The University-Michigan Flint draws education leaders from across the state for its Education Specialist program. But starting this semester, it is reaching further into the Upper Peninsula by remotely connecting with a group of professionals taking the classes in Sault Ste. Marie.
The nine students working from the Upper Peninsula, made up of superintendents, principals, and other educators, join up with a class of 50 professionals at UM-Flint once a month via interactive television. The entire group also communicates online with Blackboard.
The Education Specialist degree (EdS) is a 20-month post-master's program, which includes in-person classes once a month and online learning.
Clay Perkins, lecturer IV and EdS program coordinator at UM-Flint, said the Sault Ste. Marie group is the first time the program has connected with students elsewhere with interactive television. Two years ago, it started working with cohorts in Utica. In that case, faculty drove to Utica to teach the classes.
This is a trial project but it could potentially lead to similar ventures in other parts of the state, Perkins said.
Already, educators travel from across the state to meet at UM-Flint one Saturday every month for the program.
"We know there is interest in a large geographical area," he said.
EdS, which offers concentrations in central office Curriculum and Instruction leadership or in executive level Educational Leadership, is a 20-month, part-time time 30 credit program. The degree is about halfway towards a doctoral degree, which can be earned at UM-Flint, Perkins said. The program helps professionals advance in their career, further develop skills in their current positions, and network with peers.
Those taking the class at UM-Flint meet at the School of Management in the Riverfront Center. Two cameras are equipped in both classrooms and feed live video between each location, Perkins said. The first day of in-person class for the current semester was September 6. Students have eight hours of class time each Saturday, with both classes taking four hours per session.
Daniel J. Reattoir, EdD, superintendent of the Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District in Sault Ste. Marie first started talking with Perkins about the possibility of connecting remotely last year, he said.
"There is not a program in our area," he said, adding that the blending of online and in-class training was appealing.
The project allows participants to learn professional perspective from a range of school districts, he said.
The education professionals taking the class in Sault Ste. Marie are driving from a range of towns, including Gaylord and Cheboygan.
"When you combine those with the people in Flint, we have people from all over the place," he said.
All of the students are able to utilize the University of Michigan library resources, including in Ann Arbor and Dearborn.
"The library system, it's an incredible resource," said Angie McArthur, the superintendent/K-12 principal at Engadine Consolidated Schools, and a student in the program using the Sault Ste. Marie option.
McArthur said even after one class, the professional benefits are obvious.
"It's a great networking source. You spend that time for other people in the cohort. You develop other really good connections with people in the state. You still become familiar with who they are."
McArthur said she is taking the classes to "reenergize my thinking."
"We want our students to be lifelong learners and I wanted to do that as well," she said.
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