The advantages of online professional development coursesconvenience, specialization, self-paced learning, and cost savingshold promise, but they have yet to be proven, the author warns.
Research indicates that actual teacher improvement comes from in-classroom experience, as well as training in educational theory and practice. Support from school administrators and a strong culture in the school are equally important factors. Online training offers none of these benefits, so the author suggests it should mainly be used as a complement to other forms of professional development.
Before relying on online professional development, teachers and administrators should consider the following questions:
1. Does the content of the training match identified needs?
2. Is there evidence that this form of online training can meet those needs?
3. Is the program advancing teachers’ knowledge of the content for which they are responsible?
4. Is the school providing support services after the trainingi.e., discussion groups, mentoring, and coaching?
5. Are there enough coaches and mentors for all teachers who need them?
6. Is the rest of the school culture supportive of the principles embodied in the online courses?