Research on professional development approaches continues to show that blended learning—a combination of online and face-to-face components—is an effective model for successful professional learning (Owston et al., 2008; Rovai & Jordan, 2004). Eduplanet21’s informal research suggests the same trend. In order for teachers to build trust and fully participate in an online learning experience, there must be some face-to-face interactions with colleagues.
Here are some practical strategies to ensure a successful blended learning experience:
This is a relatively new form for delivering professional development, and teachers will need to fully comprehend what is expected. It is very important that they see the value in joining an online environment. In Eduplanet21, this environment includes digital learning, activities for implementation, and participation in discussion based communities. Each of these is a departure from the usual “sit and git”. How can you orient teachers to this method? You can begin by:
Accountability is always an issue. How can you be certain that the participants are engaging in the Learning Path? Too often we depend on seat time to tell us whether everyone is engaged. Although that may be one measure, it is not sufficient. To increase interest and engagement in the blended learning professional development experience, don’t assign the same work during face-to-face time that you have also assigned to be done independently. Participants should use those real-time, synchronous meetings to enhance the meaning of the Learning Path work. Here are some ideas for making face-to-face time more meaningful:
Many people of a certain age will claim that they either do not have the technology or that they do not have the tech skills to do this work. This, of course, is not acceptable. It is a worse excuse than the “dog ate the homework”. Here are some ways to ensure that you are providing the kind of support that people might need to overcome technophobia:
Too often the leadership team in a school or district is not aware of the process of a Learning Path. Administrators do not need to be familiar with all of the content, but when they do not recognize the importance of this form of professional development, the teachers will likely ignore it as well. Here are some tips for making the Learning Path valuable to both administrators and teachers: