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Program readies CU education alumni to teach online

April 15, 2020

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has mandated that Pennsylvania public schools remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, and school districts are planning how to move instruction online. That’s been challenging for educators and students alike, but Redbank’s Mike Fricko ’96, ’02, M.Ed. ’17 and Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Jen Colon ’11, M.Ed. ’19 are ahead of the learning curve. Both have completed the Online Instruction Endorsement through Clarion University.

"Most any teacher can teach online, but the Online Instruction Endorsement provides the proper background for effective online instruction. Teachers who complete the endorsement have learned methods, techniques, and resources specifically designed for the online learning environment," said Dr. John McCullough, retired chair of Clarion's education department. "Students are direct beneficiaries of teachers with the endorsement because of the focus on appropriate engagement, instruction, and assessment."

Fricko, who teaches English and broadcast journalism at Redbank High School, is prepared to teach – and his students are prepared to learn – via remote instruction because he had incorporated online resources into his face-to-face lessons prior to the pandemic closing schools.

"I already used so much of the technology in my daily setting that it was an easy transition for my students," he said. "Many of the sites/apps that I used in my traditional classroom have expanded their free/basic service to now include the premium features. It has made instruction in my English classroom a bit easier to facilitate."

Challenges in teaching online include encouraging participation by all students, classroom management, and equal access to all students, including those with special needs. Communicating with students is vastly different. Simple lectures cannot be the norm.

"Teachers are discovering that communication is much more important and challenging with online teaching," McCullough said. "There are fewer facial and body language cues for teachers to recognize during their lesson, so teachers must closely monitor written and verbal interactions for understanding. Instruction must include very detailed, step-by-step lessons and assessments."

Another challenge in transitioning to online education is the increased amount of time it takes for lesson preparation, grading, and communication.

Colon is confident that she, too, can hit the ground running when Pittsburgh Public Schools begin online instruction next week.

"We have had a few trainings and I was extremely excited and relaxed, having had experience from the program," she said. "Knowing about the different resources will keep me ahead of the game and will enable me to hold students' interest."

The Online Instruction Endorsement can be taken as a non-degree graduate program or as part of the Master of Education Technology Concentration program. For more information about the endorsement, contact department Chair of Education, Jesse Haight at 


Last Updated 3/24/21