Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 12(1). 71-114. (2012)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article describes an authentic project-based learning.
The article overviews the approach and impact of an online professional development course for those in education and training, including school teachers and their schools in New Zealand and abroad.
The article focuses on one course within the Postgraduate Diploma of Education (e-learning and digital technologies) in the University of Canterbury Masters of Education degree program.
The course has been designed to model an approach that includes the formation of an online community of learners who establish an online social presence, with the objective to become tightly knit by the end of the course.
Through the LMS the teacher gives leadership and support, facilitates some discussions, makes suggestions, and encourages, critiques, and provides further relevant resources to support emergent themes and issues.
Data were collected through the course work of three students, which provide brief illustrations of the impact of this course on its participants and their organizations.
The three illustrations presented in this article provide anecdotal evidence of the impact of this course on teachers’ professional development for online and blended teaching and learning approaches, both on the individual participants and their organizations.
The online learning experience developed a deeper understanding of the challenges that students new to online learning frequently experience.
More importantly, the opportunity for all participants to focus individually on selected topics and professional contexts while interacting with other members of their profession, as well as the occasion to reflect on the related readings and recommended practices, is clearly beneficial.
These benefits are consolidated through additional opportunities to apply and adapt their knowledge in their own authentic contexts. In this way these students often become agents of change in their own educational settings.
The data show that practice with online and blended learning during this course appears to have contributed to participants’ rate of adoption of similar approaches in their own professional contexts.
The authors argue that the design of this postgraduate course can be seen to enhance relative advantages of online and blended learning in each student’s professional work, while also reducing the complexity of these innovations.
The authors have also illustrated many strategies of ongoing authentic assessment activities. These strategies provide many opportunities for participants to contextualize new approaches in education with validation by others in the same profession with peer learning and feedback.
Furthermore, school leaders who have taken this course found it valuable.
In addition, the New Zealand Ministry of Education has recognized some of these challenges and recently included online learning and professional development in school leadership.
This feedback has suggested that the institutional review designed for this course is relevant for school leaders.
Hence, the authors recommend that it be adapted for aspiring school leaders to undertake during their professional development, which may already include an online community of practice.