Like being in two places at once

CLASS PARTICIPATION — California resident Kristin Patterson, onscreen, participates in her capstone class at the Highlands Center through the WebEx program. Originally from Wheeling, she is one of several students that WebEx into the weekly class. -- Contributed

WEST LIBERTY — Earning an advanced degree or participating in professional development is a common New Year’s resolution for educators and leaders. WebEx is making it easier to accomplish both at West Liberty University.

“WebEx provides students who live outside the Wheeling area with a convenient way to attend and participate in MAEd courses. It’s like being in two places at the same time,” said Leann Elkins, WLU associate professor and coordinator of the MAEd program. “WebEx does not require any special software, all students need is access to a computer with a camera, speakers and a microphone.”

The professors in West Liberty University’s Master of Arts and Education program are sympathetic to the plight of professionals and mastered Cisco’s video conferencing program, WebEx, to help busy students achieve what once seemed impossible.

Kristin Patterson received her master’s degree this past December. Graduating with a concentration in sports leadership and coaching, she completed the MAEd program while living in California, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Navy.

“WebEx really made long distance learning possible,” said Patterson, a Wheeling native who received her undergraduate degree at WLU.

“I was amazed how well I could see my instructor and how they could share files and folders. I was really excited that I could still be in class and still feel like I was a part of the class without being there physically.”

Patterson said she compared WLU’s MAEd coaching and sports leadership degree to other online programs and found that the small class size, intentional learning opportunities and affordable tuition made WLU her best option.

“WebEx allowed me to achieve the degree I wanted to at the university of my choice,” she said.

While the MAEd program does offer online-only courses, students in the program have made it clear that they enjoy the classroom meetings at the Highlands Center campus, where they connect directly with other students, both in person and via WebEx.

Graduate Jodi Fidler, who now teaches fifth grade at Weir Middle School, said that the in-class experiences are a large part of what makes WLU’s MAEd program a positive experience.

“Online classes are convenient, but I am thankful for the classes I was able to attend with other, like-minded professionals,” she said. “The camaraderie I experienced, with both peers and professors, boosted my confidence in the program and made me reflect on my day-to-day teaching strategies.”

Students attending class via WebEx travel to class on their computer and can see their professor and fellow students. The students actually in the room are able to see classmates using WebEx via projection or on their own laptops. The program can be used as many times as necessary in a semester, week, or day at no charge to students.

“WebEx allows faculty and students to communicate during designated class times, office hours and advisory meetings,” Elkins said. “For online courses, faculty use WebEx to hold meetings with individuals or groups about course assignments.”

William Baronak, advisor for the leadership studies concentration, has students attend courses via WebEx nearly every semester.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for students who enjoy online classes, but also benefit from the rich classroom discussion with their peers,” Baronak said. “There is something to be said for being part of a class live from the comfort of your home or office.”

WLU’s MAEd program, held at the The Highlands Center in Wheeling, is a two-year, 30-credit program that allows students to earn a research-based Master of Arts in Education in one of the following concentrations: reading specialist, community education research and leadership, multi-categorical special education, leadership studies, innovative instruction, leadership in disability services and sports leadership and coaching.

Students also can earn endorsements in autism and gifted education.

All students, in-state and out, receive the benefit of a one-rate tuition, at $450 per credit hour, and access to all WLU on-campus facilities and programs in addition to their classes at the Highlands Center.

For more information about the WLU MAEd program, visit westliberty.edu/education/academic-programs/master-of-arts-in-education or contact Elkins at leann.elkins@westliberty.edu.

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