For the first time, students across the country have access to two University of Redlands School of Education degrees through the school’s online programs pathways. In September, the first cohort of students began working toward a master’s degree in human services; another began pursuing a master’s in curriculum and instructional design.
“These programs extend our reach and ability to provide a high-quality graduate education to those who may not be able to physically access it,” says Conroy Reynolds, professor, human services program coordinator, and director of online programs for the School of Education. “There are people who are developing their careers who want a degree but can’t leave their professional path to reenter school—so we’re bringing the degree to them.”
For the past two years, the School of Education has offered an online master’s degree in learning and teaching. But, because the degree includes a state credentialing program, it is only available to educators in California.
The new human services program, which is only offered online, is geared toward those who work in state and local government, community mental health centers, law enforcement, and other public sector professions. It aims to integrate knowledge, leadership, theory, and skills to enable students to successfully plan for and deliver services to people in their communities.
Reynolds saw a specific need for online human services training in the Inland Empire. “There are professionals who provide an array of services, such as mental health support, assisting with physical needs, or offering social guidance, to large populations,” he says. “In order to be better prepared for these situations, students in the program will learn about the foundations of human services, social justice leadership, program development, nonprofit management, and more.”
The second new online offering, in curriculum and instructional design, equips School of Education students with the knowledge necessary to plan curricula catering to youth of diverse backgrounds. Professor Nicol Howard, who helped coordinate the online program based the School of Education’s on-ground curriculum, notes the courses are tailored for those—whether educators, administrators, or industry leaders—responsible for designing learning experiences.
Both programs are taught with the School of Education’s lens of educational justice—meaning that students and faculty consider issues of access, equity, quality, resources, and other elements. Howard says that, when it comes to curriculum design, a number of factors need to be examined in order to meet students’ learning needs.
“We want School of Education students to think about equity as they’re designing instruction, not just as an afterthought,” she says. “That means thinking about learners before thinking about how to teach them.”
Reynolds and Howard both hope these additions to the School of Education’s online programming are only the beginning of a robust digital degree catalog. Different technologies have been fully implemented in today’s elementary, middle, and high school classrooms, increasing students’ digital literacy. Certainly, says Reynolds, today’s students are much more equipped to access online education than those who have come before them.
“In the past, we only offered programs for California residents because of credentialing,” Howard says. “Now, we’re thinking more broadly.”
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