Emerson named Director of Online Learning

Kerstin Emerson has been selected to lead the Office of Online Learning at the University of Georgia College of Public Health

A clinical associate professor in the Institute of Gerontology at the College of Public Health, Emerson has been teaching at the College for 11 years and coordinating both undergraduate and graduate course offerings through the Institute for six years. In 2017, Emerson was selected as an Online Learning Fellow through UGA’s Office of Online Learning.

That same year, Emerson spearheaded the effort to move all Institute of Gerontology courses online and worked closely with incoming gerontology faculty to make sure that all gerontology courses were consistent and high quality for students.

“With Dr. Emerson’s expertise and passion for online learning, there is no one better to lead our work,” said Marsha Davis, dean of the College of Public Health.

As head of the College of Public Health’s Office of Online Learning, Emerson will manage the College’s current programs and resources supporting faculty, teaching assistants, and students engaged in online learning. In addition, Emerson will work with College leadership to advance CPH’s goal to be a leader in hands-on, interactive teaching.

“In public health, as in other fields, there have been major shifts in the development and launch of accessible degrees,” said Davis. “It is part of our strategic plan to develop and disseminate high-quality online public health education, both in training the future public health workforce and advancing the career of working public health professionals.”

There are many ways to do this, said Emerson, but one focus will be offering more online graduate programming.

“We already offer two fully online certificates, and we are exploring what other programs would be good for offering online. We will develop these programs thoughtfully, assuring they meet high quality standards and that they will be hands-on and interactive,” said Emerson.

“Additionally, we want to focus on offering high-quality community engagement and education. The pandemic showed us the power of leveraging online to reach the community, but it also taught us that this needs to be done well to be truly effective,” she said.

Crucially, she wants to empower the CPH community to see online learning for its possibilities.

“Online learning can be amazing, but for many people online remains either a mystery or something that is just not as effective as traditional in-person learning. In order for me to convince people that online teaching has a lot of merit, we need to make sure that we are doing online teaching right,” said Emerson.

The first steps, said Emerson, include ensuring that new faculty and teaching assistants are onboarding with online best practices, providing tailored eLC templates, hosting faculty learning communities, offering course design sprints, and holding more regular office hours.

Emerson’s advice for both students and faculty to make the most out of online learning – engage.

“As with most things, that takes effort. My advice is to put in the effort. It is well worth it,” she said.

– Lauren Baggett

Posted on August 9, 2021.