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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Academics & Research

College of Education online graduate program ranks No. 2


UH’s program has consistently done well in U.S. & News Report’s rankings for Online Graduate Education Programs. Last year, the program tied for No. 1. | Corey Sherrard/ The Cougar

 

When Peggy Krajnovic, a mother of three and director of Flamingo Island Preschool in Richardson, decided to obtain her master’s in early childhood education, she needed an online program that would give her the flexibility she needed without compromising the quality of education she would receive.

In her search for the perfect school, she came across the College of Education’s Online Graduate Program. It ranked No. 2 in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report rankings released Tuesday.

“I previously did my associate’s and bachelor’s through Texas Woman’s University, and while it was a phenomenal experience, it was nothing compared to the program at UH,” Krajnovic said. “With the way the syllabus and coursework were laid out, I felt like the professors really placed themselves in my shoes — like they knew I was constantly running around 10 to 12 hours a day.”

The program has consistently done well on the rankings, always making it into the top 10 and even tying for first place in 2016. This year, the program decreased by a slight margin, receiving 98 out of 100 points. Communications Director Ericka Mellon said that this was due to lack of funding after a grant timed out, which impacted enrollment in one of the program’s courses.

“Our instructors are the key to our success,” said Jonathan Schwartz, the associate dean of graduate studies. “They put in the time and effort to make sure their lessons are tied to the working world, and they give their students feedback. They regularly get emails from students saying how helpful the program has been. That’s when we know we’re getting it right.”

Factors used to determine the rankings were the faculty’s credentials and training, student services and technologies, student engagement and admissions selectivity.

‘Different tools’ 

Chair of Department of Curriculum & Instruction Jennifer Chauvot, who teaches online and face-to-face classes, said she finds online instruction just as, if not more, engaging than face-to-face instruction.

The platform she uses online when teaching real-time to students, Blackboard Collaborate, has a chat box that allows students to discuss the lecture given by her or a student while it happens. But Chauvot said that if a student were to constantly chime into lectures in a face-to-face class, it would be considered rude.

Chauvot said she believes that while online classes mean students are using different tools, teaching remains the same.

“The way that people learn doesn’t change,” Chauvot said.  “All that changes is the tools that I use, and online I have just as many tools at my disposal, just different tools.”

Krajnovic said the most in-depth course she took was Professional Seminar 1, (CUIN 7303) which was divided between three professors, each with their own method of teaching and their own tools to supplement how they wanted to teach their class.

One professor created engaging discussions and carefully selected articles for students to read. Another made videos of themselves teaching and posted the videos on YouTube for the class to watch, had students engage in discussion over platforms like Twitter, chose TED Talks for the class to watch and taught students how to upload their own videos to YouTube.

Krajnovic said she found those lessons helpful, and even applies them in her career, making videos for teachers about things that she wants them to do in the classroom.

An expanding program

Krajnovic believes that in order to succeed in an online education program as rigorous as the one that the College of Education offers, it is essential to be well organized and self-managed. She also said that for her, the pros of being able to work at her own pace make the experience worth it.

Not every program was included in the list, and next year the college will start its eighth program.

Sixty students were enrolled in the programs included in the rankings. Schwartz expects this number to grow.

“We expect enrollment to grow as we expand our offerings and get the word out in Houston and around the world,” Schwartz said. “We even have a student in Hong Kong.”

Krajnovic has just completed her first semester, but what she has learned so far has helped her immensely in her career.

However, it is not her who has benefited the most from what she’s learned, it’s her students, and she believes that this has made every hour she has spent in this program worth it.

“Everything that I do, it comes out of love, and it comes out of love for these children,” Krajnovic said. “Too often, schools just do the bare minimum that they need to get by and that is devastating for young students who can change the world and can potentially touch hundreds of other lives if they continue to be inspired by their own teachers. That’s what UH has done for me.”

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