Sunday, June 28, 2015

MOOCs for teacher development

Traditionally teachers seldom get a chance to watch each other and share experience. Teaching has been an individualistic rather than collective career where you work out your own strategies, create your own courses and learn from your own mistakes. Even with the advent of online learning, courses tended to be centred around one teacher and the course material was locked into a virtual classroom to which other teachers seldom had access. Of course there is widespread use more collaborative teaching, especially in schools, but in higher education the lone teacher approach still dominates.

An article in the Atlantic, The (Accidental) Power of MOOCs, looks at new statistics on MOOC demographics that not only confirm previous findings that most participants already have a university education but also reveal that as many as 39% are teachers. The attraction is obvious; a chance to see how other teachers work and an opportunity to learn new methods and tools that can then be applied in your own teaching.

That they would voluntarily participate in an online-learning experience focusing on a field they already know isn’t that surprising; as practitioners of education, teachers may also have an interest in the processes and applications of MOOCs, studying how questions, assignments, and tests are handled in online teaching environments, for example. Nor is it surprising that teachers are interested in pedagogy—watching and learning how an applauded instructor delivers a lesson.

For many the subject matter will probably be familiar so they take the course as part of their professional development, especially if they are themselves teaching in an online context. MOOCs can also enable teachers to expand their professional networks and so the MOOC can be a springboard to future international collaboration. It may not have been the outcome the MOOC providers intended but the article sees the professional development of teachers as an accidental effect of the MOOC movement. Thus MOOCs are inspiring traditional teachers to rethink their own classroom practices and use digital media to enrich their own teaching.

But it's not only that teachers are learning by following courses in their subject area, there are a growing number of MOOCs about using technology in education and these are filling competence gaps that many institutions and authorities fail to provide for their teachers. A European project called Handson ICT have recently published a guide for teachers looking for a suitable MOOC to learn about using technology in education, MOOCs as Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in Educational Practice. A practical guide for educators. Here they examine quality criteria for these courses and present a thorough benchmarking overview of currently available MOOCs for educators.

... there are increasing numbers of MOOCs on the market and while the richness of the options is exciting, it may also be overwhelming, especially to those new to online CPD. This document, therefore, aims to help any educator wishing to undertake a MOOC as part of their professional development to an enriching learning experience.

The project also runs its own professional development MOOC, Learning Design Studio for ICT-based Learning Activities, and the next course starts in late October. Here's the preview video for the course.

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