The internet has removed many obstacles to training, especially for those of us who are strapped for time. Online teacher training, or rather, training for teachers via an online service, is at last being seen by the profession as a valid method of CPD delivery. Online training, like any other type of training, covers the spectrum from great to the not-so-good, from self-directed study that includes a mix of personal learning networks and various online resources, to structured courses that come at a price.
There is nothing wrong with either approach in our desire to improve our work-related knowledge and skills, so in this article we’ll look at three things you might want to consider when engaging with training for professional development.
When it comes to using any information and resources, the validity of the information we receive and interact with is important, not only to assure ourselves that what we are engaging with is accurate and relevant, but because it will have an impact on those we work with. If it is important to you or your school that training is accredited, then check whether it has been verified through an official accreditation organisation such as CIPD or CPD. Such organisations require that certain conditions are met by the course, and a member of the accrediting organisation will have taken the course and decided whether it meets the criteria set out by their organisation. Other accreditation can be achieved through educational establishments and awarding bodies who are able to provide online distance courses that carry formal accreditation.
There is the interaction within the online learning materials of course, and online courses that have an appropriate level of interaction within the course hold engagement. However this is not the only kind of interaction. Look out for online learning that provides and encourages the opportunity for social interaction between participants. Learning is enriched when there is an element of social interaction, and this is a natural element within a physical classroom, where ideas are shared, discussed, synthesised and adapted. So with online training, the social element enhances the learning experience of the participants. This can be facilitated via forums, live chat, webinars or face-to-face sessions where courses offer this as part of a blended learning format.
How does the course enable the application of what is being learned? Knowledge that stays in the head needs to be translated into experience to establish the reality of what is being learned. Sometimes the learning material or information may provide directed tasks for the participants to carry out some practical aspect, other times it may not. If you are one of those people who like to find the practical application of what is being learned and such a suggestion is not provided explicitly in the course or materials, try to come up with a way to apply it if the subject matter allows, or at least engage with others in discussion about it to help further understanding.
Whether you undertake a structured course or a personal learning journey there are many resources and providers available to suit each person’s needs and approach. Consider using social media and joining Twitter groups, YouTube channels, or subscribing to relevant professional journals. These and more can all be accessed online, many for free or at a low cost. As a final thought, if in doubt, check it out, see if others have recommended the particular resources or provider that you are considering.
You can learn more about the online courses that Connect offer here.
Alastair Fielden is connect’s Education Consultant with over 20 years experience in SEND Education and assistive technologies.