Technology, and the connected world we live in, create an opportunity for anyone to learn anything, just about anywhere. It’s connecting people, building communities and perhaps best of all it’s creating better access to high-quality learning for students who otherwise might not have it. For adult learners, it’s possible to learn a new skill or continue education while working or when traditional classes at a four-year university aren’t the right fit.

In the near term, full time online learning may top out at 4-5% of the US student population, but blended learning is now the norm (or should be) for all secondary, postsecondary and adult learners. With that comes an increase in part-time online learning–students accessing electives, languages and specific career skills online that aren’t offered locally. Blended learning and blended student supports also more short units of instruction online. Together, the growth in demand for full and part-time online learning means a lot more online teaching and a lack of places to learn the craft.

Leaders in online learning, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) (see our podcast with SNHU president Paul LeBlanc) and K12 Inc. recently announced a solution to the lack of prep. They have joined forces to advance excellence in K-12 online teaching by creating a Masters of Education in Online Teaching degree and a new program for high-quality PD aimed at educators teaching in an online or blended setting.

One of the first of its kind in the nation, the program will consist of training modules and a series of graduate-level micro-credential programs which can stack into a full master’s degree focused on excellence in online instruction in the elementary and secondary levels. Mirroring the types of learning experiences we want to create for students, teachers will advance through the program at their own pace as they show competency and complete projects set in real-world contexts.

“Personalized learning is the future of education. Highly-qualified, well-trained teachers are critical to the success of students in the online classroom. As a trusted leader in education innovation, our partnership with SNHU on the Master’s of Education in Online Teaching degree demonstrates K12’s commitment to empowering educators throughout our industry to excel at the craft of online teaching,” said K12 CEO, Stuart Udell.

The competency-based degree will be available to K12 educators and employees at the company’s partner school initially, and over time SNHU will offer the program directly to teachers across the country.

The partnership includes a “significant investment” from K12 in the development of an innovative center of excellence in online instruction and will begin with in-depth, thorough research to identify best practices in online education and inform the program’s development.

“Anyone who has taught online knows it requires a different set of skills and often a different way of thinking about our practice,” said SNHU President, Paul LeBlanc. “K12 wants to have the most skilled online teachers in the country and we are thrilled to help them get there with this new Masters program.”

SNHU is arguably one of the most important innovators in HigherEd. LeBlanc’s leadership has helped the school grow just 2500 students to over 80,000. The online school, typically sponsored by an employer, allows working adults to conduct a series of projects to develop and demonstrate 120 competencies to earn a business degree. LeBlanc and SNHU’s expertise partnered with K12’s extensive personalized online education experience and commitment to teacher professional development are sure to create lasting impact in K-12 teacher development, which we hope ripples up to higher-ed as well.

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