The Judith Herb College of Education at the University of Toledo in Ohio trains school teachers. Its Licensure and Master’s Program (LAMP) is a one-year, graduate course where students serve a one-year internship with a mentor teacher in a classroom setting while completing the required coursework on campus. The course has been described by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation as a “transformative model” for teacher training in the US and 90 per cent of graduates in recent years have gone on to become full-time teachers.
The mixed on-campus, off-campus experience created a need for an online environment that could handle diverse needs. The college set up a tenancy on *Unity and integrated it into its offering for students as the Academic Community of Educators at The University of Toledo (ACE).
“Because LAMP integrates experiences across the year and across courses, and our students are often not on campus since they are in the school, we use ACE for continuous dialogue and support,” says Rebecca Schneider, a professor of science education who directs the program.
The popularity of *Unity as a platform among both students and faculty means that its use is starting to spill out into a variety of other roles. For example, the initial focus on current students has been extended to support for recent graduates.
“Teachers have told us they want to remain in contact with faculty,” says Schneider.
Alumni offices take note. The Judith Herb College of Education doesn’t have to try to create a rich alumni community out of nothing. Using *Unity, it just emerges seamlessly from the students’ online experience. There are groups for both LAMP interns and LAMP graduates in ACE, and faculty are included in both.
“We are using ACE to bridge between our on campus events (four per year) and to include our new teachers who are unable to attend on-campus sessions,” says Schneider.
The university’s website (https://www.utoledo.edu/education/about/index.html) says, “ACE is an online collaborative environment to support students, alumni, faculty, and school partners in working together across courses and beyond graduation. This academic environment is designed to facilitate ongoing professional groups for learning so that faculty can mentor students across programs and extend learning for practicing professionals.”
Now the college has extended *Unity to its undergraduate teachers, supporting schoolteachers as they begin their first year in the classroom. And faculty have also started to adopt it for their own work, for example collaborating in groups to develop new courses or liaising with administrators.
“We are developing an online program with faculty across two colleges,” says Schneider. “We are using ACE to develop this program. We have faculty meetings but not everyone can always attend. We keep all our work on ACE and everyone contributes to our working documents.”
“When the program launches we will create a group for the students and faculty together.”