Ongoing professional development for your online teachers is another important factor in establishing a quality online learning program. Such professional development may include mentoring of online teachers, having your teachers participate in conferences and webinars, scheduling specific professional development days, and having your teachers take formal courses (both online and traditional) in topics related to online teaching.
Even experienced classroom teachers often compare the first year of teaching online to the first year of classroom instruction. A formal mentoring program provides a venue where new online teachers can obtain answers to their questions, allowing them to have a more successful initial online teaching experience. A mentoring program can also be the basis of a supportive learning community for new and experienced online teachers, where all teachers’ knowledge and experience s are valued and shared.
iNACOL has a publication dedicated to the topic of Mentoring and Coaching Models4 that provides a series of case studies and other information that will be very helpful as your program establishes a mentoring program.
Conferences and Webinars
iNACOL provides a variety of professional development opportunities including:
- iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium — held annually in November, this is the industry’s leading event for K-12 online, blended, and competency-based learning.
- Teacher Talk Webinars — a monthly series on the third Thursday of every month on topics chosen specifically for online teachers.
- Leadership Webinars — a monthly series on the second Wednesday of every month with topics that are geared for program leaders.
- Special Webinars on hot topics in online learning.
Information about these and all iNACOL events can be found at: http://www.inacol.org/events/
Other Professional Development5
Continued growth through professional development is critical, in particular because online learning technology and pedagogy is changing quickly. Topics that are often part of continued professional development include:
- Helping teachers understand how to motivate individual learners
- Enhancing student interaction and understanding without visual cues
- Tailoring instruction to particular learning styles
- Developing Web 2.0 and 21st century skills
- Modifying interactive lessons to meet individual student needs, including the needs of disabled students
- Developing heightened communication skills to enhance email correspondence and discussion board postings, and to recognize the tone of writing and nuances of word usage
- Improving the time management skills critical for online teachers
Your program may wish to schedule regular professional development days to address such topics or you may wish to have your teachers take part in formal courses to increase their skills. The following excerpt from an iNACOL Research Committee Issues Brief6 provides an excellent source of professional development resources.
References for footnotes can be found on the resources page or click on the footnote number for a direct link.