CSUEB’s MS in Education option in its Online Teaching and Learning program is offered entirely online, attracting students from all over the world.
Since Cal State East Bay’s online Master of Science in Education, option in Online Teaching and Learning (MS-OTL) program began in 1999, more than 500 students have graduated from the program to become successful online teachers and trainers. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the MS-OTL was the first fully online program at Cal State East Bay and is currently one of the only online teaching and learning training programs offered in the world.
“It’s unique for two reasons,” said Nan Chico, director of both CSUEB’s certificate and master's in online teaching and learning programs. “One is that it does focus on the online teaching and learning, but more importantly it’s a professional development degree for people who are already experienced teachers or trainers or support staff for teachers or trainers. The people in the program are experts in something already, and they just want to be able to move whole programs over (to an online format).”
CSUEB’s MS-OTL is offered entirely online, attracting students from all over the world, including Japan, England, South Africa, Canada, Vietnam, Germany, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and across the United States. Students also represent a variety of educational and teaching backgrounds such as K-12 teachers, university and college faculty, corporate and military trainers, educational administrators, curriculum designers and technical support staff.
The program, which can be completed in as few as 15 months, consists of 10 courses ranging from “Designing Curriculum for Online Instruction” to “History and Culture of Online Learning Communities.” Students will discuss topics such as maintaining instructor presence in an online course, Web site navigation and student assessment. All of these concepts lead up to the final project in which students have to design their own online course.
Throughout the program, student interactions with instructors and other fellow students are extremely lively. For instance, in a class with 23 students, one discussion question can generate hundreds of responses.
“It’s a lot to read,” said Chico. “You don’t have to read everything that everybody posts, but everyone says they read most of it because they learn a lot. Even from someone asking someone else a question about something they wouldn’t have thought of, they learn from that answer. There is a huge amount of interaction.”
As for ways to measure the effectiveness of the program, a lot can be said from alumni, said Chico. Graduates of the MS-OTL program have secured positions in a variety of settings from online teachers at universities and community colleges to head online trainers for nuclear technology and medical companies.
“I was offered my first full-time position at Ozarks Technical Community College as director of online teaching and learning because of the subject matter expertise I gained from the M.S. in Education,” said Witt Salley, who graduated from CSUEB’s MS-OTL in 2005. Salley was recently named director of online education at one of the country’s top-tier research institutions, Clemson University.
The types of institutions students are coming from also speak highly of the program’s credibility. Past and current students include staff and faculty from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and other California State University campuses. For instance, in recent years Fresno State has paid for several of their librarians to enroll in CSUEB’s MS-OTL.
The MS-OTL generates an average of 40 new students each year, and this number is likely to grow with the rise of online education.
According to a recent survey by the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board, more than 6.7 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2011 term. In addition, nearly one-third of all higher education students were participating in at least one course online.
Chico noted that online education has grown exponentially in recent years, and with the introduction of massive open online courses (MOOC) — a new phenomenon offering free online courses with unlimited enrollment to anyone in the world – she expects it to continue to grow.
“I have a student who has designed a MOOC for anyone who teaches English in K-12 who has to implement the new common core standards," said Chico. “I encourage my students to design other professional development MOOCs like that.”
Unlike more traditional online programs like CSUEB’s MS-OTL, which offers smaller class sizes and one-on-one interaction between students and instructors, enrollment in a single MOOC can reach more than 80,000 students.
And though it is too early to determine the effectiveness of MOOCs, which are still in the experimental stage, the success of programs like CSUEB’s Online MS-OTL can be measured by the more than 500 graduates and counting.