New fully online education degree poised to meet diverse needs of Colorado’s children

Photo credit: Element5 Digital for Unsplash.

Early childhood education has reached an inflection point in the state of Colorado — and UCCS is poised to lead the charge for high-quality early childhood professional preparation.

In collaboration with University of Colorado Denver, UCCS will leverage a $2.33 million grant from the Early Educator Investment Collaborative (EEIC) to develop the UCCS Inclusive Early Childhood Education Program: a fully online bachelor’s degree in inclusive early childhood education.

The B.A. program, approved in February by the University of Colorado Board of Regents, will allow students to seamlessly transfer from any Colorado community college to UCCS to complete their degrees. It will support residency placements for students and develop a cadre of coaches across the state to provide job-embedded supervision for in-service teachers. Funding from the EEIC will also support a new instructional designer to ensure timely and engaging curricula.

The new UCCS program will complement CU Denver’s work to create a new consortium of Colorado higher education institutions. Together, the institutions — including all of Colorado’s community colleges, University of Northern Colorado and Metropolitan State University of Denver — will work to address access to quality degrees, conduct research on early education workforce preparation and advocate for policies that support teachers’ credentialing and licensure, credit transfer and compensation.

“This unprecedented collaboration between Colorado’s community, state and private institutions will allow us to tackle persistent barriers to high quality early childhood professional preparation,” said Lissanna Follari, Assistant Professor of Teaching and Learning. “By forging a strong alliance of partners from across the state, we are leveraging enormous professional resources and expertise to create new access opportunities, transfer pathways, credit for prior learning assessments, and important curriculum alignments.”

Flexible degree programs like UCCS’ are well-poised to meet the diverse needs of Colorado’s children. Photo credit: Allison Daniell Moix

Launching this fall, the grant partnership will allow Follari to spearhead the ongoing development of the Inclusive Early Childhood Education Program curriculum and high-engagement distance learning model over the next 3 years.

The three-credential program will grant students a Colorado state teaching license in birth-to-eight early childhood education, a teaching endorsement in birth-to-eight early childhood special education and a child care center director qualification. The program’s curriculum is designed around five major themes: culturally responsive practice, strategies for inclusion, trauma-informed care, learning through play and behavior and mental health.

“Embedding this comprehensive content coverage with strong practical preparation in these essential themes will ensure that our graduates are fully prepared to meet the demands of the IECE profession, and can emerge as leaders and advocates for providing the very best care and education for all young children,” Follari said.

Colorado is home to nearly 400,000 children under age six, nearly twenty percent of whom live with families under the poverty line. At the same time, Colorado is projected to require an additional 4,500 new early childhood teachers to meet the growing needs of Colorado’s families based on population growth alone. Flexible, high-quality degree programs like the UCCS Inclusive Early Childhood Education Program are well-poised to meet the diverse needs of Colorado’s children.

“The UCCS Inclusive Early Childhood Education Program will allow UCCS to provide state-wide leadership for online early childhood education,” said Valerie Martin Conley, Dean of the UCCS College of Education. “I am excited about the potential for UCCS and the Pikes Peak region to lead the way in early childhood education and workforce innovation, and to help meet the critical shortages in teaching fields statewide.”

The UCCS College of Education offers undergraduate and advanced degrees, initial and advanced licenses and additional endorsements across three departments: Teaching and Learning, Counseling and Human Services and Leadership, Research, and Foundations. Learn more about the College of Education.

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