Virtual Residency for Educational Leadership

Learning in an Intense, Focused Virtual Environment
A man working on a laptop

When Dr. Ioana Badara created UB’s Online Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership in 2014, the world didn’t know just how vital online learning would become to keep us safe and healthy. Now, in response to the ongoing pandemic, the summer on-campus residency is also being taught virtually, and has been a resounding success.

The University of Bridgeport has boasted an EdD program since the late 1970s, but received special permission from the state to run this hybrid version in Fall 2015. Badara and Director of the School of Education Linda Paslov worked together over the past five years to build the 62-credit graduate program, teaching courses in curriculum development, organization management, and many more. 

The three-year program allows working students to participate asynchronously, with the exception of one week of on-campus residency each summer. These two sessions are run back to back, with the first week for those earlier in their EdD program, and the second for those ready to begin their dissertation. Instructors give students the conceptual frameworks necessary to ask the questions that will lead to their research focus, and the methodology that will lead them to a unique dissertation.

“We have very high-quality students,” Badara says. “Higher education personnel, principals and other leaders, people from the corporate world, and teachers of all specialties.”

The first graduate of this groundbreaking program was Dr. Jeffrey Vance, who now teaches in the doctoral program himself and this summer is giving a Zoom guest lecture about navigating the program. Another graduate is Dr. Sandra Ramsay, whose research won the National Council on Black American Affairs – Northeast Region 2020 Dissertation of the Year Award for her work, Community College Freshmen’s Perceptions of In-Class Microaggressions and Their Intent to Persist. Today the program has 85 students, including 18 new candidates admitted for Fall 2020.

Normally these summer residencies involve a chance for fellow online students to meet and interact on campus. “But this virtual doctoral residency is as close as we can get in these strange times,” says Linda Paslov. “The students’ health and safety are our main concern right now.” Instead, they are participating in synchronous zoom sessions, learning in an intense, focused virtual environment. 

Already experienced teaching online, Badara adapted Paslov’s agenda for the virtual residency course. They are able to keep all the elements of this vital week, such as bringing in guest speakers, working with the Institutional Review Board, and meeting with librarians. “It is important to do it this way,” Badara notes. “Because otherwise we would not have done it.” According to her, the synchronous zoom sessions are working much better than a compromised live version. “It allows for the type of face-to-face interaction we would have missed if we were on campus wearing masks and socially distancing,” she says.

At the end of each day, the class debriefs to talk about what they learned and how to improve the virtual format. “Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far,” says Badara. “We have proved it works well.” With the skills they learn from this innovative program, these educational leaders will soon be solving the educational challenges of tomorrow.