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Optimizing online teaching and learning in higher education

Eric Fredericksen, associate professor and associate director for the Center for Learning in the Digital Age at the Warner School of Education and Human Development, focuses his research and teaching on optimizing the online education experience for students and faculty in higher education. He helps educators develop and learn how to design and teach online courses.

“One thing that people might not know about me is that one of my four degrees was done completely online,” says Fredericksen, who has devoted the past 25 years to focusing his research on online education and has spoken nationally and advocated for the field, bringing his own firsthand experience as a student.

As the associate vice president for online learning for the University of Rochester, Fredericksen also provides leadership for exploring online learning initiatives across the University. Initially, he focused on the faculty experience and the student experience, ensuring they were effective. He focused on what works and doesn't work in those online spaces. Over the past five years, though, his emphasis has shifted as part of the Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE) research team. The CHLOE studies, which he coauthors, are annual reports that higher education leaders across the United States review and use as a guide for online education.

The Warner School offers a master’s degree and an advanced certificate in online teaching. The program’s courses and the credentials obtained help educators become familiar with online education and learn how to design, develop and teach online.

Fredericksen says, “Students who enroll in online courses at the Warner School should expect a high-quality academic experience, something that our faculty have thoughtfully and effectively prepared to be engaging and help students achieve those learning objectives. We do a really good job of connecting theory to practice, so students come out of these with the background conceptual knowledge and real practical abilities to do online teaching.”

He adds that graduate schools of education play a very special role in universities, and they contribute to the academic enterprise of the institutions, but they are also home to the knowledge and understanding of how students learn and how faculty teach there. 

"We have exceptional students who are dedicated, and I count myself very fortunate to be able to work with them and to help them in their educational journey," Fredericksen explains. "It’s important to me because I know that it benefits them, but I also think about that ripple effect of how, by having a great experience with me, they will, in turn, create a great experience for their students, too.”