WMU News

Online program targets school technology coordinators

Aug. 17, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University's first totally online program is poised for a fall rollout and will become one of only a few of its kind in the nation.

The Graduate Certificate Program in Educational Technology is a 15 to 21-hour program offered through the Department of Continuing Education and the Department of Educational Studies in the College of Education. It provides training for people currently serving as technology coordinators for their school building or school district, allowing them to expand their skills and further their use of high-tech communications and information technology in education.

The new program, now in its pilot stage, is among only a handful of online certification programs for education technology coordinators in the nation, says Dr. James J. Bosco, WMU professor of educational studies, director of external educational technology affairs and the program's developer.

"In terms of online offerings at colleges and universities, this is unique," Bosco says. "There are maybe five programs like this in the United States and none like it in Michigan."

The program is offered totally online through a partnership with Michigan Virtual University and is an offshoot of a previous distance-education program that started about four years ago and is delivered through interactive television. The beauty of the online program, Bosco says, is that now students will not have to travel to a television classroom at a WMU regional center to take part in it.

Class size is deliberately being kept low to maximize interaction between technology coordinators and instructors. In fact, Bosco says, there actually will be more interaction between students and teachers in the online program than in a traditional classroom. Classes will be kept to 16 students and assignments will be structured to foster interaction.

For now, Bosco, who also coordinates an annual conference for technology coordinators on the WMU campus, is aiming the program at current and future technology coordinators at Michigan schools. But because of its online delivery, there is the potential for nationwide marketing.

The program, which is comprised of six courses, is designed to train technology leaders who will meet the growing high-tech demands of individual school buildings and school districts as a whole.

"These are six courses that you can walk away from and know that you are going to apply immediately to serve your school district or school building," says Margaret Bernhard, director of academic programming and outreach for the Division of Continuing Education.

Bosco says that too often, school districts have taken a haphazard approach toward developing their technology strategies. Students who earn their certificate will be ready to lead technology initiatives in their schools.

"The people who are responsible of running educational technology programs in their school districts have emerged from all kinds of places," Bosco says. "Many of them have been drafted into these jobs, but often these individuals have not had the opportunity to get the kind of professional development that really fits with the kinds of challenges the job of technology coordination presents.

"So we're throwing these people into this situation and now they're doing planning and staff development, they're working with vendors and doing all kinds of things for which many of them aren't prepared. No one is more important to the successful use of technology to improve the environment for learning in our schools than technology coordinators. This program is one of the few geared specifically for them."

Bosco says the new program fits well with the University's emphasis on making greater use of technology, including WMU's new wireless computing initiative. It also is in keeping with College of Education initiatives to promote greater use of technology in the nation's schools.

"We feel a strong commitment not only to teach about how others can use technology well as a resource for teaching and learning," Bosco says. "but to 'practice what we preach.' "

To visit the certificate program's new Web site, go to <www.wmich.edu/edtech/certificate>. In addition to serving as a resource for current students in the program, the site contains detailed information for prospective students.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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