When many of us started in education, it was hard to find high quality professional development that worked. The only options seemed to be long, impersonal workshops or trekking to a university in the evenings when we were already exhausted from a full day of teaching.
Fortunately, technology has changed all of that. Today, teachers and administrators can take control of their own learning and find the professional development opportunities online that work best for them.
But despite the great benefits technology has afforded in expanding choice, the new challenge is finding the right professional development.
How to find professional development that fits
Over the years, best practices have been identified in conjunction with professional learning. And as online learning has developed and expanded, there have also been various initiatives to develop guidelines and benchmarks of excellence.
Based on these new developments, here are the questions you need to ask yourself when picking a professional development opportunity:
- Does it fit your schedule and learning preferences?
It’s worth doing a little research on the course(s) you’re considering to make sure the requirements and time demands workable with your current schedule and responsibilities. Is there a set time when you will be required to be online with the instructor and classmates? Also take a look at the course delivery method and “flow.” Does it seem to fit with the way you prefer to learn? What are the assignments like, and how will you be evaluated? Interaction with the instructor and peers and presentation of information (lecture, readings, multimedia, etc.) are also key considerations in picking a course that will be a positive experience for you.
2. Is it relevant to your work and learning goals?
We’ve probably all had experiences with professional development that seemed to be a waste of time. That’s because professional development must be relevant to be effective. Be sure to evaluate your options for relevance. Do the course topics and objectives address the challenges you face in your classroom or school? Is the content evidence-based and proven effective? Are the course assignments and activities applicable to your daily work and/or professional learning goals?
3. Does it fit with your professional development requirements and goals?
There are many different reasons educators pursue professional development, including recertification, district/state policy, and working towards graduate degrees. Of course, you will want to confirm that the opportunities you choose will actually meet certain requirements. Look specifically for professional development that is accredited or backed by a college/university and offers the full range of course/content options you need to meet your goals. Look specifically for well-established providers that offer the full range of course/content options you need to meet your goals. In cases when graduate credit hours are required, ensure that is backed by an accredited college/university.
Consider the case-based approach
Developed out of research at the University of Virginia, CaseNEX courses offer an innovative approach to online professional development and have been the right choice in online learning for thousands of educators. All CaseNex courses are facilitated by experienced faculty and employ authentic, situational learning through the use of a case-based method. Multimedia resources are integrated into every course, allowing participants access to real classrooms and issues and serving as the springboard for relevant, engaging learning. Moreover, CaseNEX courses are asynchronous (not in real time), offering great flexibility for busy schedules. Content spans eight key areas of education, and graduate credit is available through a partnership with Adams State University (ASU).
So as you start to look for new professional development opportunities, be sure that the course you pick truly meets your needs.