CPD in the Age of the Internet: an ELT Chat Summary

Continued Professional Development has always played an important role in teacher education post pre-service training. For sure this pivotal role will continue as we move further into the digital era, however, the mode of delivery has already begun to change, eltchatlogowith more and more courses moving towards online delivery. The main aim of this chat was to explore how teachers continue with CPD via online modes of delivery as opposed to face-to-face courses and to ask whether there are any advantages or disadvantages to this?

As the first shot was fired to signal the beginning of the chat, some were quick to reach the first hurdle: the sheer abundance of CPD materials available online. @LizziePinard quickly linked to the wealth of seminars, webinars and blogs available on the British Council’s Teaching English website (http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/continuing-professional-development) and @MarjorieRosenberg pointed to the ELT Chat store of past summaries and transcripts as another source (http://eltchat.org/wordpress/eltchat-summaries-index/).

Too much? Too little? What about the people? 

In trying to tackle the question of whether this plethora of material is to our advantage or not, @MarjorieRosenberg made the upbeat suggestion that it could be disadvantageous as there is simply “too much to take advantage of”. @LizziePinard highlighted the fact that online courses would not suit everyone, as some might prefer or even need face-to-face contact; however, she was quick to stress that the flexibility of fitting an online course around one’s own timetable is clearly advantageous for some teachers.

Further to Lizzie’s point, @adi_rajan spoke about an ever growing chasm between vis-à-vis courses and online options in terms of the amount of choice and availability, referring to the quantity of content available in the digital age as “astonishing.” IH World’s @Shaunwilden agreed that it is easy to “get swamped by all that’s offered online” but @MarjorieRosenberg did point to the fact that one can always choose where and when to do online courses.

Moving towards the people behind online courses, @MarjorieRosenberg highlighted the fact that many moderators of online CPD courses need to free up a lot of time in order to respond to posts in a sufficient manner. @Cioccas highlighted that time differences can cause delays when responding to posts and comments but did specify that the internet does simultaneously help to overcome “the tyranny of distance.” While many CPD courses come at a significant cost, particularly when delivered face-to-face, online courses can be “free or relatively inexpensive” according to @adi_rajan.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, one of the greatest advantages of online CPD courses is the creation of a global community (@MarjorieRosenberg).

Isn’t it all a question of formality? 

A few of the participants looked at ways in which teachers actually develop via online resources and focused particularly on digital collaboration between teachers. @Marisa_C highlighted that collaborating face-to-face is something which not all teachers are used to for one reason or another and @cioccas went one step further, saying if teachers do not collaborate vis-à-vis then we cannot “expect them to take to doing it online.” However, she did mention that online platforms, such as ELT Chat, often bring together “like-minded people” and @LizziePinard pointed to Twitter and Facebook groups being good for discussion and development.

When it comes to what works for who – be it an online platform with threads and comments or a standardised course which is delivered through the internet  – @Angelos_bollas pointed to the fact that it all depends on “learning styles”. For some, the “asynchronous” approach of many online resources are exactly what maximise their engagement and focus, yet for others an online course could only differ from a face-to-face one in as far as the handouts are digitalised and little more – for such people, organisation and a holistic approach are key and essential.

@LizziePinard summed it up well in her tweet: “Online there are more formalised and less formalised ways of developing. The secret is to make it work [for you].”

How to get the most out of online CPD?

With this question @LizziePinard took the chat in the direction of helping teachers to know “where” online resources are in relation to “what” topic so that people know where to look. Specific points of reference were mentioned earlier, such as the British Council website; however,@Joannacre pointed out that the “human connection” is a good starting point – interact with other teachers online and they might be able to point you in the right direction for more materials on the topic you are interested in. As @MarjorieRosenberg put it: “You can’t manage the content without the connections.” So, it seems even in the digital era, people still play an important role in your Continued Professional Development.

Problems and issues

Of course, everything that is good also has a bad side and in terms of online CPD that is the “lack of accreditation” according to @Marisa_C. Marisa highlights that this is not an issue for some but for others, unfortunately, academic management might not recognise the time spent engaged with online development.

@Ciccoas asked how this can be influenced and eventually changed? And the answer? It seems this might be left open to another ELT Chat, although @adi_rajan did respond “it’s like talking to a wall” with reference to the attitude of management towards online CPD.

Where is it all going?

It seems from the comments towards the end of the chat, online CPD is developing most quickly in the areas of teaching-related blogs and wikis. @Eannengrenoble claims this represents a sort of return to an ideal where “learning is for pleasure” – in this case the learning is teacher development. Eannen mentions that by reading blogs and wikis teachers learn and therefore become more competent and, therefore, anything is possible.

Finally, @Marisa_C says that a “teacher’s blog can be seen as evidence of their CPD more so than certificates.”

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