Dr. Kimberly Persiani remembers living in San Francisco in 2001 while getting her EdD in International and Multicultural Education. To help pay the bills, she landed a part-time gig teaching a UC Santa Cruz extension course — but the commute was too far.
“I asked if they would let me teach the class online using an online teaching system I had heard about,” Persiani says. “They said, ‘Sure, go for it, see how it works.’”
The internet was in its infancy — Facebook and YouTube had not been invented, and Google was still the third-most-popular search engine. Still, her experiment worked. Students emailed assignments through AOL.com via dial-up connections. Persiani recognized the value of online education before most people even knew it existed.
Nineteen years later, she remains a leader in the field of education, especially online education. Persiani has taught online courses for Concordia Irvine since 2008. And as the Chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Division at CSU Los Angeles, she recently succeeded in making a substantial amount of their program available online.
“It’s taken me two years to get enough faculty trained and qualified so we can do this,” Persiani says. “This semester is the first one in which a section of every course is being taught online by a qualified online instructor. I’m extremely proud of it. It goes back to my experience teaching online with Concordia Irvine.”
Persiani joined Concordia Irvine’s MAEd/C&I program as an adjunct in 2008 after teaching extension courses for UCLA using a variety of online education platforms.
“Concordia Irvine is ahead of the game, and always has been,” she says. “They were offering online courses before a lot of places. In 2008, people were just starting to have more full online programs. Concordia Irvine saw this way before anybody else did and jumped on it fast.”
The overall online education experience is light years ahead of where it was a decade ago, she says.
“Ten years ago, online education was new and scary to a lot of students,” she says. “Now, the majority are like, ‘Been there, done that.’”
She has enjoyed helping Concordia’s online program grow and expand because it is “constantly evolving,” she says. “They’re always doing something different, and I’ve been able to have a part in that evolution. It’s fun to have a voice and be part of a team that’s open to new ideas, new texts, new readings, developing more rigor for the courses as we’ve grown as a program. That’s been one of the most exciting things, to see the program transform over time.”
Persiani especially enjoys teaching CUI students in their capstone courses.
“We meet by Zoom every week and become really attached for those two semesters,” she says. “They’re working on their research, scared and stressed, and I’m there to help guide them. I am probably more hands-on than I should be for an online class. It’s intense for them and for me.”
Persiani teaches all her CUI courses online, and her on-going experience at Concordia showed her how powerful online classes can be. The CSULA online classes she pioneered have proven so popular that Persiani is racing to train enough faculty to keep up with demand. She also co-authored the Organized Teacher book series for McGraw-Hill, now in its second edition.
“I truly believe that because of the experience I have at Concordia, I was able to influence online education in my division [at CSULA], and now our students are benefiting from it. I’m really proud of that,” she says.