainers, and other types of educators the skills they need to run effective online courses.
Taught by experts from Continuing Studies’ Distance Education Professional Development staff, the instruction takes place entirely online, allowing educators to experience a similar learning environment as their online students. Participants find out how to craft class objectives and assessments while studying the contextual factors of online learning and the ways technology shapes distance education.
Throughout the course, learners discover how to apply research-based strategies for success in their online classrooms. The experience culminates with an ePortfolio that showcases their new skills in designing and delivering online courses.
Principles to practice
Green chose the Professional Certificate in Online Education because he knew it would provide the tools needed to adapt to future educational technologies, not just the technologies that are popular right now. He also wanted a program that explores important distance learning theories and research.
“I was looking for a program that went beyond transient technological ‘bells and whistles’ to a more enduring, principled approach that would allow me to evaluate and use whatever bells and whistles came my way,” he explains. “I found what I needed in the Professional Certificate in Online Education.”
In addition to providing a strong foundation for future learning, the knowledge the program imparts is both practical and personalized. Participants can apply it to their work immediately—and with confidence.
“The assignments are designed in a way that lets participants respond to their own learning needs and those of their students, as well as the contexts and subject areas they’re teaching in,” says Janet Staker Woerner, a Distance Education Professional Development program manager and online instructor. “When they finish the certificate, they are well prepared for the future of online education.”
Learning by example
Though the program’s principles-to-practice approach attracted Green, the examples the instructors set were just as valuable. Watching them model the strategies discussed in class gave him a deeper understanding of how to apply them.
According to Staker Woerner, interacting with the instructor and fellow students is a central component of the learning experience.
“Our instructors are there every step of the way, applying the strategies they teach and sharing feedback that helps learners grow. Students also work through the course material together, which builds community and gives them sense of their peers’ talents and strengths,” she says.
Since completing the program, Green has been busy making his online classroom stronger than ever.
“The learning gains I made from this course were invaluable, whether they took the form of professional rejuvenation or orientation to the online teaching and learning environment,” he says.