Education department finds opportunity in online-only instruction

Published by Concordia University, Nebraska 3 years ago on Fri, Apr 24, 2020 11:09 AM
Dr. Keith Kurschen, assistant professor of education and director of field experience, provides an update on how the education department has been adapting to online-only instruction and how the situation can help teach students how to be flexible in their future classrooms.

By Dr. Keith Kurschen
Assistant Professor of Education, Director of Field Experience

Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods. 

This quote summarizes how Concordia’s education department is approaching these unprecedented times.  While we remain “stubborn” in our mission to prepare candidates who demonstrate Christ-like attributes and serve as educational leaders in Lutheran, parochial, private and public-school classrooms, how we go about this mission has required some flexibility on our part.

Our departmental approach to online instruction has varied. In some courses, synchronous instruction is delivered through services like Blackboard Collaborate. Other approaches include a mix of synchronous and asynchronous instruction, where students may watch pre-recorded videos created by their professor while joining live classes during other times. Group discussions and collaborations are continuing, but through video conferencing, discussion boards and online office hours.

The move to online instruction has provided us with an opportunity to focus on some key dispositions of teachers. We stress to our students the importance of flexibility in teaching. Effective teachers are those who can adapt to the changing environment and make adjustments to meet the needs of their students. This experience has helped us model this for our students and provided for some great discussions and assignments related to online instruction. Assignments and class discussions have been tweaked to encourage students to consider ways they would deliver online instruction to their future students. In some courses, students are leading virtual lessons, simulating something they would be doing in their future K-12 classrooms.

In the education department at Concordia, we were stubborn to ensure that our interviews for admission to the teacher education program continued, but we were flexible in accomplishing this goal. Interviews traditionally completed in-person took place using online conferencing tools. As a result, all 48 students who signed up for an interview were still able to complete this process despite the changes in delivery. Flexibility was also required for our student teachers. Despite the interruption of their second placement, many student teachers are still finding different ways to assist their cooperating teachers with online instruction. For an overview of several student teachers’ unique experiences, see the upcoming issue of the Broadcaster.

During these uncertain times, our education alumni are thankful for the training and preparation they received at Concordia. Brittany Erdmann ’15, a mathematics teacher at Lutheran High School West in Rocky River, Ohio, shared the following with us regarding her transition to online instruction:

“I can't express to you how much I am using what you have taught during my time at Concordia. I feel that I am ready for this and can handle this because of how well Concordia prepared me to be an excellent teacher. I wanted to send a huge thank you to all of you for your incredible lessons on technology, differentiated learning, and using my God-given teaching abilities.”

What a blessing to have such wonderful alumni, like Brittany, working in schools today. While these times may be uncertain, we in the Concordia education department remain “stubborn yet flexible” in our efforts to engage and reach all of our students.