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The Changing Face of Professional Development

JOELLEN KILLION
THE WAY THAT HUMANS learn is changing. Just as learning for students is changing, so is learning for teachers. If
teachers are expected to implement 21st-century learning in their own classrooms to prepare students to succeed in todays networked, technologically rich world, they need to develop their own expertise with new learning technologies. Technology influences professional development far beyond just requiring teachers to know how to integrate it into their classrooms. Professional development today is a pathway to improving student learning. It has an expanded emphasis on developing teachers effectiveness. But there also are far fewer resources for professional development today, and in the face of multiple reforms those responsible for professional development are forced to explore how technology can support adult learning in their schools.

rofessional development has grown beyond standard one-size-fits-all, sit-and-get sessions. Technology increases access to and availability of professional learning and expands the way educators acquire information and meet their personal and professional goals for continuous development. Online professional development has evolved from text-heavy screens of static content, occasionally supplemented with photographs and other graphic displays, to highly dynamic and interactive learning applications that allow learners to design their own learning pathway, manage and select their own content, co-construct understanding, demonstrate competencies, and generate networks for ongoing learning. With the introduction of gaming into the world of online learning, educators can enter simu-

lated boardrooms, principals offices, classrooms, and schools to experience firsthand the impact of their decisions. Teachers can use online whiteboards to share work or capture their classrooms with flip video cameras to seek feedback later from their colleagues. Online networks provide additional support for teachers, whether they want to learn from colleagues in the same school or halfway around the world or ask questions through discussion groups. With these new opportunities come new questions to answer. How can Web 2.0 tools and new technology improve or supplement professional development, whether online or face to face? Can they help teachers improve their practice so that students learn more? What challenges need to be met to get the most out of these new ways of learning?

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About the Author


JOELLEN KILLION is the deputy executive director of Learning Forward, formerly the National Staff Development Council. Her work focuses on improving professional learning for all educators so that every student succeeds. She contributes frequently to Learning Forward publications and has authored a number of books on professional development. At Learning Forward, she has led a number of initiatives and research projects related to examining the link between professional development and student learning. She has extensive experience in planning, design, implementation, and evaluation of professional development at the school, system, regional, state and provincial, and federal levels.

A Range of Options
Each form of online professional development serves a distinct purpose and contributes differently to the results. Chris Dede, a pioneer in the field of online professional learning, stresses, Just as we need a range of pedagogies to match different styles of learning, we need a range of media to match different styles of learning. A really good professional development experience online is going to have as many media as feasible, from wikis to social bookmarking to asynchronous discussions to synchronous chats to streaming videos, because thats how we create that ecology (Crow, 2010, p. 12). Early forms of online professional development that are still common today include courses offered by school districts, universities or colleges, technical assistance agencies, professional associations, nonprofit organizations, or for-profit vendors. These courses are bound typically by a specified time frame, incorporate a defined curriculum, and require specific assignments and assessments for completion. School districts approach online courses in a variety of ways. Some, often those that are larger, have purchased or leased their own learning management system or platform, such as Blackboard, Web CT, or ANGEL. Other districts use a freeware learning platform, such as Moodle, to create their own courses aligned with their particular goals or needs. Some purchase access to courses from course developers or vendors. Still others work with organizations that provide course development to custom-design courses to align with the districts needs. Teachers participate in online courses individually as they would in college or university programs, or, in some cases, they take part as teams or entire faculties. One example of this is WIDE Worlds professional education programs, developed at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. They model how networked learning improves professional performance at scale. Teams of educators collaborate in instructor-led, online courses, completing assignments together and posting responses as a single voice. Online study groups may include teachers and leaders with similar interests from different schools, districts, states, or nations. An on-

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line coach provides tailored support and feedback throughout the course as teams apply new ideas to their own work. WIDE World recruits coaches from successful graduates of its programs, trains them in online and onsite coaching, and promotes exchange among coaches through an online forum. School organizations in Singapore, Australia, the United States, and Jordan conducted action research on the effect of networked learning with WIDE World. They found that their educators formed both local and virtual professional learning communities by developing a common language and collaboration strategies to support continual school improvement. esides more formal courses, informal professional learning options are also available. Video clubs have grown in popularity (Sherin & van Es, 2009; van Es, 2010). Video clubs are small groups of teachers that meet together to view videos of one anothers classrooms. Sometimes the video focuses on students working through a learning task. Others might feature the teacher interacting with the whole class or a few students. Online communities are also multiplying. Educators may participate in several communities in which they access and share resources, participate in discussions, reflect on their work, or seek and receive support. Novice teachers, for example, may participate in an online peer network designed for them specifically by their mentors and supported by their district. Within the network may be tools, templates, lesson plans, model lessons, tips, and resources especially valuable to new teachers. The site may have a social networking function so that members may easily connect with one another. The Nevada Administrator Learning Forum is a voluntary, online learning community that began in 2004. It is open to Nevada administrators at all levels of the system: school, district, regional professional development providers, state department of education, and state board of education. Currently, it has about 100 members, who include school and district level administrators, staff from the Nevada Department of Education, retired administrators, members of the state board of education, and visitors from other states. The forums original purpose was to share information on best practices for developing professional

Each form of online professional development serves a distinct purpose and contributes differently to the results.

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Online resources can fill the gap between the goals of face-to-face collaborative professional learning teams in schools and teachers individual, unique learning goals.

learning communities. It has evolved to embrace the larger mission of inspiring and supporting administrators at all levels of Nevada's education system in developing their capacity for co-learning, co-creating, and co-leadership. Participation in the forum is voluntary. It is currently focused on three overlapping areas of knowledge for co-creating 21st-century student outcomes: the partnership for 21st-century skills framework, organization and policy context, and co-creative leadership. To push its learning even further, the community is now engaged in a LearningCreating Journey in which members are codifying the process of closing the gap between a vision and reality through the combined use of both online and in-person coaching support. To accomplish these ends, the forum features a safe place for collegial conversation in a discussion forum, opportunities for dialogue about the work of leading-edge thinkers, encouragement, support, and facilitation as forum members tell their stories within the context of transformational themes and probing questions. The Teacher Leaders Network at the Center for Teaching Quality (www.teacherleaders.org) is another example of how networked communities support informal professional learning. The network connects teachers in formal or informal leadership roles within their schools to give them a voice and to share resources. Driven now by consistent bloggers who provoke, promote, and prod, TLN has grown into a virtual resource and discussion space offering access to formal professional learning opportunities, support on leadership practices, research, and collaboration for its members. Maher, Burroughs, Dietz, and Karnbach (2010) describe how they used technology to participate in professional learning communities with other fine arts teachers to break the barriers of isolation they often feel as the only teacher of their discipline within a school. The electronic learning communities supported by Johns Hopkins University in partnership with their school district, St. Marys County Public Schools (Md.), provide a platform to support collaboration, sharing, and just-in-time learning among teachers. The platform includes typical features for discussion and sharing resources, but it was enhanced to provide lesser-known features for instant feedback and collaboration. The on-

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line platform for electronic learning communities is especially useful for teachers who are more isolated by distance and the singularity of their subject. When other teachers met monthly within their schools to talk about common assessments, fine arts teachers from across the district met far more frequently online to propose examples of questions for assessments, give feedback on the questions, and revise assessments. In addition to the discussion function, the online community provides a resource area for teachers to access high-quality content and includes real-time chat functions in which fine arts teachers in one learning community sign on synchronously and participate in a facilitated discussion. ust-in-time learning in the form of tutorials, video libraries, discussion boards, or even online coaching will continue to grow, especially with the current emphasis on teacher effectiveness and the increased need for professional development to improve or refine teaching practices. Tutorials are widely available from vendors or on the Internet for many aspects of teaching. If a teacher wanted, for example, to strengthen her use of higher-order questions, she might do a Google search to find a web site with information about questioning formats, work with a coach to receive feedback on her use of the questions, or videotape a lesson, post it to YouTube, and invite colleagues to analyze it using a rubric of effective questions she found in her literacy teachers network. Learning networks are emerging as another form of professional learning. Connectivism is based on a relatively new theory of learning that moves beyond the more traditional theories of behavioralism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Connectivism acknowledges that learning is no longer an internal, individual activity; rather, it is one that is driven by networks of people, information, and resources. How people learn and work changes when new technologies and new connections are introduced. Whether the network is a form of MOOC (massive open online course, www.mooc.net) or a small network for a specific cluster of people, such as the network of teacher leaders supported by the University of Colorado at Denver (Guiterrez & Bryan, 2010), networks offer educators a different kind of connection with peers and information be-

yond their place-based professional learning communities. In both place-based and online communities, educators can reflect, seek feedback, gather new ideas and information, offer and find resources, and explore their beliefs and assumptions. Online learning providers, experts, university faculty, or teacher leaders manage some of these networks. Others are the product of the networks members, in which the members take full responsibility for the success of the network. In some cases, online networks afford members a sense of anonymity that allows them to ask questions or seek assistance about issues they might not talk about within their own schools. In this way, the networks provide an additional layer of personal support. One challenge is that these external networks require educators to be vigilant and critical about inconsistencies with the schools or districts approaches in order to prevent confusion or fragmentation in practice. For example, if an elementary school teacher is a member of a network in which one member wants to study how to implement direct instruction in reading and the teachers district has adopted a balanced literacy approach, the teacher needs to decide which of the online ideas are appropriate in his classroom. Online resources can fill the gap between the goals of face-to-face collaborative professional learning teams in schools and teachers individual, unique learning goals. There will need to be opportunities to learn outside the school to fill the specialized needs of some educators or to assist them in gaining additional skills for advancement or different positions within the district. In the past, that meant educators participated in district workshops, university courses, or other programs. Today, it may mean finding an online course, setting up a new RSS on the topic, creating a Ning or wiki, joining an online network, blogging about the topic, or combining these options to access information and perspectives and to deepen understanding.

Is Online Learning Effective?


What distinguishes professional learning from resource sharing is an important consideration for those making decisions about online professional

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development. Learning is a process of gaining information and skills, applying them in practice to accomplish a specific goal, and reflecting on the results. According to Learning Forward, the international association of learning educators with a commitment to improve student achievement through professional learning, professional development is a process of continuous improvement for teachers and principals that both transforms practice and increases student achievement. Its definition of professional development stresses that professional learning builds collective responsibility among educators within a school and team. Data about what students and teachers need and rigorous standards determine the content for professional learning. The learning occurs frequently, several times per week, in facilitated sessions of team members within the school setting. The learning sessions use effective adult learning strategies and follow a cycle of continuous improvement. chool-based collaborative learning can be supported by professional development provided by an external assistance provider, such as a district curriculum team, university faculty, consultants, regional assistance center, departments of education, or other providers. However, some districts use online learning tools to support collaborative learning among school staff. Examples include online learning communities in which members review one anothers work and student work, sharing resources to expand their knowledge and skills, challenging one anothers assumptions in blogs, using discussion boards to reflect on a recent research study, developing wikis to share understanding about the new math curriculum, sharing book reviews on Delicious (www.delicious.com), and managing meeting documentation. In an Education Week commentary, Will Richardson (2011) challenges educators to be both teachers and learners in order to understand more deeply how learning happens through global networks and how the role of a teacher is changing. He points out that traditional professional development, such as workshops and courses, will not help teachers develop the expertise to implement a new approach to learning. One challenge for those who take advantage of online learningand which some online

learning providers and learners themselves have overcomeis moving from simply acquiring information to transforming practice in a networked way within a school. When this happens, all students, not just those in an individual teachers classroom, achieve more. The knowing-doing gap, identified by James Stigler and James Hiebert in The Teaching Gap (1999), stresses that the effect of professional development rests not on what is known, but rather on what is done with the information. By themselves, resources that increase access to information are insufficient for promoting and supporting changes in classroom practice and for increasing student learning. Today, more online professional development incorporates modeling through the use of webstreamed video and engages participants in sharing and reflecting on their own practice. Richardson (2011) encourages schools to support teachers in creating communities that are local, global, physical, and virtual as a way to balance the various goals of professional learning. Local and physical communities focus on implementation and results. Global and virtual communities help teachers engage in the same learning experiences their students have. For example, a third-grade teacher is a member of her grade levels collaborative learning team, a local and physical community that focuses on specific instructional improvements to raise student reading scores. The team examines student data; identifies areas of focus for each teachers own learning; engages in learning together through peer observation and book studies; consults with the districts curriculum specialist, who introduces them to new strategies; plans instructional units; and examines student work. The teacher also participates in an online graduate program in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on teacher leadership. In this course, she engages in team-based assignments in a virtual community in which she uses Google Scholar and Google Docs to complete learning tasks. In addition, she belongs to an online community of thirdgrade teachers available through a textbook publisher in which teachers share feedback, ideas, and resources focused on the curriculum. The teacher frequently shares what she learns from this commu-

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nity with her grade-level team. She has her RSS set to share new blogs on teacher leadership when they are available, and she has recently joined an online book study, another virtual community, to discuss a book on reading strategies appropriate for underperforming boys. As a result of a recent districtwide workshop, she was introduced to a consultant, a virtual mentor, with whom she now shares occasional e-mails about new research on reading. All of these connections to information, combined with support for transforming her instructional practice, allow this teacher to expand her expertise and to contribute to the learning of her peers and the students they share. The support for improving her practice is a key element that should not be overlooked. As Joyce and Showers (1983; 1995; 2002) conclude, effective training requires not only presentation of theory and modeling, but also low-risk practice and coaching or ongoing study to support implementation of the new learning. Their now famous Table of Implementation Effects (Table 1 below) is a fundamental planning guide for those responsible for professional development. In other research, Bush (1984) reports that only 10 percent of the teachers who received just a description of new instructional skills used those skills in their classroom. When other components were added, such as modeling, practice, and feedback, teacher use of the skills increased by 2 percent to 3 percent for each added component. However, the

implementation rate increased to 95 percent when teachers received coaching. Truesdale (2003) agrees, finding that teachers receiving coaching increased the new skills they used in their classrooms during the 15 weeks of the study, while teachers who did not receive coaching stopped using the new practices altogether. echnology is also changing the ways in which coaching can be delivered. Bud-in-the-ear (BIE) is an approach used for preservice, novice, and inservice teachers, especially in special education. BIE technology is a form of real-time coaching, sometimes called cybermentoring (Johnson et al., 2006). A remote coach observes a teacher through a live webcast or in real time within the classroom and speaks directly to the teacher, who is wearing an ear bud. This form of coaching allows the coach to provide just-in-time input or feedback to a teacher during the lesson. The teacher has the capacity to make on-the-spot changes to his or her instruction (Goodman et al., 2008; Johnson et al., 2006; Rock et al., 2009). The Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), a school turnaround company, uses BIE in its teacher-training program. Novice teachers, hired to work in turnaround schools, volunteer to receive real-time coaching on classroom management from experienced coaches. According to Davin Auble, the director of the Elementary Turnaround Coaching Academy for Urban

TABLE 1
Relationship of impact on teachers and the types of training components used (Joyce & Showers, 1995)
Training Components Presentation of Theory Modeling Practice and Low-Risk Feedback Coaching Feedback Peer Visits Understand Knowledge Learn Skills and Skills 85 percent 85 percent 85 percent 15 percent 18 percent 80 percent Apply Skills in Classroom 5 percent - 10 percent 5 percent - 10 percent 10 percent - 15 percent

90 percent

90 percent

80 percent - 90 percent

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Other technologies that allow educators to engage in low-risk practice and coaching and receive ongoing support include small, handheld digital video recorders to record interactions within a classroom . . .

School Leadership, BIE works best with teachers who have both the will to succeed and the skill to make subtle, yet substantial changes in their management in real time. For AUSL, adding technology to enhance coaching is relatively new. Not all novice teachers and coaches use the ear bud approach to coaching. An electronic coach, or e-coach, is another option. While e-coaching will not replace face-to-face coaching or personal coaching, it will fill the void between a teachers day-to-day work and his or her path to achieving improvement goals. Seventy-five percent of respondents to a survey of e-coaching users in the United States and Europe indicate that e-coaching is clear and easy to use, that it taught them something, and that it helped them handle a work-related situation (Ahrend, Diamond, & Webber, 2010). Other technologies that allow educators to engage in low-risk practice and coaching and receive ongoing support include small, handheld digital video recorders to record interactions within a classroom, 360-degree cameras that allow educators to capture the full scope of a classroom, online learning communities through which they access and share resources, and online whiteboards for sharing work. Some online programs are supplemented with onsite facilitators. District or school coaches also help teachers implement instructional practices that they learned in online programs. Pooling high-quality tools and learning objects, as Forsyth County Public Schools (Ga.) has done, proves to be effective for improving teaching and student learning. Forsyth integrated the content management system into a comprehensive professional development system that blends reviews of learning objects (for example, curriculum units, student assessments, or lesson plans) with ongoing collaboration about and refinement of the learning objects and discussions about their value in promoting student learning (Pijanowski, 2010). As Pijanowski (2010) points out, supporting teacher development in new ways is essential as the district grows and resources diminish. For many districts, the challenge becomes to move beyond the mere availability of new information and tools and to use these resources to change practice and increase student learning. Far too few districts invest in practice and coaching because of the

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false belief that, if the resources are available, change in practice and increase in student learning will naturally follow. And far too many examples exist of substantial investments in online professional learning that leave districts searching for the return on their investment. Yet, when used appropriately, online professional development makes sense for school systems and individual educators. Online learning gives school systems the capacity to present a common program to large numbers of educators in brief amounts of time. The key to using online professional development is to match the design of the learning with its intended goals. Learning Forward stresses that the primary purpose of professional development is to improve student achievement. However, not all professional development strives to achieve this outcome. Some professional development focuses only on information transmission. While gaining new information may be an essential part of professional development, those responsible for making decisions about how professional development is designed and delivered must recognize that information alone is unlikely to transform practice and will have a limited impact on educator practice and student achievement.

he Alaska Educational Innovation Network's (AEIN) work with online professional development provides a clear example of its advantages. AEIN had set goals to bridge great distances between educators in a state that is one-fifth the size of the entire United States and to build a network of professional development and distributed leadership among educators in Alaska. AEIN supports a variety of mini-networks focused on topics of interest to their members. Members meet occasionally in a face-to-face environment, usually in conjunction with such other meetings as statewide conferences, and they meet virtually every two to three weeks using a web-based conferencing system. They follow the live sessions with interactions on a social networking site for ongoing discussions. Chesbro and Boxler describe the mini-networks as ultimately focused on tapping the warp and woof of wisdom from within the group, connecting learning to research and theory, and learning on behalf of one another (2010, p. 52).

A recent study of online professional development reported, Collectively, the four trials provide strong evidence that participation in a coordinated series of three OPD [online professional development] workshops has positive effects on teachers instructional practices and content knowledge. Compared to the control group teachers, larger changes in instructional practices occurred in each trial for teachers in the treatment group. In many cases, the effect of the OPD workshops on instructional practices was large. Across all four trials, larger changes in teacher content knowledge also occurred for teachers in the treatment group. In most cases, the size of the effect was medium or large (ODwyer et al., 2010, p. 4). While results for students were somewhat smaller and less consistent across the individual trials, at least one statistically significant effect occurred in each trial. Two decades of research on online learning indicates that online learning is as effective as or more so than traditional place-bound learning. In a metaanalysis of 20 years of research on online learning on the performance of students (most were university undergraduate or graduate students), 70 percent of those in distance learning outperformed their counterparts in traditional courses (Shachar & Neumann, 2010). Program evaluations and research on teacher professional development suggests that online professional development is beneficial; however, strong empirical evidence is still limited even though the number of programs is rapidly increasing and districts are spending more and more money on them. The evidence that does exist is often lacking, anecdotal, or based on participant surveys completed immediately after the professional development experience rather than later, when a better sense of long-range impact is attainable (Dede et al., 2009, p. 9). It is fair to note that many researchers and policy makers have leveled the same criticism at faceto-face professional development.

Some Success Stories


In his forthcoming book, Online Professional Development: Design, Deliver, Succeed, John Ross (in press) examines the tools for developing a framework to maximize online professional learning

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for educators. He presents a framework of core decisions needed to ensure effectiveness. He begins by exploring the need for online professional development and argues that it may be better suited than more traditional forms to meet the array of standards and criteria for effective professional development. He makes a convincing argument by presenting an example of a successful online professional development program, Comprehensive Literacy Program, that meets the criteria of effective professional development culled from research. When the state of Tennessee realized there were insufficient funds or consultants to provide high-quality, face-to-face professional development to all teachers in schools receiving Reading First funding, it turned to Edvantia, one of the U.S. Department of Educations regional laboratories, for assistance in developing online courses. The state required all teachers in schools receiving Reading First funds to complete the courses. Using research on online professional development and adult learning, the course designers integrated learning communities, video, and experiences from schools in the state. Other examples exist. The extensive Florida Online Reading Professional Development (FOR-PD) that provides intensive training as a part of the addon certification in reading for Florida educators is a statewide system that was started in 2001 by gubernatorial executive order. All teachers who would serve as reading specialists were required to complete the add-on certification. To meet the extensive demand in the state, the department of education coordinated efforts with universities and other agencies in Florida to develop a series of online courses to meet the certification requirements. Other states and school districts are making similar moves. For example, districts that are adopting such practices as walkthroughs are engaging leaders in online professional development to learn how to conduct effective walkthroughs, gather and analyze data, and present data to promote reflection on teaching practices. Some districts have identified specific learning needs for educators based on student performance and have developed required courses for all teachers and principals. For example, teachers and principals in a Colorado district are required to complete a 20-hour course on teaching English language learners. In rural districts, teachers

who teach some subject areas rarely have opportunities for interaction with peers because they may be the only teacher of their subject nearby. State universities, often through grant funding, create online programs that offer both courses and networking opportunities for these teachers. Other districts, simply because of the number of educators in the district, turn to online professional development to meet educators multiple and varied needs. Memphis City School District in Tennessee now offers more than 80 online courses that align with the districts priorities and meet district requirements for employment.

Advantages of Online Learning


Despite the paucity of research, the benefits of online professional learning are evident. One of the most obvious advantages is the 24/7 access to justin-time learning. Virtually any time and anywhere they have web access, educators can connect with peers, colleagues, experts, and information, giving them more immediate, timely opportunities to learn. With online learning, educators can access realtime, ongoing, job-embedded learning. The use of online technologies allows educators to access experts and archival resources that would otherwise be limited by fiscal and logistical constraints (Dede et al., 2009). Another obvious advantage to online professional development is the ability to span great distances and reach many participants. To launch a new teacher evaluation system, a school district may opt to create a course introducing the system with videostreamed messages from the president of the school board, the president of the teachers association, the superintendent, and members of the task force that developed the system. Employees then would log in to the district web site, view the broadcast, download information packets about the evaluation system, and confirm that they have watched the introduction and received the materials through an administrative management function in the system. They may have the option of asking questions about the new evaluation system. The Human Resource Department would respond to those questions and include appropriate ones in an updated Q & A form on the departments web page.

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Web-based learning technologies increase learning options for educators. For those who are more reticent to participate in a face-to-face setting, an online setting allows for more time for formulating thoughtful responses or contributing to discussions. The technology supports virtual simulations and permits ongoing interactions within a community of learners after the formal learning experience ends to encourage and support transfer of the learning into practice. oday, online degree programs are abundant and provide educators with the opportunity to complete an advanced degree online. An online or hybrid degree program provides flexibility to complete coursework without traveling to campus weekly for class. For educators who live in rural areas where such travel would be nearly impossible, this option may be the only way to complete a degree and have greater opportunities, gaining the expertise to move into other positions within the education system. Cost can be another benefit. Online professional development can replace such costs of traditional professional development as external consultants, internal trainers, substitutes, and reimbursements for travel. Thus, it can save districts substantial sums. Its not free and it does have costs, says Barbara Treacy. But the upfront training costs are well worth it because then you can be on your way to having the capacity to manage your own program (Davis, 2009). Savings in initial training allows districts to invest in implementation support. And with improvements in district technology infrastructures over the last decade, start-up costs for online professional development are decreasing.

Today, online degree programs are abundant and provide educators with the opportunity to complete an advanced degree online.

Disadvantages of Online Learning


Online professional development has disadvantages, although as the technology evolves, the disadvantages decrease. Over the last decade, for example, concerns about access to the technology and connectivity have diminished. Most schools now have

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Without specialized staff or staff who have received special training, the courses designed by educators for educators may be elementary and may use available technology inadequately.

adequate access. Still, some educators find using some online media challenging because of access issues. Teacher isolation continues to be a problem. Unless course designers or the learners themselves create communities that support the transition from knowledge to practice with reflection, learners may remain isolated from their local communities. It is important to consider how and when educators will access online professional learning. Some districts view creating a catalog of online courses that teachers can access on their own time as meeting their responsibilities for professional development, yet such an approach to professional development probably will yield little in terms of changes in educator practice and student achievement. Dede notes other disadvantages to online professional development. He suggests that people too often see online communication as publishing, especially because most online platforms hold an archive of discussions, so that teachers may be guarded with their written communications. He also mentions that some learners want more dynamic and real-time interactions, so the frequent use of asynchronous communication may not meet their preferred learning style. And course designs may not integrate technologies that are comfortable or familiar to learners, who can find it distracting when there are too many media or media with which they are unfamiliar. Online course design requires a skillfulness and expertise that not many educators have. Without specialized staff or staff who have received special training, the courses designed by educators for educators may be elementary and may use available technology inadequately. major challenge in online professional learning is developing high-quality facilitators who have received specialized preparation to serve as online course facilitators. The transition from facilitating learning in a face-to-face environment to an online environment requires skills to encourage, support, moderate, and facilitate online interaction among members of an online course or online community. Facilitators primary tasks are managing learning and learners. Thoughtful preparation and experience help them overcome such common challenges as keeping participants engaged, meeting dif-

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ferent learning needs, managing technical issues, and providing appropriate levels of prompting, prodding, and personalization. In DeKalb County Public Schools (Ga.), the district implemented a 30hour training program for facilitators of online learning and enrolled members of the districts department of teaching and learning who had previously taught only face-to-face courses in the program (Alexander & Henderson-Rosser, 2010). Cost, though it may be less in the long run, continues to be a challenge. Investing in a learning management system requires a district to make a long-term plan and decide if it is better to use their own platform for course development or purchase courses from a vendor. Developing courses in-house is a significant investment. One substantial hidden cost that is not often considered is the funds required to bridge information acquisition and implementation, which sometimes requires dedicated personnel, such as coaches. Ongoing costs include new course development, leasing or updating a learning management system, equipment, and connectivity. One of the biggest challenges to implementing online professional development is integrating online programs within the districts current professional development system or revamping the system to accommodate online learning. Online professional development will not supplant all other successful professional learning; however, it can be integrated into existing systems to strengthen them and provide additional support for implementation. Without careful consideration of how the face-toface approach coordinates with online professional development, districts may fail to use each approach to its maximum benefits. Not all learning fits within an online learning system. Some companies are giving up online learning in favor of other approaches, such as mentoring and coaching to teach customer service skills, leadership skills, and technical skills. Other companies are actually increasing their use of online learning in these areas. Depending on the intended outcomes of the learning, leaders of professional learning need to make careful, calculated decisions about whether a face-to-face, online, or hybrid model is best. It is likely they can learn about what works best in each approach online. However, considered deliberation with colleagues about which approach to use with

important new learning initiativessuch as Common Core State Standards or new student assessment systemsmay be best handled around a table with key stakeholders in place to weigh in.

How to Get Started


How online professional development is introduced matters in how well it is accepted. We knew that the first online class a district employee registered for, said Alexander and Henderson-Rosser, would determine whether they would ever take another, so we spared no effort in creating high-quality offerings (2010, p. 26). Alexander and HendersonRosser describe the steps they used to prepare for widespread use of online professional development. Research programs to identify features and frameworks to develop the districts approach (in DeKalb County Public Schools, the framework included blended professional development); Make a decision about self-developed or purchased courses or some combination; Commit to implementing standards for professional development in the design of online professional learning; Purchase a customizable online professional development tool; Hire appropriate staff to lead the districts course development and review existing programs for appropriateness in meeting districts professional development goals; Train online facilitators; Prepare school administrators; Implement professional learning communities to support implementation of new learning; Create online modules to provide detailed guidance to support teachers in implementation; Educate employees about the new technology; and Continue to use online professional development to move professional development to the school site to give schools greater flexibility to meet their unique professional development goals (Alexander & Henderson-Rosser, 2010).

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Online learning leaders in DeKalb County Public Schools chose to go slowly and make wise investments in developing the foundation and context for successful online professional development, a process similar to what many other districts have done over the last decade. However, not all districts were as thoughtful about the early steps of the process and found that they had to return to those steps to fill gaps in their planning and implementation. Many leaders of professional development are raising questions and asking for support in selecting and implementing online professional development. E-Learning for Educators: Implementing the Standards for Staff Development (National Staff Development Council, 2001) offered a list of considerations for those wanting to make sound decisions about e-learning. The list below, with some revision, is drawn from the original list and recommends core considerations for online professional development. Decision makers should consider each of the following areas before investing in or implementing e-learning products, programs, or services. A program should: Offer evidence of results in educator practice and student learning; Align with identified learning needs and individual, school, and district improvement goals; Include high-quality learning experiences; Offer quality and depth of content; Align with student-content standards; Offer content flexibility to differentiate learning; Accommodate learner readiness and skillfulness with technologies; Meet educators specialized learning needs; Provide follow-up support for implementation and extended learning; Use skilled instruction and facilitation; Build and strengthen networks for peer and expert support; Use the most appropriate technology; Offer readily available technical support; Promote a high degree of interactivity; and Integrate individual professional learning plans.

A district should also consider whether its practices are congruent with the following list: Has a comprehensive professional development plan that incorporates online, face-to-face, and hybrid approaches to learning; Provides time for professional learning; Prepares learners for online learning; Prepares leaders to support and use online learning resources effectively; Offers readily available technology support; Provides places and equipment to support learning and implementation; Provides a records management system to track credits and records of online professional development; Provides resources for online professional development; and Commits to evaluate all professional developmentonline, face-to-face, and hybridto ensure its effectiveness and results.

Whats Next?
There is much yet to learn about online professional development. Dede et al. (2009) explore the research available on online teacher professional development and propose new foci to explore. In their analysis of more than 40 studies, the authors found that the primary focus for research on teacher professional development has been on program evaluation with empirical research taking a back seat (p. 14). The largest number of studies on online teacher professional development met the goals of program evaluation and explanation of a theoretical framework (39 percent), and the smallest number of studies focused on professional development for education improvement (2 percent), which examine interventions aimed at changes in teacher practice, classroom climate, and improved student learning. Other areas of professional development research focused on the goals of identifying enablers to improve pedagogical content knowledge, skills, and practices (12 percent) and program design, which examines the effects of face-to-face, hybrid, and online pedagogical approaches (20 percent).

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While the promise of online professional development is strong, the field is still young and there is much yet unknown. Dede et al. recommend further research and observe that research designed to answer questions about whether a program design works well but also to provide evidence to explain why it works well seems a reasonable and effective alternative to the evaluation-centric approach now prevalent (2009, p. 13). In addition, they recommend that researchers clearly define terminology and assumptions, use new outcome measures that broaden understanding of the effects of professional development, and help build collective knowledge that is usable by practitioners. Last, they stress the importance of larger investments in research on online professional development that allow sustained research over time.

Conclusion
Online professional learning has tremendous potential to expand access to professional development, enhance learning for educators, and produce significant results for educators and their students. However, it must be designed appropriately, using pedagogical technologies that enhance the learning rather than become the focus of the learning; it must meet stringent standards for effective professional learning; and it must meet the identified needs of learners, with a focus on changing practice and improving student achievement. More research about online professional development is needed to ensure effective design and powerful results. E-Learning for Educators: Implementing the Standards for Staff Development cautioned, Technology allows providers to offer the consumer a learning package that may be attractive rather than substantive. Yet, all the bells and whistles made possible with technology will not produce results for students or educators unless the technology supports high-quality learning for educators. Successful e-learning programs, products, and services meet rigorous standards, are integrated into a comprehensive staff development program, and are supported within a learning community by systemic structures necessary to encourage and sustain them. These structures include careful planning, supportive lead-

Online professional learning has tremendous potential to expand access to professional development, enhance learning for educators, and produce significant results for educators and their students.

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How teachers learn and how they learn to create learning experiences for their students have a lasting effect on what type of lifelong learners those students will become.

ership, and data-driven decision making (National Staff Development Council, 2001, p. vi). Educators have more opportunities than ever to learn unhindered by limitations of physical space or access to experts. Their students also are learning beyond the walls of school in new ways. How teachers learn and how they learn to create learning experiences for their students have a lasting effect on what type of lifelong learners those students will become. Richardson reminds us that As we continue to find new ways to expand our learning environments far beyond the physical space of the classroom, the opportunities to both teach and learn will only grow. But that means as the professionals in the room, we must be deeply invested in learning first, for ourselves and our students (2011, p. 24). In the last decade, the potential of online professional development has grown exponentially, yet attention to the potential pitfalls is essential to ensure that the benefits continue to outweigh the downsides. Deep consideration of how best to design, implement, evaluate, and engage educators in communities for professional learning, using all the available media, will ensure that professional development produces significant results for educators and students.

References
Ahrend, G., Diamond, F., & Webber, G. (2010). Virtual coaching: Using technology to boost performance. Chief Learning Officer, 9(7), 44-47. Alexander, S., & Henderson-Rosser, A. (2010). Doit-yourself professional development. Learning & Leading with Technology, 37(8), 24-28. Bush, R. N. (1984). Effective staff development. In Making our schools more effective: Proceedings of three state conferences. San Francisco: Far West Laboratories. Chesbro, P., & Boxler, N. (2010). Weaving the fabric of professional development in the 21st century through technology. JSD, 31(1), 48-53. Crow, T. (2010). Learning no matter where you are: Q & A with Chris Dede. JSD, 31(1), 10-17.

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Davis, M. (2009, March 13). Online professional development weighed as a cost-saving tactic. Digital Directions. www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2009/ 03/13/04ddprofdev.h02.html Dede, C., Ketelhut, J., Whitehouse, P., Breit, L., & McCloskey, E. (2009). A research agenda for online teacher professional development. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(1), 8-19. Goodman, J., Brady, M., Duffy, M., Scott, J., & Pollard, N. (2008). The effects of bug-in-ear supervision on special education teachers delivery of learn units. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 23(4), 207. Gutierrez, C., & Bryan, C. (2010). Online community becomes a pathway to teacher leadership. JSD, 31(1), 42-47. Johnson, T., Maring, G., Doty, J., & Fickle, M. (2006). Cybermentoring: Evolving high-end video conferencing practices to support preservice teacher training. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 5(1), 59-74. Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (1983). Power in staff development through research in training. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (1995). Student achievement through staff development: Fundamentals of school renewal. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Joyce, B., and Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development (3rd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Maher, J., Burroughs, C., Dietz, L., & Karnbach, A. (2010). From solo to ensemble: Fine arts teachers find a harmonious solution to their isolation. JSD, 31(1), 24-29. National Staff Development Council. (2001). Elearning for educators: Implementing the standards for staff development. www.learningforward.org/ news/authors/e-learning.pdf ODwyer, L., Masters, J., Dash, S., DeKramer, R., Humez, A., & Russell, M. (2010). E-learning for educators: Effects of on-line professional development on teachers and their students: Executive summary. www.bc.edu/research/intasc/PDF/EFE_ Findings2010_ExecutiveSummary.pdf Pijanowski, L. (2010). Teachers click with shared content and anytime access. JSD, 31(1), 30-35.

Richardson, W. (2011, January 19). Investing in teachers as learners. Education Week, 30(17), pp. 21, 24. Rock, M., Gregg, M., Thead, B., Acker, S., Gable, R., & Zigmond, N. (2009). Can you hear me now?: Evaluation of an online wireless technology to provide real-time feedback to special education teachers-in-training. Teacher Education and Special Education, 32(1), 64. Ross, J. (in press). Online professional development: Design, deliver, succeed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Shachar, M., & Neumann, Y. (2010). Twenty years of research on the academic performance difference between traditional and distance learning: Summative meta-analysis and trend examination. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(2). http://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no2/shachar_0610.pdf Sherin, M., & van Es, E. (2009). Effects of video club participation on teachers professional vision. Journal of Teacher Education, 60(1), 20-37. Stigler, J., & Hiebert, J. (1999). The teaching gap: Best ideas from the worlds teachers for improving education in the classroom. New York: Free Press. Truesdale, W. (2003). The implementation of coaching on the transferability of staff development to classroom practices in two selected Chicago public elementary schools. Dissertation Abstracts International, 64(11), 3923. University Microfilms No. 3112185. Van Es, E. (2010). Viewer discussion is advised. JSD, 31(1), 54-58.

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