By Dennis Lessard
With educator achievement goals mandated by both federal and state governments, teachers today must devote time to their own professional development. Online instruction offers educators a more balanced and flexible way to achieve their professional development goals while working full time. Here are some facts:
Self-paced classes offer the most flexibility. Educators have total control over when and where they learn.
Most online learning offers one-onone support. Online classes offer individual support via online communication with peers and professors through email, message boards, chat rooms and video conferencing.
Accredited online courses and degree programs provide the same total learning experience as a traditional school setting. Accredited online degree programs are evaluated using the same rules and accreditation agencies as their traditional school counterparts.
Educators can take online courses with confidence. Teachers who are reluctant to participate in a traditional school situation often excel at online learning as they can express themselves confidently via emails, chats, and message boards.
Online learning levels the playing field for rural teachers. Educators living in the smallest towns can use online classes to access the same quality of learning as those in large cities.
Examples of Successful Online Professional Development Programs
Whether a course or program is sponsored by a state government, a commercial teacher-training agency, or an online university, many organizations offer the means for teachers to update their knowledge and satisfy their professional development requirements. Here are some examples:
Ohio government program: The eTech Ohio Commission provides online learning leadership and service opportunities for all teachers, who must meet “highly qualified” professional development standards.
PBS TeacherLine commercial program: PBS TeacherLine program provides teachers with opportunities to reflect on what they’ve learned and then “discuss” their experiences with experts and peers. Teachers access courses online, read the material, and then put the new practice or strategy to work immediately. Afterwards, they connect with class facilitators and other learners to discuss their experiences, successes/failures and alternatives.
University programs: Teachers can now take full degree coursework at prestigious, accredited online universities such as Northcentral University (www.ncu.edu), National University (www.nu.edu/) and the University of Phoenix (www.phoenix.edu), among others.
When selecting an online professional development course or degree program, teachers should ensure that the curriculum includes some of the following principles:
• Presents information that enhances individual, academic, and organizational skills.
• Provides the latest data in teaching methodology, leadership techniques, and learning practices.
• Upgrades teacher knowledge in specific content areas, use of technology, practical teaching strategies and more.
• Connects to a long-term, goal-oriented personal plan for career improvement and advancement.
In summary, online courses provide a more flexible way of learning and give teachers the ability to balance their teaching careers with their professional development goals and their busy lives.
Dennis Lessard, PhD, is the Dean of School of Education at Northcentral University.
FOR MORE INFO:
www.ncu.edu, (866) 776-0331.