Professional Development Online Comes of Age

Online professional development courses for teachers have blossomed in the past few years through the efforts of individual schools, school districts, states, and private companies. Schools are experimenting to find the right mix of traditional in-person professional development, usually concentrated in courses of a week or two, and online courses that may stretch over several months or an entire school year.

The author suggests that in choosing or creating online professional development courses, administrators and teachers must consider issues of course content; pedagogic style; time demands to complete the work; type of internet access, computer hardware, and software needed; and cost.

Teachers who have taken online courses have praised modularized courses that allow for flexibility in taking courses at the time of their choosing. But other students have worried that not taking courses with colleagues from their school will leave them isolated and embarrassed to admit when they are having trouble with new concepts (particularly in technology-related professional development). The best of the courses help reduce the potential for problems by providing opportunities for students to learn by different methods—discussion groups, guided coursework, and projects (again, the latter is most common in tech-ed courses).

There are an incredible number of online professional development course providers, and they range from degree-granting institutions to private companies offering tutorials on their equipment, to sites that host discussion groups and forums on particular topics. While a complete list is almost impossible to provide, the following sites are good starting points:

•What Makes a Successful Online Student?


• Peterson’s Study Tips for Successful Distance


• American Center for the Study of Distance Learning at

Penn State

• Classroom Connect’s Connected University

• Macromedia’s Training Cafe

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