MPath - Marian’s engaging online education platform

Online Master of Arts in Education

The traditional classroom setting often leaves students frustrated and vulnerable, particularly at-risk and special needs students. Research shows at-risk youth are much more likely to disengage from school, depriving them of the basic education they’ll need to successfully transition into adulthood. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The online Master of Arts in Education, Area of Focus: At-Risk and Alternative Education (ARAE) degree program at Marian University prepares students to effectively work with at-risk learners in any educational setting.


You’ll learn to:

  • Recognize risk factors for vulnerable youth
  • Quickly assess the needs of youth in your care
  • Design and implement alternative education methods and strategies

Earn your master’s in 14 months — 100% online!

    By clicking submit, I give Marian University permission to contact me via email, phone or text regarding educational offerings.

    Who Is the Online ARAE Degree Program For?

    For licensed teachers and non-teachers alike, Marian University’s ARAE program is perfect for anyone involved in educating, counseling, coaching, or administering youth. Enrollment only requires a bachelor’s degree and a desire to make a difference.

    Marian University’s ARAE program is ideal for:
    ● Licensed teachers
    ● Professionals working directly with youth


    Licensed teachers and non-teachers all benefit from:
    ● An affordable master's degree
    ● Completion in as few as 14 months
    ● 100 percent online flexibility
    ● No GRE required
    ● Learning the skills to reach and engage at-risk youth
    ● A concentrated 10-course program focused on at-risk youth and alternative education
    ● Creating a capstone project

    For Licensed Teachers

    In the classroom environment, licensed teachers learn how to better understand and clinically assess the many factors in play for vulnerable students at risk of falling behind in school or developing behavioral issues.

    Teachers will have the training and knowledge to reach their most vulnerable students outside the confines of “teaching to the center” of the classroom. Using a holistic approach, educators can design and implement learning strategies that engage non-traditional learners, teaching to their strengths, talents, needs, abilities, aptitudes, and learning styles.

    Alternative Education License in Wisconsin

    Teachers licensed in Wisconsin completing the master's program also earn an Alternative Education add-on license, granted under Wisconsin WPI code 1952.

    For Non-Teachers

    The program is also a great fit for non-teachers. Outside the traditional classroom, professionals not licensed as teachers earning their ARAE brings a higher level of knowledge, empathy, and understanding of the psychological, emotional, and socioeconomic circumstances of the at-risk youth in their care.

    The Master of Arts in Education, Area of Focus: At-Risk and Alternative Education program helps all non-teaching professionals working with at-risk youth, including:

    ● Social workers
    ● Law enforcement officers
    ● Juvenile detention workers
    ● Youth counselors
    ● School psychologists
    ● Sunday school teachers

    What You’ll Learn

    Decades of research and experience lend a holistic approach to the program. Topic areas covered as you study online for your ARAE include:

    ● The methods for becoming more effective with at-risk youth in any educational setting.
    ● How to assess and implement alternative teaching methods, techniques, and programs.
    ● Develop a better understanding of the risk factors involved with vulnerable youth, particularly those from abusive or impoverished backgrounds.
    ● Incorporate a holistic view of the social and economic influence on all youth. Learn how to apply this broad view to specific contexts.
    ● How to clinically assess individual needs in order to develop and implement specific strategies based on the learner’s strengths, talents, and learning styles.
    ● Gain skills with digital tools to enhance learning.
    ● Study social justice issues, including dimensions of legal and adjudication issues.
    ● Instruction in differential instruction, response to intervention, and PBIS programming.
    ● Training in resilience, stress, and mental health issues.

    Students learning from each other, sharing their hope, strengths, and experience is another important component of the program.

    “My time in the At-Risk and Alternative Education Program at Marian has been profoundly impactful, both personally and professionally. I have grown tremendously in both arenas, and the result of my studies has set me on a new course. In fact, I would go as far as to say I am a fundamentally different person and better educator as a result of my time in Marian’s ARAE program.”

    Benjamin J. Laarman - 2020 Marian University Graduate, Alternative Education Teacher and Coach at Niagara High School, Niagara, Wisconsin

    “Our goal at Marian is to offer a flagship program of excellence in at-risk education. Children deserve equal opportunity and to be prepared for success – not just in school, but also in life. Our graduates change the world and save lives.”

    Dr. Anthony Dallmann-JonesDirector of the At Risk and Alternative Education Program

    MPath 7 week logo

    MPath Online Program Schedule: 7-Week Accelerated

    The online program is one of the Marian University MPath graduate programs offered in a 7-Week Accelerated format. With 100% online classes and 6 possible starts per year, the 7-Week Accelerated program provides a high-quality online degree with the flexibility that today’s adult learners are seeking. The flexible coursework design and ability to focus on fewer topics at once is custom made for working teachers and other professionals who are ready to take their education and career to the next level.

    Wisconsin Teachers

    Start by Earning Your Alternative Education License

    If you are not ready to commit to a master's program, the add-on license can quickly boost your skills in reaching vulnerable learners. Just two 100% online summer courses, 6 graduate-level credits, are all it takes to earn your Alternative Education license through Wisconsin's DPI. These credits can be applied later to the MAE At Risk and Alternative Education.

    Request Information


    The curriculum consists of ten courses (see below), each seven weeks in length. One of the unique features of Marian’s ARAE program is that all ten courses are specifically focused on at-risk and education strategies. There are no filler courses.  The Summer Term is the only occurrence where two courses will overlap. If taken consecutively, the degree can be completed in 14 to 18 months, depending on your entry term.

    Teachers who do not wish to complete an MAE degree may choose to earn a Wisconsin alternative education license (WI DPI code 1952) by completing two master’s level courses.

    Master of Arts in Education in At Risk and Alternative Education majors will take courses covering topics such as:

    • Teaching strategies for at risk education
    • Differentiated instruction and response to intervention
    • Social justice education
    • Resiliency, holistic health, and stress management
    • Prevention, intervention, and community


    Sample Course Plan:
    Download Sample Course Plan

    30 Credit Program: 10 courses ***

    Designed to assist both mainstream and alternative educators to more effectively understand, assess, reach and teach at-risk youth. Learning theories and practices will be reviewed; diverse methods for diverse students will be identified and practiced. Recent research and best practice in using a variety of methods and strategies will be targeted.

    This course explores individual differences in students and the concepts of Differentiated Instruction and how it applies to RTI initiatives and Understanding by Design. Universal Design for Learning will serve as a conceptual framework for making information and activities equally accessible to all people of all functional and ability levels without distinctions.

    Candidates will demonstrate professional planning, applied research, evaluation and reflective skills to support the delivery of more effective teaching of diverse or alternative education PK-12 students. The course content and analysis of student achievement project will provide a context for the teacher to analyze instructional practices and assessment data to maximize student learning. Candidates will apply methods of assessing student achievement and analysis of results in order to document student progress toward specific learning goals.

    Exploration of multimodal literacies and expansion of ways information is acquired and interpreted. Research in cognitive load and learning implication is examined. Multimodal literacy tools are evaluated to support candidates in information acquisition. Candidates explore many aspects of the writing, design, and distribution processes of multimodal literacies. Candidates identify how digital technologies have increasing capacity for individuals to adapt the tools for their own information and communication purposes. Candidates apply literacy skills to real world problems and knowledge-building.

    This course explores individual differences as well as normative development in children from birth through adulthood. Children vary in physical, intellectual, emotional and social development, and this course will familiarize educators with conceptual foundations as well as applied methodologies that are consistent with current human development and learning theory. Learning needs of all children, particularly at risk learners are the focal point for discussion, review of methodologies and applications to development and learning theories.

    This course is designed to assist both mainstream and alternative school educators to more effectively understand, assess, reach, and teach the increasing population of discouraged, difficult, and alternative learners. A major emphasis in the course is the discovery of how cultural, family, and societal issues can and do influence youth both outside and inside the school environment, and what alterations and adaptations educators may need to make to remain effective with the affected student.

    This course examines how philosophy, classroom strategies, and known research may be combined into a team approach including students, parents, and other professionals to better meet the intellectual, personal, social needs of diverse populations of alternative learners at the classroom, building, and district levels. Special emphasis will be given to the effective schools body of research.

    Exploration into theory and praxis of social justice education. Particular attention is given to issues of discrimination (racism, sexual orientation, poverty, immigration, for example), how these dynamics influence learning environments, and what educators can do to work for systemic change by ensuring equitable education for their diverse learning populations.

    Study of current, effective resiliency programs and mental, emotional and physical health and stress issues for at-risk learners. Attention is given to latest research findings as well as existing, successfully working programs and models working in these areas.

    Overview of the latest prevention and intervention programs operating in communities. Examination of potential interaction with social services, the judicial system, law enforcement and community programs that have been, are currently, and will be effective in redirecting at-risk students when needed. An exploration of family dynamics, parent programs and school practices for parental involvement will be included.

    The Education Programs offered by the Marian University School of Education are approved by the:

    wi-dept-public-instruction-logo         aacte-logo       

    Marian University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    Application Requirements
    To be accepted into the Master of Arts in Education, you must have at least a 2.75 GPA from a regionally accredited college or university. Marian University does not require the GRE.

    Follow this link to the application page. You will be required to complete the application and submit an official transcript showing that your degree was conferred.

    Graduation Requirements
    To receive the Master of Arts in Education degree, candidates must meet the following criteria:

    • Completion of the coursework or its equivalent with a minimum GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale)
    • Grades below C (2.0) are not counted toward meeting degree requirements
    • Submission of an application for degree completion

    The answer to “How have I changed as a result of completing that ARAE program?” is reasonably dramatic: The combination of finding and completing this program and  transferring to my current position saved my teaching career. I was ready to quit. I don’t like admitting that, but I had been pushed past my breaking point and I couldn’t see a productive way out. Finding this program and the text from my (now) supervisor telling me about my current position happened within a week of each other. The “book knowledge” that I gained from this program was tremendous, but the single biggest change that I experienced as a result of completing the ARAE Program was that I gained back my passion for teaching, and I honestly believe there is nothing more valuable to me than that.

    Kathleen Heinrich, High School Alt. Ed. Teacher, Sun Prairie, WI

    I knew that I wanted to be more, and was meant to be more for students, and I needed to find a way to reach what some teachers were calling “bad” students. Enrolling in the At-Risk and Alternative Education Program at Marian University was the best thing I could have done for myself and the things I wanted to accomplish as an educator. I feel equipped to have courageous conversations with other teachers who are having hard interactions with at-risk students. I feel prepared to work towards strong connections with my students and helping them find ways to be resilient and strong. After each course taken, I felt stronger to be DR. DJ’s “Angel-Warrior Educator” I knew I was meant to be. 

    – Amy Steiner, 4th grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary, Oshkosh, WI

    Ultimately, each of the ten classes in this program has forever changed the way I not only approach diverse situations, but it has also made me more of a real crusader. Striving to teach my co-workers some of the very important information and perspectives discussed for the last seven weeks times ten classes! I am grateful to have found this program and take nothing but great skills away from it.

    – Kacie McCullough, High School Resource Room Teacher, Special Education provided and Co-department Chair, Livonia, Michigan

    As a graduate of the At-Risk and Alternative Master’s in Education program at Marian University I feel competent to work with all students. The program was rigorous and relevant. Initially, I was reluctant to enroll in an online program because I worried that I would miss the traditional classroom interactions. However, with children and a full-time teaching position I needed the flexibility of on-line courses if I was ever going to earn my master’s degree. My reluctance completely evaporated on the first day of course work because the whole process was interactive. We had excellent discussions and learned a lot of information from our professor and each other. It was never easier than the traditional classroom as some think; I always felt challenged and inspired by what I was learning.

    – Laura Lindberg, ARAE Graduate and Kaukauna, Wisconsin, Middle School At-Risk Educator

    To Whom It May Concern,

    I graduated from the ARAE program at Marian University.  I was grateful for the opportunity, created by the online format, to receive a master’s degree without giving up my teaching position.  But ARAE is far more than a degree, it is a life changing event.

    The ARAE program helped me to refine my ideas about education and join an ever-increasing number of cutting-edge educators who see clearly how effective reform will prepare students for the 21st Century.  The program has an exciting point of view, and the instructors, other learners and staff are consistently available to support students in this mission.  Frankly, I feel closer to some of the professors I met online in this program than to those with whom I have worked in a traditional university setting.  As a graduate of ARAE, I am not alone, but part of a movement to help kids reach their potential.

    Marian University is so serious about this program, that I was elected from the student body to serve on the committee to choose a new Dean for the School of Education, even though I had only spent two days on campus.  I was also given a Graduate Merit Scholarship after my first course, based on my academic achievement.  Highly unusual in most online programs, but Marian extends the same opportunities to online learners as to the students in its campus programs.

    Since graduation, I have been working to establish an after-school program for at-risk students while working on my Doctorate in Education at Capella University.  I am also a Student Teacher Supervisor for Grand Canyon University and adjunct Faculty for the University of Phoenix.

    I strongly support ARAE becoming a totally online program so that educators across the country can have access to the same ideas, support and faculty that I did.

    Rabbi Sidney A.Vineburg, MAE ARAE, Detroit, Michigan

    I really enjoy the online classes. I believe that there are merits to both online and face to face instruction, but the convenience of meeting in a virtual classroom, far outweighs the benefits of a face to face classroom in my opinion. Every time I log on, I learn something new. The work is challenging, but challenging in a way that is applicable, rather than just busy work. Each student has the opportunity to take your assignments and apply them to their own unique (or potential future) work setting, school, etc.

    Debra Lins, Principal Alternative Education, Beaver Dam,WI

    When I was ready to pursue a master’s degree, Marian was near the top of my list as options.  I researched several other higher education institutions, also.  My number one priority was to choose a master’s degree that I felt would stand the test of time.  I wanted a master’s degree that specialized in something that would not only make me a better teacher but also have a greater impact on my students’ education. 

    Marian’s At-Risk and Alternative Education program was intriguing to me. At first, I was reluctant in participating in an on-line master’s program.  After discussing my reluctance with a Marian representative, I decided to jump headfirst into the 21st century and give it a try.  I am sure glad that I did!  The program provided all that was promised: library assistance, tech support, and quick responses from its instructors.  The online format provided enough flexibility for me, a full-time teacher, to establish when and where learning was going to take place throughout the week.  That’s not to say that the program was easier than traditional programs; it shines with enough academic rigor to be proud of your degree. What I am saying is that I was able to piece together a different schedule each week surrounding my teaching requirements and my course requirements. I valued, also, the constant online class discussions on topics relating to, not only course readings, but also to application in today’s schools. 

    I walked away from the ARAE Program with a greater sense of urgency in advocating for at-risk students, not only in my classroom but in my school.  Research-driven decision-making resonated throughout the program regarding children and education.  The ARAE program was taught by instructors whose passion is standing up for at-risk students and improving schools.  In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience obtaining my master’s degree through the delivery of on-line instruction at Marian University.  It met and surpassed my number one priority: A degree that makes me a better educator impacting the lives of students

    Eric Bartelme , 3rd Grade Teacher, Brandon, WI

    Dr. Anthony Dallmann-Jones
    Professor/Program Director
    Anthony (Tony) Dallmann-Jones, Ph.D., is a trailblazer in At-Risk Education. His passion and vision help guide the design of the Online Master of Arts in Education, Area of Focus: At-Risk and Alternative Education program at Marian University. He also founded the National At-Risk Education Network (NAREN) network, collaborating with like-minded educators and others working in the field. Dr. DJ continues his role as director of the ARAE program at Marian University and is an avid writer and researcher.

    “Our goal at Marian is to build a flagship program of excellence in at-risk education for children who deserve equal opportunity of attainment. A ‘school’ is supposed to prepare kids for success – not just in school, but also in life.  ARAE is a program not only for mainstream teachers. We actively seek and are open to all of those working in educational settings with at-risk kids – whether in public schools, incarcerated youth educational programs, youth workers, home-based social worker educators, church educators, counselors, and private enterprises.”


    Dr. Gladys Arome
    Assistant Professor

    Laura Lindberg

    Debra Lins
    Adjunct Faculty

    John “Eric” Williamson
    Adjunct Faculty

    Sr. Cyndi Nienhaus
    Associate Professor

    Apply Now


    If you have any questions or concerns during this process, please contact:

    Adult & Online Studies
    45 South National Ave.
    Fond du Lac, WI 54935

    920.923.8726 or 1-800-2-MARIAN ext. 8726