APU Careers & Learning Online Learning Online Teaching Lounge Podcast

Degrees, Certificates for Educators to Improve Online Teaching Skills

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenDepartment Chair, School of Arts, Humanities and Education and
Dr. Kathleen TateDepartment ChairTeaching 

With so many schools pivoting to online learning, it’s critical that teachers develop the skills and strategies necessary to help their students thrive in the online classroom. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks to Dr. Kathleen Tate, Department Chair of APU’s Teaching program, about the myriad certificates and degrees offered to help licensed teachers improve their skills in technology, STEAM and project-based curriculum, online teaching, instructional design and more.

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Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And today, I’m speaking with the Department Chair of our Teaching Programs in the School of Arts, Humanities and Education, Dr. Kathleen Tate. Welcome, Kathleen. Thanks for joining me today.

Dr. Kathleen Tate: Hello, Bethanie. Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Kathleen, I know you have a lot of amazing programs in the School of Arts, Humanities and Education. And I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about the programs you already have for licensed teachers looking for more education?

Dr. Kathleen Tate: Sure. There are two main pathways. There’s an M.Ed., a Master’s in Education and Teaching, and an M.Ed., Master’s in Education in Online Teaching. The Master’s in Teaching offers eight concentrations. Concentrations are three courses or nine hours, and there’s something just about for everybody with that many concentrations. There’s the autism spectrum disorder concentration, curriculum instruction for elementary teachers, elementary reading, instructional leadership. Let me clarify, that is different from educational leadership.

Educational leadership is for principal types, instructional leadership is for teacher leaders and developing professional learning communities, PLCs. English language learners, special education, online learning, one of our most popular concentrations, and STEAM, which is STEM plus the Arts.

Now, the M.Ed. Online Teaching degree really focuses on classroom management, courses for co-teaching inclusion. These courses are geared toward teachers who are teaching online, primarily. There are six technology education-focused courses in that degree program. We infuse a lot of technology into our master’s degree programs.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Fantastic. So, you have a lot of offerings available for teachers who already have their credential. Now, if a person just wants to consider something a little smaller and easier to obtain, like a certificate, what kind of certificates do you offer?

Dr. Kathleen Tate: That’s a great question because I know not everybody is ready for an entire degree program. Certificates typically run 18 hours. So, we have three graduate level offerings: the K-12 Reading and Differentiated Instruction certificate. Those things go hand-in-hand. K-12 Online Learning graduate certificate and K-6 STEAM, STEM plus the Arts, certificate.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Wow. It really sounds like you have something for just about every teacher out there. And I’m particularly interested in this online learning certificate. It couldn’t be more timely. We have so many faculty members, instructors, and teachers, and all kinds of institutions moving online right now. Does something stand out that promotes this online learning certificate for you?

Dr. Kathleen Tate: Yeah, absolutely. Let me give a little background information, because like you said, so many schools are pivoting to online and hybrid teaching scenarios. Years and years ago, I noticed there were so many hurricanes, tornadoes, weather events, disasters that were destroying school buildings to the point where, I know in Houston, Alabama, other locations, students and teachers could not even go to the physical school buildings.

So, what are they supposed to do until these buildings get rebuilt, repaired, and so forth? So, I conceptualized this degree program for those kinds of situations so that all teachers are prepared to teach online or do a combination of online and in-person teaching, which we call hybrid.

Also, one of my former colleagues when I was an elementary special ed teacher came to me a couple years ago and said she was interviewing for a virtual teaching position. And she was not sure how to prepare for the interview. I did my best, but as it turned out, she did not get the job. And it got me thinking, just because you’re certified to be a teacher and certified special ed, for example, does not mean you’re ready to teach online primarily or half the time.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Oh, yeah, that certainly is true. And before we dive maybe a little deeper into the other graduate certificates, I just wanted to bring up the fact that I have taken some courses in your program. I used to be a full-time, K-12 music teacher, before I really moved fully into higher ed. And I was so impressed with the offerings that you have, how relevant they are to today, and how applicable to the real experiences we have in the classroom, but also your faculty.

You had one in particular who was super hands-on and it did not feel like this was just an online class. It felt like she was constantly there, really engaged and just a fantastic faculty member. So, kudos to you for keeping your faculty engaged and being models of stellar online learning.

Dr. Kathleen Tate: Bethanie, that’s really great to hear. We work hard in the teaching program to make sure curriculum has some evergreen aspects, things that apply always. We also update the curriculum to make sure it’s current and we have such a great faculty team. So, I’m glad you had that kind of experience.

Looking at the certificates with a little more detail, the K-12 Reading and Differentiated Instruction certificate, we know literacy is important, no matter what grade level, no matter what subject area. Reading’s the gateway. So, a focus on teaching struggling readers, especially, is part of the certificate, as well as differentiating instruction across subjects to meet the needs of diverse learners.

Learners need to have the activities differentiated. They need choices, they need different assessments, they need different materials. Even the environment needs to be differentiated.

I remember when I was teaching, I had a young fifth grade boy who just really wanted to do his work underneath the kidney-shaped tables in the classroom. He did not want to sit at his desk. And I told him, “That’s fine. What will you do for me in return?” And he would always say, “I’ll do my work.” And I’m like, that’s a good agreement.

And that’s just one example, but some of the children like to sit on a bean bag or a futon, on the rug, on a pillow, that’s fine, but we need to make sure teachers remember to differentiate those aspects as well. And even at a distance, it reminds children or teens, adolescents at home, to find different places that they enjoy doing their work.

The K-12 Online Learning graduate certificate is really focused on digital learning in online, face-to-face, and hybrid settings. We want to infuse technology experiences for all ages of students. So, this certificate is very thick with different assignments, having students do animation, for example, or cartoons.

And I know, sometimes, the grad students who come to these programs think, “Why do I have to do a cartoon as my assignment?” And we tell them, “First of all, you need to be comfortable and understand the processes of doing these kinds of projects and you need to understand the value of them.”

It’s not easy to do an animated cartoon, for example. That’s a shorter space than writing a lengthy paper. It forces people to really tease out the most important concepts and synthesize, which is a higher order thinking skill.

The last graduate certificate, K-6 STEAM, that’s really ideal for those teaching or leading camps, after-school programs, park programs, anyone in the classroom that wants to focus on STEM or STEAM. And we look at STEAM across subject areas. So, it’s the arts, technology, engineering, with math, language, arts, science, social studies, and health.

And the feedback I always get when I go to graduation events for the university, I ask graduates, what courses did you like best? What did you like least? And 100% of the time, elementary ed majors, or those in the STEAM certificate, tell me that the Arts Across the Curriculum, which focuses on STEAM, is their favorite class by far. And it makes learning so much fun for students. Research shows that by fourth grade, if creativity is not cultivated, it drops off, and we don’t want that. We need creative problem solvers in our society, creative doctors, creative lawyers, creative engineers.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Wow, I couldn’t agree more. And it sounds like a lot of fun, taking the STEAM courses. It strikes me that you’ve provided so much richness to teachers through your online programs. Some of this would’ve never been available to us, say 20 years ago, when some of us were entering the teaching profession or maybe in the middle of a career. And now, teachers out there can come to you and take a course or a certificate or an entire degree program to push themselves further.

So, once they start doing that, it strikes me, you might have some teachers who want to move up into leadership roles, like maybe become instructional design and delivery specialists. Do you have any undergrad certificates in this area or any focus there?

Dr. Kathleen Tate: We sure do. There is the undergraduate certificate in Instructional Design and Delivery that is focused on teaching adult learners. So, in the certificate, we prepare people to be corporate trainers, government trainers, military trainers, and teach them how to really meet the diverse needs and interests and goals of the different students they teach. It also prepares people to teach community college better.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Wow. That is fantastic, Kathleen. What is the intent behind that Instructional Design and Delivery certificate?

Dr. Kathleen Tate: So, that takes students in the program through processes of learning about pedagogy versus andragogy. Pedagogy is about teaching children. Andragogy is about teaching adults. There’s some overlap, but there are a lot of differences.

Adult learners come to the classroom with more experiences and different needs. And so, instructors and trainers need to understand those and how adults learn best. It also prepares students of that program to create syllabi, work in different learning management systems, those systems we use for online learning or modules.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Kathleen, thank you so much for going over degree programs, courses, some special things about what you offer at American Public University to teachers who want to gain new skills. What else do you want to share about your programs and certificates?

Dr. Kathleen Tate: Well, I’m not a fan of tests or exams: for children or adults. There are no tests, no exams in the nearly 70 courses in the teaching program. I think that’s a good model too, for educators. There are better ways to assess learners. For example, through project-based learning, more authentic learning. We have a lot of multi-media assignments. So, anyone coming through these programs, taking a plethora of technology courses will learn about animation and interactive posters, like Glogsters and things like that.

Some courses are cross-disciplinary and we have wonderful faculty, of course, like you mentioned. I would like to make a bit of a plug for our humane education course, EDUC200 Humane Education: A Global Interdisciplinary Perspective. It’s more of a standalone course. It’s part of general education, but anyone coming to the university wanting to know about humane education could certainly take that course. It looks at issues and solutions related to people, animals, and the environment, through many different lenses, through arts, education, business, health, science, technology, religion, geography, philosophy, you name it.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Fantastic. Dr. Kathleen Tate has shared with us today, all of these wonderful certificates, courses, and programs available to you as teachers at American Public University. We hope that you will come and explore the offerings.

We appreciate you being here as listeners and all that you do every day, meeting the needs of your learners and helping to really spread the power of education. Thank you, Dr. Tate, for being here with us. Are there any parting comments that you want to share as we say goodbye?

Dr. Kathleen Tate: I think my only comment would be that if any listener is interested, any of these courses for professional development or interested in one of the programs or certificates and has questions and cannot find the answers on the website, to just email somebody and we will be happy to fill in the blanks.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Fantastic. We’ll put a link in the podcast notes so listeners can go to the transcript and just click on that link and they’ll be able to contact someone. Also, I just want to add that extra little bit, that sometimes people don’t choose to enroll in a course somewhere because they’re worried that they have to go through a lengthy process. But at American Public University, it’s very easy to enroll as a continuing education student. So, we invite you to check it out and go through the steps to further your growth as a professional, and also meet the needs of your learners.

Thanks again for being here and thank you to Dr. Kathleen Tate, our department chair of the teaching program, and we wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen is the Associate Dean (Interim) in the School of Arts, Humanities and Education. She holds a B.M. in Music Education from Brigham Young University, a M.S. in Arts & Letters from Southern Oregon University and a DMA in Music Education from Boston University. She is also an ICF Professional Certified Coach (PCC). She is a Professor, coach, and teaching excellence strategist with 25 years of experience helping others achieve their goals.

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