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Widener’s Innovative Programs Provide Flexibility for Educators Adapting to Virtual Teaching

Emma Irving '18
Graphic image of the word webinar on glass over a picture of hands holding a laptop
Widener's nimble and innovative education programs have helped teachers sharpen their skills for providing remote instruction.

Like many teachers quickly pivoting lesson plans to serve the unique challenges of online and hybrid learning, Dana Ballentine, an elementary special education teacher at The Quaker School at Horsham, wanted to provide her students with the best resources possible to facilitate new methods of learning, but realized she had a lot to learn herself.

“When my school went online, I just felt like I was not cutting it, like there were so many nuances I simply didn’t know,” Ballentine said. “I was very dependent on archaic structures which were not very tech based.”

Luckily, Widener anticipated the need of educators like Ballentine, and Associate Professor Zora Wolfe, director of K-12 educational leadership programs, quickly launched a timely webinar to sharpen teaching skills for online educators.

That expertise was obviously fiercely needed.

Nearly 400 education professionals, including Ballentine, attended Wolfe’s Diving Into the Fall: Tools to Stay Afloat During Online/Hybrid Learning webinar in the beginning of August.

Taught by Wolfe, a fellow faculty member in the online teaching program and two alums, both of whom hold leadership positions in online learning technology, the webinar focused on 4 C’s– collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking – to give educators tools to successfully facilitate online and hybrid learning.

Ballentine hoped to learn some tips and tricks to get up to speed with her online teaching skills, but came away with so much more.

“Everybody involved in the webinar was a wealth of information, so much so that I left feeling like there was a lot I still didn’t know and so many resources I had yet to explore. So when the presenters said Widener offered a certification that would dive deeper into all they touched on in the webinar, I knew it was time I got knowledgeable and honed my craft,” Ballentine said.

While she’d been considering getting a certification for a while, she wasn’t sure of a specialization area until attending the webinar. Ballentine quickly enrolled in the online teaching endorsement certification and is one of ten people who matriculated into Widener education programs after attending Wolfe’s webinar.

Flexible Learning, Immediate Application

Pandemic aside, Ballentine notes that completing this certification completely online provides her the flexibility she needs while managing a full-time job. She’s taking classes in learning management systems and current trends in tech, and can see the immediate positive impact her new skills bring to the classroom.

The agility required to keep up with current trends is something Widener possesses given both the cutting-edge research faculty are involved in and connections forged in the industry via active alumni.

“Because we’re so connected with our current students and alumni who are working professionals in the field, we’re able to stay really up to date with current trends and what’s happening in the world,” Wolfe said. “Not only do we have experienced faculty members who have been teaching and researching these topics for a long time, but we also are really tapped into what is going on in schools even in this rapidly changing environment.”

Remaining nimble and innovative have long been hallmarks of a Widener education, and Ballentine says that combination of factors has helped her quickly adapt to give her students the best possible education despite great changes to the norm.

“I don’t know that I would have been able to think outside of the box and incorporate tech in a way that’s helpful to my in-person and my remote students at the same time without this program,” Ballentine said. “Everything I’ve learned so far I’ve been using on a weekly if not daily basis.”
 

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