How professional development is becoming a virtual reality.
GUEST COLUMN | by Jordan Barrish
I can’t think of anyone who has more of an important role in the future of today’s youth than our teachers—besides their parents, of course. Teachers even impact and shape most adults’ lives. While there’s so much talk out there about how current technology is shaping the future of our children’s learning, now the conversation has shifted to how it can impact our teachers’ learning, as well. So, why are learning management systems becoming one of the best-kept secrets in professional development? Let’s take a look.
Learning Management Systems
Although learning management systems (LMS) began their story back in 1960 with the University of Illinois’ PLATO (Program Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations), the real uptake has arguably been since SCORM was released in 2004. Since then, the development of LMS solutions and expertise in the eLearning field has exploded (Did you know the LMS market is estimated to be a $2 billion+ industry?)
Even within the last five years, many teachers have grown accustomed to the training sessions their schools offer students, and they’ve familiarized themselves with the LMS they use in their classes. But as LMS continues to become a more and more popular way for students to learn, teachers will also be using LMS as a major hub for professional development.
At Capterra, we advise dozens of schools and organizations each month on how to find the best learning management system. People list plenty of reasons about why they might need an LMS, but below I’ll share some of the most common justifications we hear for why organizations want to use an LMS specifically for the professional development. But don’t just take my word for it… you’ll also hear it straight from the source! A Florida teacher whose district has jumped on the LMS train shares the benefits they’ve experienced so far.
1. The age of technology By enrolling your teachers in online professional development, it’ll instantly be easier for them to use the system for their own classes. Because younger generations are so accustomed to technology, making sure the teachers are just as prepared as the students means there will be a much shorter learning curve in the classroom (i.e. more time spent on learning and less on “technical difficulties.”)
Teacher feedback: “We are becoming a digitally-connected society and the methods we use within the workplace should reflect that. While not all of those utilizing this software are of the “digital native” generation, it does not exempt them from the necessity of the adaptation to this growing trend in education.”
2. Self-paced While online professional development still has deadlines, the actual learning portion can be self-paced so that you can learn on your own time.
Teacher feedback: “We use it [LMS] for mixed-mode endorsement classes, such as Reading Endorsement, ESOL Endorsement and Alternative Certification. We meet face-to-face 5 times and the other 5 weeks are completed via eLearning.” Everyone has busy schedules, and having the ability to take the learning pace into your own hands can be extremely fulfilling.
3. Discussion board connections Another benefit of using an LMS for professional development is that you’re able to partake in discussion boards with teachers who may not be in your school, This cross-school collaboration allows you to get feedback from other schools on how things are working with their learning programs.
Teacher feedback: “The most beneficial element of online learning is that we are still able to discuss the week’s topics with our classmates via discussion postings, but we can complete them flexibly within our individual schedules.” It goes without saying that expanding the circle of people you’re able to learn from makes you, in turn, a better teacher. Discussion boards and interactive classmate discussions enable you to gather new ideas and hear from teachers with different backgrounds.
4. Mobile accessible
In addition to being self-paced, online professional development is also accessible via mobile devices in many cases, such as smartphones or tablets. Mobile functionality is perfect for teachers who may have long, public transit commutes. If they were taking professional development classes only on their campus, their commute could be taking up valuable learning time that could be replaced with learning on-the-go.
5. Environmentally friendly
By cutting down on travel costs, paper, and other resources, your school can show students the importance of being environmentally conscious by using them for professional development. While everyone may love the cookies and apple juice served in meetings, cutting back on the plastic cups, forks, napkins, etc. is cutting down on excess waste and helping the environment, which is always a plus. eLearning platforms have been praised for their inherently green properties, and it’s one huge reason for your school to also make online learning and professional development a reality. Scholarix shared this great infographic on additional ways eLearning Benefits the Environment and I know schools will find more ways for teachers to use eLearning .
Are you enrolled in an online training platform for your own professional development? What differentiates it from traditional professional development methods in your opinion? Did you find any other benefits we didn’t list here?
Jordan Barrish is a Market Analyst for Capterra, an online service that connects buyers and sellers of business software. She researches and writes about trends in a variety of software verticals, with a particular focus on learning management software. Follow Jordan on Twitter –@CapterraLMS.