To help K-12 teachers navigate teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, Penn State University (PSU) turned to its Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Teaching and Learning Online in K–12 Settings.
While the program existed prior to the pandemic, the importance of online learning as surged as schools turn to distance and hybrid learning. The program has received praise from K-12 teachers who say it has helped them navigate the transition to online instruction and made them better teachers online.
According to a PSU press release, the 15 credit certificate delivered through the Penn State World Campus and the Penn State College of Education helps teachers, supervisors, and administrators “expand their knowledge of the terminology, technology, and methods that drive institutional decisions about online course design and delivery for a K-12 audience.”
“This program allowed me to learn how to design, manage, and evaluate online learning environments,” said Courtney Lonsinger, a fourth-grade teacher in Tyrone, Pa. “When schools shut down last spring, I was never frightened or afraid of online teaching – I felt that I embraced it because of this program.”
“This program has given me the knowledge and confidence to be successful educating my students from within my classroom and at home,” Lonsinger added.
Penny Ward, a Penn State Extension 4-H Youth Development educator who completed the certificate in fall 2020, said the program gave her the confidence to know when and how to implement new technologies in her classroom.
“A pivotal moment for me was when I realized that new technology isn’t scary,” said Ward. “There were so many powerful teaching and learning tools presented through this program which constantly drive me to consider different ways I can provide opportunities to youth and other educators.”
The certificate consists of five courses: Systematic Instructional Development, Teaching and Learning Online in K-12 Settings, Emerging Web Technologies and Learning, Designing eLearning within Course Management Systems, and Supervised Field Experience in Online Instruction.
While the pandemic has placed an acute focus on distance learning, PSU intends for the certificate to remain relevant well after the pandemic is over.
“The pandemic has made online teaching, what was previously thought to be an unlikely or unwise means of K–12 instructional delivery, become a new normal for teachers, students, and families alike. Thousands of teachers have been forced to learn entirely new skill sets,” said Joshua Kirby, the program coordinator and a PSU assistant professor. “The certificate speaks to the potential for expanding how we deliver education to and serve a K–12 environment. It creates the opportunity to deliver instruction according to different learning needs or preferences and allows students to have additional ways to understand the curriculum.”
Rob Brown, a high school physics teacher in N.J. who completed the program in fall 2020, stressed that an increased use in education technology will persist as an important way to increase student engagement.
“Rather than reusing the same assignments and learning tasks each year, it is important to assess how each particular student learns best and find new ways to incorporate the proper technology for student success,” said Brown. “As educators, we should be consistently researching new learning tools and evaluating their value.”