The ability to engage and motivate students through innovative technology in a digital classroom has become a critical skill for teachers as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to shift courses online. Teachers who know they must learn new skills to create successful digital classrooms can achieve that goal through an online teaching certificate program.
Fresno Pacific University, which provides hundreds of professional development courses for teachers, offers an Online Teaching Certificate course that prepares educators to meet the challenges of remote classrooms.
Teachers graduate from the certificate program positioned to become better online educators for K-12 classes and community college. They know the best practices for online learning methods, teaching tools and assessment. Perhaps most importantly, they understand how to humanize a digital classroom.
“Earning an Online Teaching Certificate ensures that the teacher is equipped with the core set of knowledge and skills needed to be effective teaching in the online environment,” said Mary Bennett, a Fresno Pacific instructor who teaches courses in the Online Teaching Certificate program.
Bennett said one of the key components of the class is that teachers “experience the role of an online student firsthand. This is invaluable in knowing what works and what does not work in the online classroom.”
What Teachers Learn in Online Teaching Certificate Courses
The Online Teaching Certificate requires the completion of five courses. Teachers start with the Teaching and Learning Online course taught by Bennett. They then choose four elective courses from a long list of options.
Among them are:
- Virtual Science Labs
- Virtual Field Trips
- Google Drive for Educators
- The Flipped Classroom
- Create a Classroom Website
- Collaboration and Problem-Solving Apps for Educators
Bennett said the Teaching and Learning Online course provides teachers a strong foundation in online instruction and course design. The skills teachers learn applies to all types of learning management systems and other digital tools used in online classrooms.
As the course progresses, teachers gain more in-depth knowledge about technology tools that foster active learning and student engagement in an online environment.
The Human Element in Online Classrooms
One of the key aspects of earning an online teaching certificate is finding ways to humanize the online classroom, creating an inclusive and supportive environment even though the classroom is virtual. This includes the importance of equity, inclusion and accessibility.
The ability to humanize course content is a critical component for success when shifting to online learning, according to a guide from TechSmith. They encourage teachers to build an online classroom that students find “enjoyable and satisfying” and that creates an active and inclusive learning community.
Fresno Pacific also takes that approach. “Teachers will learn how to plan the “first day” to ensure a successful course launch, help students understand course expectations, and build a community of learners through the use of introductory discussion posts and ice breakers,” said Bennett.
Bennett said teachers also learn how to put research-based strategies in place that foster interaction and communication in the online classroom. They leave the certificate program ready to develop content and activities that “align with assessments that chart student growth and demonstrate mastery,” Bennett said.
Teachers also conduct research into a topic that shows how students use technology and how their needs and challenges are transforming education. Teachers then present their findings using the technology tools of their choice.
Amy McKeever, a teacher who earned the Fresno Pacific University Online Teaching Certificate, chose to investigate the question, “How can educators design learning environments with equity in mind for all students?” She made her presentation using Google Docs and video.
“I chose this topic because I quickly became an online educator due to Covid-19 and equity was something on the "back burner" while being thrown into this new way of teaching,” McKeever said. “I was glad to take the time to research more about this and be more aware of this topic for the future.”
The Benefits for Teachers Earning a Certificate Online
Teachers typically take professional development courses to earn the credits needed to renew their licenses or to boost their careers with a salary increase or promotion to a new teaching position. Fresno Pacific courses allow them to achieve those goals from anywhere they have an internet connection.
Teachers in the Online Teaching Certificate program enjoy the benefit of taking all five required courses online and having up to one year to complete each of them. They can enroll at any time.
In every course, teachers can contact instructors to seek guidance or ask a specific question. Veteran teachers with advanced degrees create and teach each Fresno Pacific course, offering expertise in their subject area and an understanding of what works best in classrooms.
Teachers also have access to websites, podcasts and videos that offer guidance to support them while they earn their certificate.
The structure of Fresno Pacific’s programs allows for a deep dive into specific subjects rather than the quick review that typically happens at weekend seminars and conferences.
Teachers who took the course said it helped to engage with other teachers and learn about their online classroom experiences. One teacher noted that “the process of completing an online learning class has really helped me to understand the difference between meaningful, engaging coursework and busywork.”
Another teacher wrote: “I gained new perspectives with the opportunity to see learning through my students' eyes.”
For teachers who want advanced skills that help them engage and teach students in the most effective way in an online classroom, the Online Teacher Certificate can help them achieve their goals and become better digital classroom teachers.