OSAGE, Iowa - It started as a blog and an online resource nearly a decade ago.
Now that blog has evolved into a fully accredited graduate program.
The Osage-based Art of Education started off 2019 relaunching as a fully-accredited university, complete with a Master of Arts in Art Education degree based around online curriculum and instruction and geared specifically toward K-12 art teachers.
Abby Schukei already holds a master's degree, but is eager to keep learning, and prefers Art of Education's online model over the traditional university.
"It was really hard to facilitate conversations and have that connection when you were the only person in your content area focusing on that."
Currently an art teacher in a suburban Omaha school district, she doesn't have time to return to full time studies. With Art of Education being online based, it's perfect for her schedule.
"The flexibility of the schedule and if I know that I've got a really long month coming up, I might not take a course that month, because I know it's not on a strict schedule and I'm not necessarily bound by time."
Co-founders Jessica and Derek Balsley are proud they were able to not only launch the master's degree program, but to also get the university accredited.
"The accreditation process was very intimidating. Jessica and others on our team put in tremendous amount of time and effort - three years - literal tears sometimes - but it feels good to be on the other side of it now."
In addition, the Balsley's started the university to specifically focus on one key aspect: professional development.
"Most institutions of learning is based around geographic location. If there's only a couple art teachers in Mitchell County, they will have to drive a long way to get a professional development opportunity that's actually relevant to them. By making it online, we can have the best art teachers as our instructors from around the country and anyone, no matter where they're at, can take their courses."
Now with over 45 instructors, and thousands of students enrolled annually in a given year, a big city art education is available
"This is the type of company you would see in a bigger city traditionally, but because of the internet, because we could draw staff members from around the world, we could really run it from anywhere."
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