Erikson’s online learning program reached a milestone at this year’s annual commencement ceremony with the graduation of the Institute’s first online master’s cohort on May 12.

Image: Graduation roses

Each Erikson graduate receives a rose when crossing the stage.

The students met for the first time at a pre-graduation reception. Amidst the hugging and laughter, one student remarked that, while the they had never been in a physical classroom together, they all knew each other much better than she had known any classmates in other programs.

“The structure of the online forum and the expectation of participation made sure that we were all contributing.” says Beth Veldkamp. “I learned more from my cohort in Erikson’s online program than I was able to learn from classmates in face-to-face courses in the past.”
More about the online program »

A collaborative relationship

The cohort comprised experienced teachers and principals, most from the Chicago area. Recruiting seasoned professionals for this first cohort was intentional, according to Chip Donohue, Erikson’s director of distance learning.

“Creating our online master’s program wasn’t just about transferring content to the web,” says Donohue. “The challenge was in creating the Erikson experience, developing that same relationship-based approach and strong community of learners that students have on-campus. We wanted the benefit of this group’s collective experience to help us realize that vision.”

Students provided regular feedback to Donohue and Erikson faculty on technical functionality and content presentation.

“They often had great ideas,“ says Donohue. “And we gladly implemented them. It’s great to see how the program evolved and improved as a result.”

The strong collaboration between Erikson and the online students worked. In 2011, the program was recognized by an independent evaluation as a model for online education.
Read the evaluation »

Donohue and his team are excited by the early success of the program but are looking forward to making it better.

“At this point, we’ve built a solid program. Now we want to focus on finding ways to make it even stronger.”