Posted: March 16, 2005

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

For Rex Ray of Hibbing, the dream of becoming a teacher seemed unlikely until a few years ago when Bemidji State University started an innovative online teacher training program.

Once Ray looked at the program, known as Distributed Learning in Teacher Education or DLiTE, he could see a clear path to his goal.

Now, the 35-year-old retail department store manager and father of four is less than a year away from completing the program, and he is excited about fulfilling his dream.

"I have a real passion to teach and work with children," Ray said. "I believe that having my teaching degree will also offer me the opportunity to spend more time with my own children."

The DLiTE program is one of many new and innovative options for becoming a teacher at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, according to Cyndy Crist, system director for pre-kindergarten through college collaborations.

"It's no longer true that the only way to prepare as a teacher is a four-year, 9-to-5 weekday program. All seven of our state universities have developed ways to fit individuals' needs, accelerate the learning process and truly collaborate with school districts," said Crist.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are committed to addressing teacher shortages with these programs, said Chancellor James H. McCormick. "They provide creative solutions for this problem and offer participants a practical way to fulfill licensing requirements while remaining at a full-time job."

Most of the programs are aimed at training teachers in science, mathematics, special education and other areas where shortages exist. Ray, for example, is seeking a K-8 certification with a specialty in science.

By using online learning, the programs give participants a lot of flexibility, said Linda Baer, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. "Students report these innovative approaches to be highly satisfying educational experiences. Often, they develop close ties with the faculty and other students," she said.

In the case of the DLiTE program, for example, students use interactive television and a Web site for online discussions, collaborative projects, assessment tracking and as a place to keep an electronic portfolio. They also meet three weekends a year as a group for testing and student presentations with their professors in Minneapolis, St. Cloud or Bemidji.

Some programs allow students who already have a bachelor's degree to earn teaching degrees and obtain teaching licenses after 12 to 18 months of study. Other programs enable education students to complete degree requirements within three years instead of the usual four. Programs are shortened by granting credit for certain life experiences and compressing coursework during the summer and evenings.

Already, these programs are seen as models. Last spring, the DLiTE program received the Association for Continuing Higher Education's Region 8 Exceptional Credit Program Award. The award recognized the program for its originality, innovation, program success and adaptability for other institutions. Region 8 includes eight Midwestern states, western Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Other alternative teacher training programs within the system include:

  • Metropolitan State University offers the Urban Teaching Program, a collaboration with Inver Hills Community College and Minneapolis Community and Technical College. This program leads to middle school and secondary school licensure in mathematics and life sciences, among other areas. The program allows candidates' previous education or experience to meet program standards when appropriate.
  • Minnesota State University, Mankato, offers an online, on-the-job option for special education teachers hired on variances to become fully licensed. Another effort, known as the Rapid Response Program, attracts new teachers for science, English as a Second Language, world languages and mathematics.
  • Minnesota State University Moorhead has a back-to-school "seamless transition services" for non-traditional students who would like to become teachers after a career in a non-teaching field. Portions of the program can be waived, depending on the student's educational background.
  • St. Cloud State University has new programs in information media, teaching English as a Second Language, school counseling and special education. All of these programs are specifically geared to individuals who hold bachelor's degrees in fields other than teaching.
  • Southwest Minnesota State University is developing a graduate internship program for individuals who have a bachelor's degree in a content area of secondary or K-12 licensure, such as English, mathematics, biology or Spanish. The program could be completed by taking education courses over one summer and two semesters.
  • Winona State University has a business education licensure program that is entirely online. The program provides competency-based credit for work experience.

Alternative pathways to teach licensure overview

Note: A full list of programs and contact information is available on request.