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Jayhawkville allows future educators to solve problems in virtual school systems

Monday, April 20, 2015

LAWRENCE — To gain experience solving problems in urban, rural, rich, low-income, racially diverse, high-performing and other types of schools, future educational leaders would need time and resources that most simply don’t have. Or they could visit Jayhawkville.

Jayhawkville is the latest innovation in the University of Kansas’ online master’s degree program in educational leadership and policy studies. The virtual school district takes students into a variety of scenarios and allows them to work through problems while learning more about their own leadership styles.

The unique learning tool grew from the School of Education’s partnership with Everspring Inc., an educational design, technology and services provider that partners with leading universities to move their programs online. The partnership enables KU to bring its top educational graduate programs to students across the country using Everspring’s online platform and services.

“Jayhawkville gives students multiple, diverse, applied educational experiences by which they can apply what they have learned in the program to a variety of ‘real world’ educational situations within a virtual instruction setting,” said Joe Novak, senior lecturer, coordinator of the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Master’s Program and director of KU’s Professional Development School Program. “We know that not all future educational administrators will teach or work in an urban school and that some will only work in small rural schools. We want them to have data on and experience with all manner of schools.”

The online program blends theory and practice for students with a wealth of data, built from case studies, on 30 schools within the “Jayhawkville United School District.” An interactive map allows students to access common information on schools, including news about administrators, board members and teachers. It also takes them deeper inside a school by providing information that is not always readily available, such as hypothetical hiring policies, ethnographic and demographic data, number of students, performance on standardized tests, number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and other facts.

“When I was trained, we got a lot of theory and discussion, but I don’t remember having case studies where I could apply what I learned to solve problems in a job-like scenario,” Novak said. “We try to promote shared leadership. As a principal for 21 years, I knew I couldn’t do it all. We’re trying to teach the students to be reflective and proactive. You can only do that if you empower people to help you.”

Novak said the true value of Jayhawkville is the opportunity it provides students to experience real-world situations while teaching them the value of making others part of the solution. Students progress through modules on leadership, decision-making, communications, culture, community and other topics and apply lessons learned to problems educational leaders face in schools. They determine whether problems are low-level, high-level, when to involve the community in a solution and how to approach cultural, physical, academic and other types of problems.

“This is the only virtual learning tool of its kind. The innovative technology that we offer our online students provides access to the ever-evolving nature of today’s school district,” said Rick Ginsberg, dean of the School of Education. “New principals and other educational leaders studying at KU are able to strategically apply newly acquired knowledge and skills to our reality-based, diverse and comprehensive virtual school district.”

This spring, Jayhawkville was launched in the leadership skills course and will be integrated into all KU master’s courses offered online, including global research and school law. In the future, it will expand to include the special education graduate program, ranked No. 1 among public universities in by U.S. News & World Report.

For more information on Jayhawkville, visit: http://educationonline.ku.edu/jayhawkville/

KU’s online master’s degree program in educational administration is offered through the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies. The School of Education is a nationally ranked school, preparing educators and health/sport/exercise professionals as leaders.

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—U.S. News & World Report
Professor Lisa Wolf-Wendel is president-elect of the Association for the Study of Higher Education
Alumni of the department head higher education institutions, school districts, and schools across the nation
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