Distance learning leader developing online master's

Erikson is pleased to welcome Chip Donohue, Ph.D., who has joined the staff as director of distance learning at Erikson Institute. He is internationally recognized as a leader in the use of technology and distance learning, particularly with early childhood professionals.

At Erikson, Donohue is leading the development of an online master’s degree for experienced early childhood teachers as well as online certificate and professional development programs. Building on the online certificate courses Erikson currently offers, the new programs will significantly expand access to high-quality education for early childhood professionals.

Donohue comes to Erikson from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), where he directed the Center for Early Childhood Professional Development and Leadership at the School of Continuing Education. There he taught face-to-face and online courses leading to a certificate and state credentialing in child care administration.

He also has partnered with New Zealand Tertiary College to develop ecelearn, an innovative online approach for early childhood teacher education.

Donohue has consulted and presented widely on distance learning topics across the U.S. and abroad. Since 2001, he has organized and cohosted several international e-teaching institutes. He has published numerous articles, reports, and books on technology and effective practices for teaching and learning online.

Since joining Erikson in January, Donohue has focused on implementing a user-friendly technology platform for online courses, dubbed EriksonOnline. He’s also working with faculty to develop curriculum and effective online teaching practices. Pending accreditation, the master’s degree is expected to enroll its first students in January 2010.

Long experience with adult learners in both online and classroom environments is helping him meet a big challenge maintaining the unique relationship-based approach Erikson is known for in the distance-learning environment. The key, he says, is cultivating a sense of community online. When online instructors take steps to do so and encourage inclusion, a student who lacks the confidence to speak up in a room full of other people can find their voice online.

“I find that I know my online students better than those I teach in the classroom. On the discussion boards, I get to hear everything my students say. It takes a tremendous time commitment, but I can learn how they think and what they value, and that’s a huge benefit.”

He recently was named a fellow of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. He serves on the Office of Head Start Professional Education Network, is a member of the international advisory committee for The Science of Child Development project, the national advisory board for Bright Horizons Family Solutions, and the editorial advisory panel for Teaching Young Children.