in Policy Brief: Education during COVID-19 and beyond, United Nations states that ‘‘The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents. Closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94 per cent of the world’s student population, up to 99 per cent in low and lower-middle-income countries.’ During this challenging period, teachers are sharpening their axes by attending different Remote Development Programmes. Remote professional development can be defined as participation in online synchronous or asynchronous activities by an individual in order to stay connected with peers, to update personal or professional knowledge and skills, and to express own views and opinions. Remote professional development activities include Massive Open Online Courses, Online Conferences, Webinars etc.
When an organizer organises a remote professional development event, the effectiveness of that event is mostly associated with the number of participants who have attended the event. For a participant, the number of certificates s/he has earned is mostly associated with the effectiveness of her/his remote professional development. In a study about Understanding the Effectiveness of Remote Professional Development, I have set a few characteristics of effective remote professional development and interviewed participants about their experiences about these characteristics (Thanks AINET Association of English Teachers for sponsoring the presentation at DAVCC International Conference). I found that there are a few things that are ignored by the organisers like understanding the needs and level of understanding of participants, opportunities to develop a learning network, and follow-up and support.
I invited suggestions from the participants of the study to improve the effectiveness of remote professional development.
Here are a few suggestions for organisers to improve the effectiveness of the Remote Professional Development:
1. It is important to analyse the needs, level of understanding and level of language of participants and then design the activity accordingly. Organisers should also consider the context and background of teachers.
2. Where need analysis is not possible, organisers should clearly mention the level of presentation, background, and provide reference material to understand the activity better.
3. An orientation and a ‘getting to know you’ activity with hands-on training of the platform will be useful.
4. Sending a worksheet beforehand and asking participants to have a printout while attending the session will be helpful to address the issue of ‘passive participation.
5. Using creative ways, various interaction patterns and collaborative tasks will help not only to make the activity interesting but will also provide scope to develop a sustainable network.
6. Divide the content into small parts and give ample time to each part.
7. Try to answer as many messages in the chatbox as possible.
8. There should be a balance between synchronous and asynchronous tools.
9. Gamification elements like progress visibility, badges, incentives should be added.
10. Regular follow-up and support should be given. Participants should be encouraged to apply the learning in their class and share their experiences.
11. Remote professional development should be sustainable and organised.
Here are a few suggestions to participants:
1. There are various remote professional development activities continuously arranged. Participants may feel compelled to attend all of them due to the Fear Of Missing Out. (FOMO). It is important to overcome the fear.
2. It is necessary to set priorities. Noting down the areas of development and attending activities catering for that area may prove helpful.
3. While attending any activity, note down your expectations and reflect on them after the activity.
4. There should be a constant check on what one wants to do and what he is actually doing.
5. Maintaining self-discipline, attending the activity sincerely, following netiquettes and ethics is important.
6. Using the learning in your context, sharing the learning with friends/colleagues, and adapting it helps to consolidate the learning.
7. It is also important to maintain a work-life balance.
As an old saying says, ‘there is always scope for improvement’, it is very much true for remote professional development. The mutual efforts by organizers and participants will contribute towards it. Please share your thoughts and suggestions to improve the effectiveness of remote professional development in the comment section below.
- Suyog Dixit