Creating an effective professional development program online is no easy task. Here are some established virtual programs that can help fit the bill:

  1. CalState Teach (http://www.calstateteach.net). From California State University, this program provides teacher certification, especially for those with emergency certificates who want to become fully certified. Instruction occurs online, but students meet some Saturdays and can link up with professors online. Courses center on classroom experiences.
  2. Home Education Network (http://www.unex.ucla.edu). This site offers certified and technical training programs both online and in the community at large.
  3. Minnesota Virtual University (http://www.mnvu.org). This site offers a range of classes online from varied sources–educational institutions to private corporations. A demo horticultural class is available as a sample experience.
  4. Technology Leadership Network (http://www.nsba.org/itte/onlinecourse.html). Technology classes are available online through the National School Boards Association. Courses support professional development and help assess how technology has affected students in today’s schools.
    To set up customized classes for other educators, check out these online platforms:
  5. Blackboard (http://www.blackboard.net). This site walks a course creator through set-up steps with a simple-to-use interface.
  6. Nicenet’s Internet Classroom Assistant (http://www.nicenet.org). Educators can use this source to set up a class very easily. The site features a “Classroom Assistant,” a feature that offers a variety of links to the class and its community. The site is run by technology professionals.

    These electronic bulletin boards are full of helpful features:

  7. EzBoard (http://www.ezboard.com). A customizable bulletin board for educators, complete with a filter to prohibit inappropriate messages.
  8. Discus (http://www.discusware.com/discus/home ). A linear (rather than threaded) message board, available in a few languages.
  9. vBulletin (http://vBulletin.com). A bulletin board linked to a comprehensive database. A pared-down version is available at no charge.
  10. World Crossing (http://www.worldcrossing.com). Based on Web Crossing software for conferencing, this forum requires little technical knowledge because it’s hosted for you. Features include unlimited messages and participants.

    As eLearning becomes more popular, some commerce sites are taking advantage of this trend to offer free courses while marketing their products at the same time. Here are two of the best:

  11. Powered (http://www.powered.com). Offering classes to a range of students, from high schoolers to adults, this site began as notharvard.edu in 1999. All classes are non-accredited.
  12. Barnes and Noble University (http://www.barnesandnobleuniversity.com). Provides a wide variety of online courses (such as Beginning Flash 5 Web Animation), and you can purchase related books through the Barnes and Noble eCommerce site.