When teachers in Delaware needed to learn how to implement the state’s new inquiry-based science program, they turned to a new online course. The interactive course is part of a program known as e-Learning for Educators, which designs and delivers online courses to improve teaching and learning. A multi-state partnership, e-Learning for Educators brings together EDC’s EdTech Leaders Online program, PBS, and the departments of education in 10 states.
“It is a unique model for state departments of education and public TV stations to work together,” says EDC’s Barbara Treacy, director of EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO). “Each brings a different area of expertise—the stations in multimedia and video, the departments of education in curriculum. The strength of this project comes from their partnership.”
Each state participating in e-Learning for Educators has created a leadership team with representatives from the state department of education and a partner public television station. ETLO works with these leadership teams to train online facilitators and course developers in each state and to help them implement a statewide online professional development program.
The training provided by ETLO positions the states to continue providing professional development after the project’s funding has ended. Each state learns to develop and manage their own courses, which cover a wide range of topics and grade levels, including classroom management, reading comprehension, and elementary mathematics.
“The project has been very successful, and the states participating in it want to spread the word to others. The work is showing what online learning can do and the value of collaboration,” says Treacy.
E-Learning for Educators encourages leadership teams to collaborate across state lines to share information, resources, and courses. Most of the work is done virtually, but the project annually brings all state leadership teams and partners together for a Leadership Academy and a Partners’ Meeting.
The initiative “will help bridge the barriers of time, distance, and inequities for teachers by providing access to Web-based professional development opportunities,” wrote Steven L. Paine, superintendent of schools in West Virginia, in a statement online.
Measuring the impact
In partnership with Boston College, e-Learning for Educators is also examining the impact of online professional development on teacher knowledge, teacher practices, and student achievement. ETLO designed the series of online workshops for elementary and middle school teachers used in the study and trained the online facilitators who deliver these workshops to local teachers. According to Treacy, this is the largest experimental study of online professional development to date.
In addition, e-Learning for Educators has itself proven to be popular. Between 2006 and 2008, 14,000 teachers took part in the online courses. Evaluation data showed that 91 percent said they thought the courses were of excellent or very good quality, and 97 percent were very or somewhat likely to take another course. Additionally, the project has trained 380 local course facilitators and 225 course developers.
“The interactivity and connectivity that this training course has provided has exceeded even my wildest expectations. It’s our charge to provide this kind of community-building, knowledge-sharing experience for all teachers. I can’t wait,” said a participant in the facilitator training course.
Other developments suggest that the value of online learning is growing. In Mississippi, teachers can work on their certification through the online courses. In Delaware, teachers who take the online courses are eligible for the same pay raise as teachers who take traditional professional development courses.
“We are building capacity in each state, and each state’s individual education goals are being addressed,” says Treacy. “It is exciting to see the uniqueness of each state’s partnership and how each is reaching busy teachers in a different way than ever before with high quality online professional development.”
E-Learning for Educators is a five-year project led by Alabama Public Television and funded by a Ready-to-Teach Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The participating states are Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
Originally published on April 17, 2009