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Educators want online professional learning

Most common areas are classroom and behavior management, education software training
A new survey says "increasing knowledge"—rather than increasing salary—motivates teachers to take online professional development. (Gettyimages.com: Dragan Radojevic)
A new survey says "increasing knowledge"—rather than increasing salary—motivates teachers to take online professional development. (Gettyimages.com: Dragan Radojevic)

Most educators are enrolling in online professional learning courses in part because they want to increase their knowledge, according to a report by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA).

The 2016 Vision K-20 Professional Learning (PL) survey sampled 705 education professionals, including teachers, principals, librarians and tech directors from pre-K through grade 12 and higher education. It provides a new glimpse into the online professional learning practices from around the world.

“Nearly 75 percent of educators responded they were enrolling because they were personally interested and wanted to increase their knowledge,” says Nycole Stawinoga, education policy and program manager at SIIA, who led the development and distribution of the survey.

It was an important finding as professionals cited intrinsic motivation for enrolling in online learning as opposed to seeking an increase in salary or satisfying a district requirement. The fact that personal interests motivate most educators can help district CIOs better understand how to implement such learning.

“One of the most important things is to find out in your school or district what your teachers and administration are interested in, what topics they are interested in, and what areas they want in PL,” says Stawinoga. “And since nearly 60 percent of educators have already taken online PL, it shows there is an interest.”

The most common areas were classroom and behavior management (34 percent), education software training (34 percent) and digital device training (33 percent).

Amongst educators with more than 20 years of experience they were most likely to take courses for training in education technology (50 percent) while those with less than 20 years of experience sought courses in classroom behavior management (62 percent).

Reach out to more teachers

The report’s insights can also help CIOs and other district-level technology directors to not only offer PL that educators are most interested in but also to reach more of their teachers, says Tracy Weeks, executive director of SETDA.

With challenges of getting staff out to conduct PD with districts, especially in large geographic areas, online PL can help not only reach more teachers but can also cover the areas of most interest.

“The wonderful thing about leveraging online learning is being able to reach across the entire state,” says Weeks. “I would see that state leaders would be able to use this survey to truly gauge interest and comfort level of educators in their states, to then be able to tailor the online educational option. This is valuable feedback.”

Andrew Bauld is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.