Creating a Quality Online Early Childhood Program Focused on Building Community and Program Improvement

Creating a Quality Online Early Childhood Program Focused on Building Community and Program Improvement

Jade Burris (West Chester University of Pennsylvania, USA) and Catherine Prudhoe (West Chester University of Pennsylvania, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7844-4.ch004

Abstract

This chapter explores the intentional design, development, and continued improvement of an online graduate degree program for early childhood education (ECE) teachers and administrators. The authors will discuss the initial face-to-face design and the transition to an online program to better meet the needs of its students. The authors will also discuss the successes and challenges met throughout this process while providing an overview of the field of ECE. In the process, they will consider the unique demands of working in childcare and explain why using technology to offer online programs was an appropriate solution to the challenges experienced by early childhood professionals (ECPs). They will address why online delivery is a preferred method of professional development (PD) among ECPs. Further, this chapter will include an analysis of survey data on program quality and course satisfaction, providing practical recommendations based on what was learned from this case study.
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Background

The field of ECE has historically provided care and services for children between the ages of six weeks and five years. An emerging body of research confirms the critical role ECPs play in their child care program’s quality equation (Bloom & Abel, 2015), and this recognition has led to increased attention on ECPs as professionals who require targeted and focused PD (Van der Klink, Kools, Avissar, White, & Sakata, 2017). In many states, including Pennsylvania, ECPs are required to earn at minimum a Child Development Associate (CDA) in order to work with young children in a child care setting. The CDA is a national credential requiring 120 hours of child care courses. Additionally, the ECP must be at least 18 years old, hold a high school diploma or equivalent, and have experience working with children within the past five years.

Finding the time to attend PD after working an eight-hour day in a child care program can be challenging, but there is little doubt that ongoing PD for an ECP can have a positive impact on the children, families, and child care program in which they work. Many ECPs have families and must balance the demands of their work and home lives, but because a growing number of ECPs now have access to the Internet and basic technologies, many are already using these tools informally to improve their knowledge and skills (Weigel, Weiser, Bales, & Moyses, 2012). Moreover, distance education enrollments in the United States continue to increase with 5.8 million Fall 2014 students enrolled in online higher education (Allen, Seaman, Poulin, & Straut, 2016). Distance education has greatly impacted higher education by making education attainable for those who are unable to sit in a traditional face-to-face classroom (Kentnor, 2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Community Of Practice: A group of people that share a profession.

Child Care: The care of young children while their parents are working.

Early Childhood Administrator: The director or leader of a child care program.

Early Childhood Education: A field of education that focuses on teaching and learning for children before they enter school.

Technology: Tools such as computers, mobile devices, and the Internet.

Continuous Program Improvement: Working toward improving practices in a child care program to increase the quality of services provided to young children and their families.

Professional Development: The training and coursework that early childhood professionals complete to stay current with best practices in the field of early childhood education.

Cohort: A group of students that work through a program of curriculum together.

Early Childhood Professionals: Teachers and staff that work in child care programs.

ADDIE: An instructional design framework used to develop courses that includes five phases of analyzing, designing, delivering, implementing, and evaluating.

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