The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Opportunities: Online Programs Create Greater Access

UNCG's School of Education is developing new online and distance learning programs to provide teachers with greater opportunities for continuing education.

By Sherry Meeks 
The School of Education strives to serve students from a wide range of backgrounds, including students who may not be able to attend classes on campus full-time. To fulfill this mission, the School has expanded its online course components in recent years. Two new online offerings are a fully online Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) program and a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program that blends online and traditional classroom courses.

Most professional librarian positions in the United States and Canada require the MLIS degree. Beginning in the Spring 2013 semester, the MLIS program will be offered fully online to complement the face-to-face program on campus. The 36-credit hour degree can be completed in four semesters.

According to Dr. Clara M. Chu, Chair of the Library and Information Studies Department, the delivery of this degree has evolved over the years based on the needs of potential students and technology availability. “Whether using the interstate or information highway, we have leveraged technology,” Chu says.

Beth Martin, the School of Education’s Distance Education Coordinator and a graduate of UNCG’s MLIS program, said the online program will provide greater access for students in North Carolina, across the United States and even around the world.

Martin said that online students will receive the same level of interaction with faculty, mentors, and fellow classmates. Education Hubs (e-Hubs), UNCG’s website and free social media outlets such as Facebook and Google will be utilized to connect students to instructors, classmates and events.

E-Hubs, in particular, offer the opportunity for students to meet in real time with faculty, mentors, and professionals. Events are streamed live, and most also are recorded for students who are unable to attend.

As the program grows and more students are participating from across the U.S. and beyond, the School plans to offer on-the-ground mentoring and professional development opportunities in the areas where students live.

In addition to the MLIS program, the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program also includes online course offerings. A “TESOL for ALL” grant provided by the U.S. Department of Education supports the program. Initially a five-year grant that began in 2007, the funding has been extended through 2013.

Dr. Ye “Jane” He, Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Higher Education, said the increasing population of English language learners in North Carolina has led to a greater need for teachers to serve these students. So with a greater demand for teachers, Dr. He said the School of Education is turning to creative solutions, such as online learning, to provide those educators with new access and resources for instruction.

The TESOL program offers two different teacher certifications—a post-baccalaureate certificate in TESOL, and an ESL (English as a Second Language) add-on licensure for teachers with an initial license. Blended classes, which involve both online and on-campus instruction components, have been a part of the program for some time. “More online courses will be added in the future and will be offered alongside the blended courses,” said Dr. He.

The MLIS and TESOL programs are just two examples of how the School of Education meets the needs of 21st century students, no matter if they sit in a classroom or in front of a monitor. School of Education officials say they will continue to improve and expand online offerings so that distance learners enjoy a rich, rewarding educational experience.


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