When online PD courses first made their appearance decades ago, educators, by and large, were not fans. But the issue was probably not bad content, according to McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin, writing in the February 2021 issue of ASCD’s Educational Leadership magazine. Rather, Bryan proposes in his Research Matters column, those online courses suffered the same fate as all content in the web’s early days: It took traditional in-person events and reformatted them in a superficial way, which just fell flat.
Thankfully, PD developers have learned a lot over the last 20 years about how to create engaging online learning, taking advantage of the interactive opportunities that the web affords. The key design elements suggested by research will probably make sense to a lot of educators. One top suggestion: Work with participants to collaboratively set and share learning goals. Another important finding: Online PD works best when it is sustained and distributed throughout the year, rather than undertaken in a quick one-shot burst. Also, ongoing coaching and mentoring remain essential.
“Design should precede digitization, not the other way around,” Bryan advises.