Skip to content

Teaching with technology

LoriAnn Stretch, Ph.D., became interested in online education at an early age, but the vision for what it would look like didn’t come from a computer.

Dr. LoriAnn Stretch has a very vivid memory from her childhood, one that would have a profound impact on what she does today as a professor and chair of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s Online Clinical Mental Health Counseling Department.

The year was 1979. She was in the third grade in southern Virginia and the teacher assigned a short story in a reading textbook.

From what was essentially a piece of science fiction, Dr. Stretch built an expertise in mental health counseling and online education—an expertise she continues to utilize today through developing cutting-edge online psychology courses at The Chicago School.

“It was about a little girl and a little boy, talking on these things called computers, and the teacher was giving them assignments on a computer,” says Dr. Stretch, explaining how it was the first time she had ever heard of such a thing. “It determined my life’s calling.”

She immediately called her uncle, who worked for NASA, to inquire about these amazing machines. “I probably got the most illegal piece of mail ever,” Dr. Stretch continues. “He sent me a Polaroid of a computer at NASA.”

From what was essentially a piece of science fiction, Dr. Stretch built an expertise in mental health counseling and online education—an expertise she continues to utilize today through developing cutting-edge online psychology courses at The Chicago School.

A collaborative approach

“Probably the difference between what we do at The Chicago School with online education and other institutions is we really have a collaborative approach,” says Dr. Stretch, a licensed professional counselor who works remotely from Clayton, N.C. as an associate professor, program director, and department chair. “Our students have been integral in the development of the online program at every level.”

For example, students helped The Chicago School choose a new video conferencing platform and played a key role in our accreditation process, which she says is very unusual in higher education.

“It starts before the class even launches. Students are involved in developing the curriculum and coursework, which gives them a sense of ownership,” she says. “It really is a team effort.”

One of her goals is to ensure courses are learner centered with a blend of online coursework and live discussions. Students are told up front that they are expected to fully engage in live chats, along with the annual residency. The result is a rich learning experience that provides the same level of quality a student can get in an on-ground classroom.

“Through live discussions, students are talking about things that are happening in the world right now. We go above and beyond the curriculum,” adds Dr. Stretch, who has a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision and a M.A. in Community and College Counseling. “All of our online faculty are practitioners. They can really talk about real-life experiences they had as a counselor, and that’s invaluable.”

Tapping technology

Being a lifelong technology geek, Dr. Stretch also incorporates new technology wherever possible.

“As part of my class, students have to record a YouTube video pretending to give results or news, talking to themselves on video as they would a client,” she says, explaining that the videos are then shared online through a YouTube channel she established for the class. “It’s one of the most rewarding assignments I’ve ever seen students do, because they really understand the importance of tone and voice in talking to a client. We also do a lot of role playing.”

In July 2016, Dr. Stretch drew on these experiences to contribute to her first book, Technology in Mental Health: Applications in Practice, Supervision and Training, a 39-chapter tome that explores technological innovation in mental health care.

In other words, she’s come a long way from that third grade reading assignment.

“My uncle ended up buying me my first computer in the 1980s. I couldn’t wait to learn programming and HTML. And I became so enamored with this idea of online education that I took the first hybrid class I could at Longwood College in Virginia, just to see what it was all about,” Dr. Stretch says. “That was 1994 and I’ve been a student and a teacher ever since, always ready to see where technology will take us.”

NEWSROOM

Looking for updates, press releases, and general news from The Chicago School?

SEE THE NEWSROOM

MEDIA CONTACTS

For questions or comments on our news stories or releases, or if you are a reporter who would like to speak with an expert, please contact:

Elinor Gilbert, Communications Director
(213) 283-4255 (office)
(213) 304-6422 (mobile)
[email protected]
Lisa Riley, Communications Manager, Chicago
(312) 410-8963 (office)
(312) 646-9130 (mobile)
[email protected]