Leading the Way in Cyber Learning
Through the doctoral program in K-12 educational leadership, Jeanne McCarthy ’20 was prepared to make the leap into the world of online education. The research she conducted at Widener continues to guide her career today.
- College of Health & Human Services
Jeanne McCarthy ’20 never thought she’d be working in the realm of online education.
An artist and art educator by undergraduate training, she began her career as an art teacher in a brick-and-mortar Philadelphia school.
But Jeanne's life has taken many twists and turns – from pausing her career to raise a family to enrolling part-time in Widener’s K-12 educational leadership doctoral program.
Shortly into her time in the program, Jeanne was offered a position at a cyber charter school. It was a whole new world for her.
“I had no idea what this was about. I still had a flip phone,” she said. “But a couple Widener classes really prepared me in the subject area to nail that interview.”
Fast forward a few years, and Jeanne, with her newly minted Widener degree in hand, is now director of learning technologies at Commonwealth Charter Academy, a cyber charter school. There, she works to develop the infrastructure to support flexible, personalized learning experiences for students.
“Everywhere content and technology intersect, we’re working together. We’re figuring out how to make courses more adaptive to students’ needs – their interests, academic needs, or preferences.”
Jeanne's Widener experience has set her up for success in this role. She leans heavily on the research skills honed while writing her dissertation on understanding how online elementary school teachers are using web conferencing tools like Zoom to personalize instruction.
The research, analytical, and academic part of going to Widener, that’s absolutely been critical to my job. Whether presenting results or making recommendations, with my experience at Widener, I can speak the language. I don't think I would be as effective at what I do now without that experience. — Jeanne McCarthy '20
Jeanne's research at Widener proved prescient. While online education has been around for decades, it exploded in Spring 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the audience for her expertise has grown accordingly.
While pursuing her doctoral degree, Jeanne published nine articles, including a couple co-authored with her mentor and advisor, Associate Professor Zora Wolfe. Jeanne's pieces examine such relevant and timely topics as best practices for online instruction and use of online spaces; school-wide strategies for supporting students and parents learning at home together; and how teachers can translate skills learned in brick-and-mortar schools to online learning environments.
Although Jeanne has completed her studies at Widener, her relationship with faculty members has not ended. Jeanne continues to work with Wolfe on articles and says her former professor “continues to teach me through those experiences. We continue to stay connected and I want to stay involved and know people interested in the work we’re doing.”
The research Jeanne conducted at Widener continues to help inform her professional work on implementing inclusive and adaptable assistive educational technologies. “We want to ensure all students in school are successful,” said Jeanne. “A lot of what I was studying was how do you use tools like Zoom and Adobe Connect strategically and in a way in which all students can succeed.”