Oaks Christian Online chaplain, Samantha Farinacci had the chance to welcome Julie Rohr, a new staff member to the team. Take a moment to read below in order to get to know her and to hear about some of the work she’ll be doing.
Hey Julie! Welcome to Oaks Christian Online!! We’re so excited to have you with us. Can you tell us a little bit about your new position here and what you’ll be doing?
Thanks, Sam. It’s great to be joining this incredible organization. I will be working in online curriculum development specifically focusing on graphic design and visual curriculum. I am joining this team of experienced and thoughtful educators to create the newest and best version of the Oaks Christian Online presence.
Oaks Christian Online hopes to set standards in the online education industry with its content and outstanding material presentation, a distinction that I think seems fitting for the online arm of Oaks Christian School. I am here to help.
There is a graphic designer, Alexander Isley, who has rightly said, “Good design encourages a viewer to want to learn more.” Science, marketing, and experience all attest to the fact that our brains pay closer attention, enjoy things better, and retain things longer when they are not simply engaged in words, but also in images. As a school preparing minds for leadership, we really do want to see out students fully engaged in their subjects. Creating a more visually dynamic approach is an important facet of our development.
I know you have also had a lot of experience in online learning. Can you share a bit about what you love about this format and some of the things that have kept you passionate about this work?
Sam, as you know the online educational platforms that have developed over the past 10 -20 years have opened up so many incredible education options for students. I’ve been able to see this from all perspectives serving as an online educator, developer, student, and parent of students!
One thing I have thoroughly enjoyed is the opportunity to work with students from around the world. This creates a classroom with new and interesting perspectives that broaden the minds of both the teachers and the learners. It keeps students from “small-mindedness” which, at times, can limit their own potential.
It is that unlimited potential that keeps me excited about online education. The cyber world and the abilities that world-wide connection offer students of today are really astounding. Technology and learning tools keep developing and online course developers have immediate access to those things. It is exciting to be learning all the time and to continually have new options and improvements.
It also thrills me to know that as students learn how to navigate these courses in high school, they are unknowingly preparing for further success in college. Believe it or not, millions of students today are taking at least one online class during their college years. Millions! Wow. There are countless online college degrees available.
Online learning is becoming the norm and students who become adept at navigating those types of courses in high school will definitely have the advantage over their inexperienced peers as they begin undergraduate studies. I know that Oaks Christian School and Oaks Christian Online are distinguished in their unbeatable record of students who go on to college. Online learning in high school is definitely one more way to ensure these Oaks alumni will succeed during their college years.
What are some of the landmarks in your personal or professional life that caused you to think more deeply about ‘going online’? What are some of the main reasons you’ve heard others (teachers, students, and schools) consider this kind of education?
Well let me answer that in reverse, since the first part is much more believable.
Most of the teachers that I have worked with online have been motivated to teach online because they were very passionate about their subject of choice and found that in private online education, they could focus on just teaching the things that filled them with joy and excitement. That, in turn, has always produced classes where the enthusiasm of the teacher often becomes infectious.
Countless times I have seen students take online classes and be stretched or challenged in ways they never would have expected. Beyond that, many come out with new passions due to the fact they had a teacher who was in love with what they taught and knew it so well.
Now about my landmarks. The truth is that I came into online education over 10 years ago on a whim and I have stayed because of gamers.
I saw a need, many years back, for some curriculum in high school art history that would pair well with a classical approach to education. On a whim I applied to create and teach an online class and was hired. Really, that was it. I had no idea what I was getting into or the incredible energy and potential online education would present.
I have to credit my daughter for a speech presented for one of her online classes. She was to speak on a topic or her choice and she chose to discuss “Why gaming is a valuable pastime.” Of course she needed to practice on her (skeptical) family, and that is when it happened.
You see, every night she and several of her friends from various places around the US were going online to play games together. She talked about how it gave them a chance to socialize. They could work as a team to accomplish goals. They were not held back by distance. They could organize themselves so that each one used their best strengths. They could have more fun together than apart. She also connected all of that to the exciting pace and opportunities presented in business and travel today. She opened my eyes to just how working online in school or even games helped people work most effectively and without traditional limitations. The world was wide open!
So, the truth is, I really do have to thank the gamers. I realized that the few classes I taught were just a part of a much bigger picture filled with unlimited potential. To me, it is still deeply humbling to be a tool used to help students explore the world and make decisions that will create their future.
So with all of your experience, I imagine you’ve probably encountered some of the stereotypes and stigmas that people tend to have about this way of ‘doing school’. Can you share with us some of those and maybe give some insight into what ones are legitimate and which ones perhaps aren’t?
Oh, that’s easy! How about my top 3?
Stereotype #1 You cannot do “hand’s on subjects” like instrument instruction, science labs, or art.
False! I see these topics being presented all the time in successful ways online. Think about how many people today instantly go to YouTube when they need to figure out how to do something. I have even fixed my own car using YouTube. Crazy! Online venues are actually great to demonstrate “hands-on” subjects. They have the benefit of visual demonstration with access to the person presenting…you can ask questions!
Stereotype #2 Online courses are not as challenging as in-building education.
True and False. I suppose this one comes back to the education provider and the mindset of the student. Rigorous schools tend to provide rigorous curriculum and vice versa. I took several online college-level courses a few years ago. Many required me to read a text, respond to discussion questions, and do a lot of essays. I actually found that I could learn more because I was able to focus on the material itself. It was very “cut and dry”. No classroom drama. No wasted time. By writing everything out, I was really able to clarify my thoughts about the topics. Overall, I think I learned more doing courses online than I did in a previous traditional school setting. When it comes to this stereotype, people should choose wisely and expect to get out of it what they put into it. Really, I suppose, that is true of any class, whether online or in a building.
Stereotype #3 People just sit around in their pajamas for class.
(If you want to!)
Finally, I’d love to hear a bit more about you as well; where are you from and what are some of the fun things we should know about you?
Outside of work, I enjoy museums, nature and creative projects. I have grown up and still live in New York State. This summer my husband and I along with my son enjoyed camping and sailing up and down the Hudson River. If I can be outside (or at an art museum) I am happy! I usually find something curious to get involved in. Recently, it was moving to my new home and discovering that it had tons of clay in the soil. My new obsession is figuring out how to extract the clay and create rustic pottery in our backyard fire pit.
My family members are saints to put up with my crazy ideas.