Satellite-powered on-demand professional development is being made available to schools by an Elgin, Ill., company called Educational Resources, best known as one of the nation’s leading educational software resellers. The company’s on-demand solution lets teachers access a number of video training modules from a desktop computer at any time.

“This model of staff development supports teachers,” said Robin Weber, product manager. “It’s available throughout the day, so teachers can view the materials at their convenience. It also saves schools from having to coordinate staff development around their teachers’ schedules.”

One of the biggest challenges to staff professional development in schools is finding the time to schedule it, Weber said. On-demand professional development not only solves this problem, but also lets teachers learn at their own pace.

On-demand training uses digital satellite technology to deliver compressed video and data files containing training modules to schools. The satellite technology allows the quick delivery of high-quality files that would take hours to deliver over the internet.

The information is stored on a content server connected to a school’s local area network. Teachers and other staff members use an on-screen menu to select desired training modules, which are then streamed to the desktop for viewing. Video can be accessed from any client PC or Macintosh computer.

The company’s training modules cover the leading applications used in schools, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Office; FileMaker Pro; ClarisWorks; HyperStudio; and instructional applications of digital cameras and scanners. Each module contains four skill levels, from beginner to mentor, and covers not only how to use an application, but also how to apply it in the classroom.

The training programs are organized to accommodate different learning styles, Weber said. They’re flexible enough so users can work through a module step by step or randomly access information. An integration strand also offers cross-curricular ideas for collaborative learning in a technology-rich environment.

A special feature of the Educational Resources solution is the ability to participate in an electronic mentoring program through interactive sessions with experts in the field. Periodically, teachers can participate in live mentoring sessions via satellite with experts, including technology guru Alan November, Weber said.

The City of Niagara Falls School District in New York uses the company’s on-demand staff training to give teachers in its 15 buildings the opportunity for professional development any time, anywhere. The district’s teachers can stream video training modules to a desktop computer or TV and can videotape them and bring them home to watch at night or on weekends.

New York requires 175 hours of in-service training for teachers over a period of three to five years, said Larry Martinez, Niagara Falls’ educational technology administrator. Given teachers’ busy schedules, he said, “we see on-demand training as the only real option for in-service training to meet these goals.”

Consultants from Educational Resources will visit a school district to assess its needs and develop a customized solution, Weber said. The company will provide and install the satellite dish and content server if necessary, wiring them to a school’s existing local area network. Costs vary according to a district’s needs, Weber said.

Educational Resources

City of Niagara Falls School District