Making the most of your online course

The use of the internet has opened up a new range of options for learning. This is true not only for the students in our classrooms, but also for our own professional learning as teachers.  For some teachers, this is welcome and exciting. They understand the nature of learning in this way and already have the necessary technical skills.  But for others it is a bit more confusing or even overwhelming. ACSI Europe has been investing significant resources into developing our e-learning professional development courses for teachers.  What are the benefits of this style of professional learning, and how can teachers make the most of these opportunities?

The advantages of online professional learning

There is no doubt that face-to-face, on location professional development has it's place. As do conferences. The addition of the internet will not change that.  However, consider these benefits that adding online training to your professional growth plan can bring:

  • The internet can reach people who don't have access to face-to-face training.  Some Christian schools are small, isolated or under-resourced. The teachers who serve in them may have little opportunity to have quality speakers in their school or to travel to conferences. If you do have these opportunities, participating in an online course gives you the opportunity to bless those teachers who do not.Image result for professional online learning
  • Online courses provide opportunity to hear the perspectives of people who are different than you.  Thanks to the wide reach of the internet, your "classmates" in your online course could be from many different cultures and backgrounds. They will notice things that you do not and have experiences and opinions that challenge your thinking and practice. Likewise, you will have the opportunity to share from your wealth of knowledge and experience in a way that might challenge theirs. This kind of peer-learning and assessment is very valuable for professional growth!
  • Online learning requires engagement.  It is possible to sit through a professional development session at your school or a conference and remain passive, even if the talks are interesting.  Online learning requires you to interact and respond, which increases the likelihood of retaining and applying what you learn.
  • Interaction with your new-found colleagues can be ongoing.  Participating in an online course could be the start of a healthy partnership between you and another teacher, or even between your school and theirs. There is the possibility to broaden your professional network.
  • Online learning is flexible, and cost and time effective. Enough said. I don't need to explain to busy teachers how important this is!

 

Making the most of the opportunities.

The benefits I have just outlined above are not automatic. They are not "downloaded" into your professional life simply by signing up. The key word is ENGAGE. Here are a few tips for taking up the opportunities that participating in an online course can bring:

  • Get in early.  Get signed up, logged in and start exploring the content as soon as the course begins.  This gives you the time you need to figure out how the system works (eg. how to make a forum post, download material, send a message, upload a file) and to process what you are learning.  Be among the first to write a post in a forum. This increases the number of responses you will get from other participants.
  • Check in regularly.  Make a habit of logging in several days each week to see who else has logged in and what they are learning. Read their forum posts and respond thoughtfully. Keep up to date with the course content, so that you can interact meaningfully.
  • Stay open-minded.  Be receptive to ideas that are new or challenge your current perspective and willing to listen to and learn from others.  Thank others for their input when they respond to your posts, even if you don't agree with everything they say. 
  • Ask questions. If there are ideas in the course content you are not sure about or you are struggling to find an application, ask a question. You can do this by sending a message to the course instructor, but why not do it in a discussion forum, inviting responses from all of the course participants? This encourages community and allows others to benefit as well. Also, ask questions about the posts made by your colleagues, inviting them to clarify their ideas or to consider another perspective.
  • Respond to questions. Be willing to share your thoughts with other participants, even if you do not have "the right answer".

 

The ACSI Europe team is excited to offer a range of e-learning courses via our moodle platform. Why not sign up with a colleague (or several colleagues) from your school, enjoying the both the benefit of connection with people from other places as well as the opportunity to discuss specific applications with those who are working in the same context as you?