UNG Masters in Teaching program moves online

Switch was tested at the outset of the pandemic

The secondary education system across the country faces a critical problem. It lacks educators to teach math, science and history to name a few areas in dire need.

For the 2019–2020 school year, pre-pandemic, Georgia was already facing teacher shortages in math and science in grades 6–12 and special education across all K-12 grades, according to the Teacher Shortage Area Report from the U.S. Department of Education.

Working professionals with the desire to become middle or high school teachers face a different dilemma. They wonder how to earn a teaching degree and keep their current job and income.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) has the solution. UNG’s College of Education switched its Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree program from an in-person setting to a digital one.

“This program is specifically for individuals who have a bachelor’s degree in one subject area, but they don’t have a degree in teaching,” Dr. Sheri Hardee, dean of the College of Education (COE), said. “We moved the MAT program online, because a lot of post-baccalaureate students are working adults. It is hard for them to take a year or two off to come back to school.”

The college tested the switch when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020 and all UNG courses transitioned to digital. The success prompted the graduate degree program to flip fully online in summer 2021.

“The MAT was a hybrid program since 2015,” said Lindsay Linsky, former MAT coordinator. “Each class was on a Tuesday and Thursday schedule with students in class one day and online the next.”

The conversion to online increased interest in MAT, but the cohort was kept small to test the pilot program. About 15 students enrolled in the 2021 cohort.

In the first year, MAT students take only education courses. The second year, they enroll in the upper-level courses, which count toward the advanced degree.

“The MAT students are certified to teach after the first year,” Hardee said, explaining they are required to complete in-person field experiences.

The only concern about converting the MAT to online was maintaining the community feel, Linsky said.

“Students formed a tight community by meeting in person,” she said.

Dr. Lisa Jones-Moore, current coordinator of the MAT, has devised ways to facilitate connection.

“I offer them time to talk to me face-to-face, and I think they appreciate it,” the associate professor of middle grades, secondary and science education said. “The students also have formed small groups to meet on Zoom. It gives them a chance to talk about the material and offer each other support.”

Jones-Moore also implemented more interactive elements to her courses to engage the MAT students. By introducing the expanding technology, her students are learning how to teach online, too.

“You never know when a school system will decide to go online,” she said.

For more information, visit the MAT website.

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