Online professional development is becoming more necessary to reach teachers on many campuses. With the increase in paperwork and the demand for more and more data to support what is seen in the classroom, teachers need a more flexible way to learn what they need to know to serve the children in their classrooms. There is little to no time any more for teacher’s to go out and learn new ideas or new ways of doing things unless they are willing to sacrifice time with their families. Pair that with the general resistance there is to change, and the need for quality online PD is more apparent. The online “Appy Hour” course was developed with those needs in mind.
The online course focuses mainly on the learning theories of constructivism and connectivism. Bates states that discussion forums and projects are keys to constructivist learning (2015). Every week of the course that has been created has a discussion piece and some kind of project or creation for the teacher’s to complete. By focusing on learning by doing, the teachers will come away with real skills that they can apply in their classrooms immediately. Several of the projects will be able to be used in the classroom, as they were designed for the learner to use a current topic in their classroom to construct the assignment around. There is a slight connectivism reference in that the instructor is the facilitator, and the individual learners are creating their own learning through their choices in projects. The open ended projects were designed just for this reason. There is also a great deal of experiential learning in this online course. Using the learning by doing idea, teachers will have more knowledge on what can be used in their classrooms in the future and how they can apply it to what they are doing right now. By making the course less memorization and regurgitation, the learning will be more likely to be applied in the future.
There are many course instructional designs that can be used when creating an online course. The ADDIE model is one design model that many designers use when creating a course. ADDIE stands for analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate. This model is useful in more complex subjects and should be encouraged to be used when the subject matter is very complex to make sure the learning is effective. It wasn’t very useful in the design of this professional development class, though there were pieces of it that were considered in the course design. Design was very important to the creation of this class, and will be discussed further below. Evaluation is a key to any kind of teaching, and will be included in the online course also. The online collaborative learning model is another example of a course design. This model encourage students to work together to create learning. The “Appy Hour” course did use some components of this model, especially when looking at using a discussion for each week. Competency based learning is showing skill completion by the learner. Although general skills are addressed in each week of the course, there is not one specific right or wrong way of doing things, so this kind of learning is not addressed directly in the course.
The main instructional design used when creating this course was the UBD design, created by Wiggins and McTighe. The course was designed in a backwards model, looking at the desired outcomes first, then looking at the activities and materials that would be needed to achieve those outcomes. The course was designed with the more concise three column model, which can be accessed here.. By creating the course in this way, there is a sense of clarity and organization that is necessary for a fully online course. Each week was able to be laid out with a specific area in mind, and the learner was given many resources to examine before completing their project. By deciding on the general assessment first, the course was laid out in a way that was very clear about the areas being addressed. This model is a very effective way to plan a course, online or not, because it keeps the focus on the end goal first, not on all the activities that can be found to teach a concept. By keeping the end in mind, there is not more focus put on getting to the end goal with numerous and sometimes unnecessary activities.
Bates states that there are key skills that all learners will need in the digital age (2015). These include knowledge management, IT skills, interpersonal communication, lifelong learning, flexibility, and collaborative learning. To address these skills with students, first teachers must master these skills for themselves. The online course created not only has teachers practicing some of these skills in the actual course, it gives them current information on some of these skills and how to use them in their classrooms with students. It is impossible for teachers to give the students the skills necessary for their future if they don’t understand or have them either.
Online learning is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. Whether used for convenience or for geography reasons, online learning is one way that all people can be reached. There is so much information out in the world, through open access and creative commons, students can become directors of their own learning instead of driving to a campus and hearing what an instructor thinks is the most important information. As online learning becomes more common, and it moves down from universities to public school districts starting to experiment with it, professional development on how to use online courses and how to create the content is going to be more necessary than ever. Online learning is not taking what we already do in the classroom and recording it to go online, but an entirely different way of designing learning. If teachers are not given the necessary professional development to do this in an appropriate way, then we are doing a disservice to the students. My online course is just the tip of the iceberg in showing different ways to increase learning in the classroom. If instructors learn even one new way of creating content or engaging students, then that can be applied to creating more effective online learning for students.
By studying the different ways of creating online classes, the different theories behind online learning, and by looking at media in a different way, applying this knowledge in the classroom should be quite easy. Reading the INACOL report on standards for online classes, I was given a reference point to look at any future online learning that I will create, for adults or children. Knowing what the skills that are needed in the future, as a teacher of young children, I will be able to show using these skills as an adult and talk the children through why I used the skills. For example, instead of looking up an answer to a question ahead of time, I will look up the information in front of the students, while talking through the different ways of accessing knowledge and how to find quality information on the internet. Doing this at a young age will make these kinds of skills a natural response instead of having students have to learn this later in their education. The study of the different kinds of media, and how students learn the best, can be applied both in my kindergarten classroom and my online course. I don’t think adults are much different than 5 year olds when it comes to what is the more engaging way to learn new information. By using richer media, and by keeping in mind what is more appropriate for the particular learning goal, many of the skills learned while creating this online course can be translated to any professional experience.
Bates, A.W. (2015). Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning.Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/
Wiggins, G. (2005). Overview of UbD & the Design Template – grantwiggins.org. Retrieved November 6, 2016, from http://www.grantwiggins.org/documents/UbDQuikvue1005.pdf
National Standards for Quality Online Courses – iNACOL. (2011). Retrieved November 6, 2016, from http://www.inacol.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/national-standards-for-quality-online-courses-v2.pdf