Marina Kostina: Best-selling author and businesswoman creates new approaches to online teaching

by College of Education | May 03, 2013

Marina KostinaMarina Kostina (BA ’95/MA ’97/PhD ’11) is changing the way teachers and students interact online. She is also expanding the global reach of higher education through her work in distance learning.

Kostina, who says she came to the United States from Russia 20 years ago with “just a bag in my hand and a dream in my heart,” is now a best-selling author on Amazon and has created her own thriving business, Wired@Heart, which teaches instructors to build effective online courses.

“I want to help teachers and subject-matter experts transcend distances by sharing their knowledge online without losing personal connection with their students,” says Kostina, who has co-authored two books on this subject. 

Kostina’s innovative work is critically important as more and more students sign up for online courses.

Columbia University’s Community College Research Center recently
reported that about one-third of American college students are enrolled in an online course.

“Distance learning provides many opportunities for educational institutions to offer cost-effective, green learning, not bound by time or geography,” Kostina says. “But despite its numerous benefits, web-based distance learning is far from being a perfect educational
environment.”

Kostina’s passion for improving and expanding education comes from her mother, Irina Kostina, a Russian language professor at the University
of Iowa.

“My mother always told me that education is my biggest treasure that no one can ever take away,” she says.

Kostina is also devoted to bringing distance-learning opportunities to parts of the world that lack easy and affordable access to higher education.

“Last year, I went to South Africa and helped develop a distance-learning program for people from the most remote and economically depressed areas of the country so they can break the
cycle of poverty,” says Kostina, who is also working on projects in Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.     

Foreign Language Associate Professor Emeritus Michael Everson was one of Kostina’s advisors during her time at the UI College of Education. He says he sees her accomplishing big things in the distance-learning field.

“Educators have known for a long time that technology holds promise and potential for foreign language learning,” he says. “Marina has a unique grasp of the specifics that need to be addressed if this potential is to be realized.”

Kostina says one of the main problems facing online education today is the mistaken belief that distance learning is just an adaptation of face-to-face teaching.

“It’s a new concept that requires a different set of skills and strategies for both teachers and students,” Kostina says. “Traditional approaches to teaching in this context are not only ineffective, but also result in increased work load for both students and teachers and often reflect an old-fashioned, correspondence-like teaching.” 

Kostina says positive relationships with her UI education professors, including Michael Everson, Pamela Wesely, Leslie Schrier, Lia Plakans, and Stephen Alessi, were critical in her academic success. She believes that distance learning can and should incorporate authentic interpersonal relationships between instructors and students as well as among students in an online course. 

“Technology nowadays allows for important interactions, community building, and project-based learning, all of which should be at the core of online education,” she says.

Wesely, an assistant professor in Foreign Language at the UI College of Education, says she believes Kostina’s work will “raise the bar for learning online.”

“Her work will help teachers who teach online to break some of their bad habits to better serve their students,” Wesely says. “Students will be more engaged with their learning as a result, and more possibilities will then come about.”

To learn more about Kostina’s work in helping others build effective online courses, visit www.wiredatheart.com.

The UI College of Education is a leader in online education. In 2006, the Educational Administration Program became the UI’s first to offer its entire program “live” online through real-time, web-based technology.

Today, UI College of Education students can study online to earn a Talented and Gifted endorsement, a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership, or a Superintendent Endorsement or other specialist degree to prepare for district-level leadership posts.

All four of the College’s departments — Rehabilitation and Counselor Education, Educational Policy and Leadership Studies, Psychological and Quantitative Foundations, and Teaching and Learning — offer a number of distance education courses that are available to both admitted and non-admitted students.

To learn more about online learning at the College of Education visit www.education/uiowa.edu/academic-programs/online-learning. To learn more about distance education at the UI, visit www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu.