Literacy Lines

The Keys to Literacy Blog

Lessons Learned About Blended Online PD

by Brad Neuenhaus | 1 | 0 Comments

Are you considering the benefits of a blended online professional development (PD) model? Should your school offer a hybrid combination of face-to-face and online training? Many schools are deciding that, in addition to cost benefits and flexibility, blended PD can be an effective way to improve teachers’ instructional practice. For many educators, blended online PD is new, so careful planning and communication with teachers is essential for an effective experience with this model of PD.

Keys to Literacy began developing online PD courses in 2009. Since then, nearly 3,000 teachers across 54 districts have participated in blended online PD for our comprehension and vocabulary training. Through this experience, I’ve learned a great deal about what it takes to implement hybrid training.

Online courses that are combined with in-person PD can be synchronous (require participants and instructors/trainers to be online at the same time) or asynchronous (course can be accessed at any time; participants complete activities whenever they choose). eLearners.com provides a detailed explanation of these two models.

Whichever approach you choose, I’ve found that there are four critical elements that must be addressed before you start offering online PD:

  1. Participant readiness
  2. Technology requirements
  3. Supports
  4. Feedback and accountability

Here is a list of questions related to these elements that I have compiled to help schools and districts get started with planning for blended online PD.

Most educators agree that a hybrid model that includes some opportunity for teachers to interact and receive feedback in person with a literacy trainer is a more ideal situation than just taking an asynchronous online course, and I would agree based on Keys to Literacy’s experience with blended online PD. The online portion of the training enables teachers to access information at their own pace, while the face-to-face portion provides differentiated feedback once teachers begin trying instructional practices with students.

Scholastic’s Administrator Magazine explores some of the pluses and minuses of online PD.

I recently had an opportunity to collaborate with the people who developed the PowerUp What Works website when we jointly sponsored a free webinar about how technology can be used to support the use of quick writes.  PowerUp What Works houses a terrific collection of materials for using technology to teach literacy and math to struggling learners. They offer free materials that can be used by a school or district to deliver blended online PD to teachers about how to use technology in the classroom. These materials are an excellent example how online PD can be combined with in-district face-to-face follow up.

As Keys to Literacy continues to develop effective ways to combine our online PD offerings to schools and individual teachers, I hope to share more of our experience in future Literacy Lines blog posts.

Brad Neuenhaus

Brad is the co-founder of Keys to Literacy. Over his seven years in education, he has focused on developing on and offline materials and processes to support the professional learning of teachers and administrators. His interest is in developing programs and implementation strategies that support sustainable school and district wide instructional change.

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