Online professional development programs offer the obvious benefits of convenience, access, and progress-tracking. But experts warn that these programs can be ineffective if they are treated too casually. Instead, like other high-quality professional development options, they should be given strong oversight and integrated into a coherent plan for teacher learning.
Here are some tips for those involved in setting up online teacher-learning activities.
USE ONLINE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS that can be tailored to the needs of your district rather than a one-size-fits-all program. What might work well in one district may not apply in another because of different classroom approaches, curricula, data-gathering tools, and testing methods.
PROVIDE TEACHER INCENTIVES for course completion, including reimbursement for the cost of courses if an A or B grade is earned. With such incentives, a higher percentage of teachers will likely complete the courses and use what they have learned to improve their instruction.
GIVE TEACHERS THE SAME CREDITS, stipends, or time for participating in online courses as you would for traditional programs that require educators to attend in person. This policy sends the message that good online training is as important as other types of professional development.
BE WILLING TO INVEST in high-quality online professional development. Because resources on the Internet are often free, many administrators think that online coursework should be cheaper than traditional training. That is often not the case.
A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 2008 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook as Making Online PD Work