Educating tomorrow’s leaders today

03/21/2011  |  LAURA A. CRITTENDEN, Ph.D.
Distance Learning
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Over the past three years, Mississippi State University has developed several new distance learning programs that are focused on teacher education. This is in response to the national demand for increasingly qualified teachers. According to Sclafani (2010), teacher shortages have been felt on a global scale for the past 15 years. Sclafani notes that this shortage can be traced back to two emerging trends: “First, qualified teachers are in short supply overall in some places and in specific subjects in other places. Second, teaching appears to be a less popular professional choice for young people.”

As is the profile of most distance learners, teachers wanting to further their education while maintaining their current career require the time flexibility and logistical freedom that online degree programs offer. According to Hussar (1999), an economist with the National Center for Education Statistics, “over the next 10 years, an unusually large need for newly hired teachers is expected, both to replace teachers as they retire and to meet the needs of increasing enrollments.”

With a teacher shortage being experienced across the country, providing educators within the profession the opportunity to further their education, either for advancement in the field or for licensure requirements, without having to quit their job or relocate is another reason why doing so via distance education benefits the teacher, their school, and the families within their district.

Mississippi State University offers five distance learning teacher education degree programs that are fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Housed in the College of Education, the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education is a 2+2 program designed to significantly improve the educational level of the state of Mississippi and improve accessibility to postsecondary learning for all individuals. Offered through the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education (CISE), all of the courses are available online with the exception of the summer block, which is conducted on campus, and includes Early Childhood and Middle School concentration areas. A teaching internship is required.

Visit www.distance.msstate.edu/elem for more information.

In addition, the college offers two graduate level distance degrees. The first, the Master of Arts in Teaching — Secondary Education (MAT-S) is also offered by the Department of CISE and is designed for those individuals typically seeking to teach at the seventh through 12th grade levels. Half of the program is available online and is accompanied by a teaching internship and a rich field-based experience.

Visit www.distance.msstate.edu/mats for more information.

The second, the Master of Arts in Teaching — Community College Instruction (MAT-CCI) is an interdisciplinary degree offered by the Department of Leadership and Foundations. The MAT-CCI is designed to prepare students for a career in community college teaching with a special emphasis on recruiting and training minority faculty in order to address the acute shortage of minority faculty working within the community college system nationwide. All courses offered in the core curriculum are online; however, 18 hours of coursework in a Teaching Specialty/Content Area is required and may be available only in a traditional, face-to-face format depending on the student’s discipline of interest/expertise. All students are required to complete a teaching practicum at a rural community college under the supervision of a Master Teacher.

Visit www.distance.msstate.edu/ccs/mat.html for more information.

All distance degree programs offered through the College of Education have additional accreditation through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

Mississippi State University’s College of Arts and Sciences also boasts two distance learning teacher education degree programs, both of which are at the graduate level. The first, housed in the Department of Geosciences, is the Master of Science in Geosciences — Teachers in Geosciences (TIG) degree and is designed for K-12 teachers teaching earth science or integrating earth science concepts in their science curriculum. The program of study includes courses in meteorology, geology, astronomy, oceanography, hydrology, and environmental geosciences. All courses, with the exception of the final capstone field course, are taken online. The final field course is offered at a variety of locations around the country.

Visit www.distance.msstate.edu/geosciences for more information.

The second, housed in the Department of Biological Sciences, is the Master of Science in General Biology — Teachers in Biology (TIB) degree and is designed for K-12 teachers and for those who combine biology with education, such as ecology, microbiology, evolutionary biology, and biotechnology. All courses in the program are taught online, with the exception of the final eight through 10 day capstone course, which is planned to be held on the campus of Mississippi State University.

Please visit www.distance.msstate.edu/tib for more information.

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