Unique Strategies for Scaling Teacher Professional Development

November 19, 2013

Posted by Candice Reimers, Senior Program Manager

Research shows that professional development for educators has a direct, positive impact on students, so it’s no wonder that institutions are eager to explore creative ways to enhance professional development for K-12 teachers. Open source MOOC platforms, such as Course Builder, offer the flexibility to extend the reach of standard curriculum; recently, several courses have launched that demonstrate new and creative applications of MOOCs. With their wide reach, participant engagement, and rich content, MOOCs that offer professional development opportunities for teachers bring flexibility and accessibility to an important area.

This summer, the ScratchEd team out of Harvard University launched the Creative Computing MOOC, a 6 week self paced workshop focused on building computational thinking skills in the classroom. As a MOOC, the course had 2600 participants, who created more than 4700 Scratch projects, and engaged in 3500 forum discussions, compared to the “in-person” class held last year, which reached only 50 educators.

Other creative uses of Course Builder for educator professional development come from National Geographic and Annenberg Learner who joined forces to develop Water: The Essential Resource, a course developed around California’s Education and Environment Initiative. The Friday Institute’s MOOC, Digital Learning Transitions, focused on the benefits of utilizing educational technology and reached educators across 50 states and 68 countries worldwide. The course design included embedded peer support, project-based learning, and case studies; a post-course survey showed an overwhelming majority of responders “were able to personalize their own learning experiences” in an “engaging, easy to navigate” curriculum and greatly appreciated the 24/7 access to materials.

In addition to participant surveys, course authors using the Course Builder platform are able to conduct deeper analysis via web analytics and course data to assess course effectiveness and make improvements for future courses.

New opportunities to experience professional development MOOCs are rapidly emerging; the University of Adelaide recently announced their Digital Technology course to provide professional development for primary school teachers on the new Australian curriculum, the Google in Education team just launched a suite of courses for teachers using Google technologies, and the Friday Institute course that aligns with the U.S. based Common Core State Standards is now available.

We’re excited about the innovative approaches underway and the positive impact it can have for students and teachers around the world. We also look forward to seeing new, creative applications of MOOC platforms in new, unchartered territory.