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Learning Library Blog 4 ways to support educator professional development during remote learning
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4 ways to support educator professional development during remote learning

By Mike Enders
September 17, 2020
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Nothing could have prepared us for the confusion, fear, and frankly, chaos of this year’s back-to-school season. Teachers are the new front line in the COVID-19 pandemic and need robust professional development that equips them to educate students in an ever-changing and stressful mix of educational environments.

While some schools in the U.S. are scrambling to bring children back to campus in a physically distanced way, others are offering a combination of in-person learning and virtual classrooms. And some schools have moved to 100% online learning.

The safety protocols and best practices for teaching face-to-face during the pandemic or in a blended classroom are constantly changing. We’re learning every day what works and what doesn’t. And many faculty and staff have entered the virtual classroom for the first time. They may not yet have the skills, training, or experience to become effective creators and facilitators of online learning.

Educational institutions must adapt their in-service professional development training to reflect these new realities of school closures and teaching remotely by taking these three tips into account.

Professional development should be actionable and interactive. Educators need practical tips for putting remote teaching strategies into action. Create interactive, online opportunities for faculty to apply their skills and practice them in real-world situations.

Training should be easily accessible from phones and tablets. Schools must account for the fact that faculty and staff won’t always have access to a desktop computer and they might not be available to be online at a specific time. So consider whether synchronous training is necessary or if the same goals can be accomplished through asynchronous training that allows faculty and staff to work through the material on their own schedule. 

Professional development must be relevant. At a time when teachers are beyond stressed and overloaded, educational institutions must make sure professional development is meaningful. What updates and training do faculty and staff need to know now? Focus on the most pertinent topics and design training to be easily adaptable to changing information or needs.   

In this climate, there are four basic areas schools must focus on to support students, faculty and staff:

1. Develop easy-to-follow technology training.

Faculty and staff may be unfamiliar with the technologies required for online training or teaching, such as videoconferencing tools that allow breakout rooms. Schools must develop easy-to-follow tutorials that incorporate videos, images and screen recordings that demonstrate how to use the apps necessary for teaching online. And be sure to include training on cybersecurity protocols and measures they can take to keep students, and themselves, protected.

ISTELive 21 Team Virtual Journey.

2. Provide virtual communication best practices.

Virtual and blended learning environments present different dynamics for 1:1 and group settings, so share strategies that faculty can use to engage online learners in various configurations. Be sure to address how students can communicate and collaborate online and offer best practices for promoting student engagement in a virtual learning environment.

3. Create and curate digital content specific to the remote classroom.

Provide sources for online content and instruction on how faculty can easily create their own content and even translate their existing lessons into highly interactive and engaging online learning experiences.

4. Don’t forget about self-care and student social emotional health.

Faculty, staff and students are contending with unprecedented emotional stress and uncertainty during this pandemic. Faculty and staff may be dealing with the loss of a loved one, financial stress, working with their spouse or children at home, and disruptions to their routine — among other challenges. Provide training on how they can practice self-care, promote health and wellness, and protect from burnout themselves. And make sure to offer guidance on how they can monitor and support their students’ emotional health as well. 

Today, every aspect of education is uncharted territory — and providing effective professional development is no exception. But with a smart framework and the right tools for creating, distributing, and tracking professional development, schools can keep pace in this rapidly changing environment.

Mike Enders is the director of content for Articulate, maker of the world’s most popular apps for online training, including Prior to joining Articulate, he spent 10 years in the classroom, pioneering a multimodal course design that allowed students to choose their mode of learning (face-to-face, interactive television, web conference or fully online) on a week-to-week basis. Mike is an e-learning expert who’s passionate about helping others create effective educational experiences.