An unruly student interrupts the teacher. Other students refuse to participate in a class activity.

For a classroom rookie, a scenario like this could be overwhelming.

Fortunately, it’s just a computer simulation—part of an innovative, high-tech teacher education program coming this fall to West Virginia University.

The College of Human Resources and Education created the technology-infused, accelerated Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education Program in response to the needs of a changing world, Dean Dee Hopkins said.

“West Virginia University’s innovative program prepares teachers for students in today’s global world with 21st-century skills and knowledge,” she said. “All participants will engage in rural, urban, international and virtual field experiences—with the first cohort taking part in a study tour of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education in Italy.”

Hopkins added, “Students will engage in focused clinical rotations with their professors and visit the classrooms of hand-picked master educators in each of the content areas. Together, university professors, public school master teachers and university students will engage in new effective practices in education that will impact the next generation of learners.”

The accelerated B.A., which can be completed in three full years, was approved Wednesday (June 9) by the West Virginia Board of Education. The program models and teaches innovative practice and cutting-edge technologies that produce professional educators ready to prepare students to be successful citizens and workers.

“I’m thrilled about the program,” said first lady Gayle Manchin, who serves on the board. “The first aspect that is so exciting to me is that we have an education program that is truly addressing 21st-century skills and addressing our students of today. This program has vision. The use of simulation, the use of Second Life (a 3D virtual world where people interact through online avatars)—all these visionary pieces that our young people are used to are being adapted for this program.

“By developing this education program, I believe we’ll truly start drawing our best and brightest students back into the arena of education,” Manchin said.

Web cams, SKYPE and video conferencing will provide opportunities for observation and connect pre-service candidates with education experts around the world, and students can explore a virtual classroom in Second Life—developed by Pam Whitehouse, assistant professor of instructional, design and technology (read about her work with teacher training and Second Life on the Virtual Worlds News blog:

The College is also using Web-based simulations for use as instructional tools. Plans are in the works to partner with other universities exploring virtual instructional techniques. A computer simulation laboratory is under construction on the fifth floor of Allen Hall on the WVU Evansdale Campus and will open this fall, said Tim Mitchem, director of information technology at the College of Human Resources and Education.

The simulation lab will allow individuals preparing to become teachers to interact with a virtual classroom projected on a screen, while off-site technicians provide scripted behavior for the virtual bully, class clown and shy non-responder along with others. The technicians can even control gestures and movements. Mitchem said future scripts might include avatar parents, special needs children or school board members—all available for virtual interactions with those learning to be teachers.

Other features of the program:

Team Approach
Students and faculty work in teams, engaging in community-building and networking sessions. Lincoln Hall, a residence hall on the Evansdale Campus, has been reserved for students during their freshman year so that they can participate in service projects, film discussions, book talks and other group activities as a cohort.

Teacher for All
The program prepares teachers who are ready to teach all students in the general elementary classroom, including those with special needs and/or a second language. The study of a foreign language is encouraged for all participants in the program.

Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Confidence
Students develop a deep-rooted understanding of mathematical and scientific concepts in an interdisciplinary approach that will allow them to instruct others with confidence and be open to new innovations.

Clinical Experience
Borrowing from the medical school model, students and professors observe—on site and online—carefully selected master teachers of each content area as they practice effective teaching. These observations follow an intense team orientation on campus. Immediately following each experience, the team reconvenes for reflection and analysis.

Admissions Requirements
The Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education Program is very competitive with 30 exceptional students—known as Dean’s Honors Scholars—making up each cohort. Those selected to participate enter during the fall term. Students should have a 3.0 or higher GPA and a minimum of a 26 ACT score or 1200 SAT score.

In addition, they must provide three character references; evidence of scholarship, service and leadership experience; and a professional goal statement. Finalists may be asked to participate in an interview. (Note: Students who are close to meeting the GPA and test score requirements may be reviewed if their total application packet merits consideration.)

The College of Human Resources and Education is currently recruiting students for its first cohort in fall 2010. Admissions is on a rolling basis with application review to begin June 30. Go to and click on the “Accelerated B.A. in Elementary Ed” box to download an application.

For more information, contact program coordinator Malayna Bernstein at 304-293-3202/304-293-3442 or, or Jane Cardi, director of the Center for Student Advising and Records, at 304-293-3637 or



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CONTACT: Janey Cink, College of Human Resources and Education

(MEDIA: Reporters interested in viewing a Second Life demo should e-mail