Many educators are familiar with how online classrooms look and operate in college settings, but have you ever thought about how an online environment could positively impact everyday professional development (PD)?

Educators have to complete specific professional development requirements in order to maintain their certification. In the State of Michigan, requirements for professional development may have different implications for all teachers versus new teachers.

Once an educator walks into that PD, however, the scene completely changes based on the content, the presenter, the audience or a myriad of other factors. One of these factors is prior knowledge of the content. This is an area that puts presenters at a disadvantage: what is the level of prior knowledge that each participant is arriving with?

Instead of trying to guess what our PD participants already know, how much experience they have as an educator, or how much training they have received, what if we provided a resource to establish a baseline for all participants? Imagine giving your PD participants access to all of your training materials. Wouldn’t that establish a baseline of prior knowledge that all your participants should bring into the training? This concept may seem ridiculous, because if the participants have the materials that will be made available during the professional development, why would they attend? What is their motivation to show up? However, the idea of making resources available isn’t new; open educational resources (OERs) have and continue to be readily available. What IS NOT available, however, is the training of HOW to implement those resources by a trained or experienced professional. That is the WHY behind going to a professional development.

Now go back to the original premise, what if we made those resources available to participants with the intent of establishing a baseline of prior knowledge before they ever came to the face-to-face training? What if there was “On-demand” professional development? Wouldn’t we be able to spend more time during the PD talking about HOW to implement those resources or the best ways to perfect the art of their craft?

These questions are why it’s important to blend your PD by putting an introduction to your PD online. Now, instead of starting your next professional development with the mindset of “Let’s start at the beginning and seeing how far we get,” you can shift your own thinking to “I know you already know the WHAT and WHY behind this topic, let’s talk about how to implement it into your classroom with fidelity.”

Think about the introductory information that you start with at the beginning your professional development session. Could this introductory information be moved to an online space to provide a baseline of information that educators should walk into the room already knowing? What if this online component became a REQUIREMENT or a prerequisite to come to the face-to-face training? Wouldn’t the conversations go deeper and the content lean more toward implementation rather than research and rationale?

EduPaths, an online professional development portal powered by Canvas Learning Management System, was designed to help blend your PD. Create a simple, introductory online course (as short as 15 minutes) that can engage your participants to the concepts and ideas to be covered during the face-to-face session. This is not meant to remove the necessity of the face-to-face, but to establish a baseline of information that they should already know once they enter your training.

Below are three examples of introductory courses and the rationale behind putting them into an online professional development portal like EduPaths, to optimize future trainings:

Introduction to Early Childhood PBIS (PPSC)

Created by early childhood site coordinators to prepare educators and child care providers with the necessary information they need to be successful. This course is made available once new educators are hired, and is a prerequisite to their first face to face training. This not only helps educators engage in the content ahead of time, but could remove a number of hours of educators being out of the classroom.

Early Warning Intervention and Monitoring System (EWIMS): Overview (part 1 of an 8 course series)

Created by educators around providing and monitoring interventions with students, EWIMS introduces what systems and data sets can be used to identify and help struggling learners. This course establishes baseline information into the seven remaining courses in the series so that, regardless of background or professional experience with early warning systems, users have a practical introduction on how to establish teams within their school or district for the purpose of using data for student success.

Accessible Materials Made Right #1: Code and Foundations (part 1 of a 7 course series)

Created by experts in the area of developing accessible materials in education. These online courses replaced two full-day trainings. This first course in the series is meant to establish the WHY behind creating compliant and accessible materials. The course is then preceded by a series of courses on HOW to create these type of resources in different tools, but the WHY, the rationale and legal expectations, is discussed extensively in this first course.

How could you improve/upgrade/blend your professional development? How can you create the most successful scenario for all of your participants, regardless of their experience or training? The answer for many is to blend your professional development by creating an online introduction to your face-to-face training that ensures every participant has the necessary information or resources to leave your training and can apply those ideas into their classroom.

 

Keep learning,

Jacob Gentry
Instructional Designer, EduPaths