An Inter-Institutional, Online Approach to Teacher Education

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Through sharing of resources and responsibilities, a group of institutions developed and sustained an inter-institutional online master’s program to enable persons who are living in remote locations or who have family/work responsibilities to complete a program potentially leading to Family and Consumer Sciences Education teacher licensure or other professional positions.


Dr. Mari Borr is currently the Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher Educator at North Dakota State University. She is an assistant professor in the School of Education, which is part of the College of Human Development and Education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Home Economics Education from NDSU, her master’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences Education from NDSU, and her doctoral degree in Teaching and Learning: Higher Education from the University of North Dakota in 2005. Prior to coming to NDSU, Dr. Borr taught middle school and high school Family and Consumer Sciences in North Dakota for fourteen years.

Extended Abstract

After attending this session, the participants will be able to:

·      Explore the benefits and challenges of multi-institutional online programs

·      Describe strategies used to make multi-institutional online programs as seamless as possible

·      Identify collaboration techniques used by faculty participating in multi-institutional online programs.

Family and consumer sciences (FCS) teachers are in great need across the nation (Werhan, 2013; Godbey & Johnson, 2011; Werhan & Way, 2006). The Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Master’s program in the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (Great Plains IDEA) was developed to meet this growing need for Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers.  In 1984, there were 261 FCS teacher preparation programs in the United States (Hall & Miller, 1989).  By 2015, that number dropped to 108 (National Coalition for Family and Consumer Sciences Education, 2015).  Many potential FCS teachers had difficulty finding a local institution that offered FCS Education.  As the need for FCS teachers increased, due to retirements as well as fewer new graduates, persons who already had FCS-related bachelor’s degrees started becoming interested in pursuing the additional coursework they would need to teach FCS.  Many of these persons already had a career, were teaching on an emergency license, had family responsibilities, and/or or did not have an institution offering FCS Education nearby.  They needed an online program that would enable them to meet FCS teacher licensure requirements. The Great Plains IDEA program began in 2006 as a Master’s program for students with bachelor’s degrees in FCS related areas seeking initial teacher certification.  A new option was approved in Fall 2011 allowing certified teachers to enroll in a master’s program for professional development and career advancement. There have been 254 students from approximately 31 states and 3 other countries with over 50 graduates since the inception of the program.  As a result, there are thousands of middle school and high school students who are now able to participate in FCS courses in their schools because they now have a qualified teacher who took this path to teacher licensure.  The positions that our graduates fill may have gone unfilled due to the FCS teacher shortage.

This program, comprised of 6 institutions with approximately 15 faculty members, provides a mutually developed program of study and rotates responsibility for teaching among the campuses.  The program and courses were developed as a collaborative effort among faculty members.   Faculty meet twice a year to review curriculum, discuss program issues, and address student progress. At least two institutions rotate teaching a course.  Instructors from the two institutions meet frequently to update and confirm course content

Each student chooses a “home institution” from the participating institutions.  Advising comes from this institution, and all classes appear on a transcript from this institution.  Course registration and tuition payment transpires through this same university.  The student pays a common price per credit no matter which institution is his or her “home institution.”  When a student takes a course, the home institution and the teaching institution each receive a portion of the tuition, with some being set aside for administration expenses as well. 

This inter-institutional program benefits the students, the faculty, the universities, and the profession.  Students in this inter-institutional program benefit from learning from variety of instructors from across the nation and from interacting with a variety of students from across the nation.  The faculty benefit from collaboration opportunities, as most of the participating faculty are in single-person departments.  The faculty members also benefit from teaching students from across the nation as they become aware of challenges and situations across the country.  The university benefits from the financial benefit of pooling resources and logistical benefit of having enough instructors to teach courses and offer programs.  The profession of FCS education sees a benefit from an increase in persons being able to become licensed to teach FCS.

Obviously, there are challenges for students, faculty, and the universities as well.  Students must use different logins and passwords for different institutions, and different institutions have different semester start and stop dates so they need to keep close track of when their courses begin and end.  The faculty need to follow the curriculum that was developed collaboratively to ensure that all students cover the imperative pedagogy components.  As our program may lead to teacher licensure, it is also a challenge accommodating for the teacher licensure requirements of all institutions and state teacher licensure boards.

This innovative program has shown to be an effective model of cooperating in an inter-institutional program.  There is a need for certain professionals such as Family and Consumer Sciences teachers with no local college program, and this inter-institutional program has found an effective way to train these professionals.  It also is a financially efficient way of offering a program by having several institutions collaborate.  The principles could be replicated by other institutions to collaboratively offer online programs.

This presentation will include interactive questions and the slides will be posted to the conference website.


Godbey, K., & Johnson, C. A. (2011). Career choice influences and job satisfaction for early career family and consumer sciences teachers. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences Education, 29(2), 12-25.

Hall, H., & Miller, S.W. (1989). Home economics teacher education into the 21st century.

Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 81(2), 7-14.

National Coalition for Family and Consumer Sciences Education (2015). Family and consumer sciences education programs across the United States. Retrieved from

Werhan, C. R. (2013). Family and consumer sciences secondary school programs: National survey shows continued demand for FCS teachers. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 105(4), 41-45.

Werhan, C., & Way, W. L. (2006). Family and consumer sciences programs in secondary schools: Results of a national survey. Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences, 98(1), 19–25.