A staff must have the appropriate capacity to be able to respond to ever-changing trends and technologies. Building Capacity within any staff is critical to ensuring successful adoption of technological and pedagogical initiatives. This capacity building ensures that there are core values and skills shared among all staff members. Capacity Building usually translates to formal Professional Development, informal learning through networks of teachers and through established mentorship and coaching models.
Professional Development is a critical component of Teaching and Learning Online. Without continual, job-embedded Professional Development, teachers would not be able to offer students the best learning opportunities. Technological advancements require on-demand Professional Development, and just-in-time learning for all participants - teachers and students. There are many formal PD opportunities available, including external courses that can be attended. However, it's important to respect the importance of informal networking and relationship-building that might begin with either formal in-school mentorship, or obtained through professional networking.



Professional Development Opportunities


  • TeachAnyWare
    • In conjunction with the online course modules and material available from www.LearnAlberta.ca (T4T / Learn EveryWare)
    • A relatively new initiative, in partnership with nine different school divisions - with the intent of helping educators use and access the resources that had been created and posted by the DLRB
    • Online modules available for anyone to review and explore
    • Three self-paced workshops: An Introduction to Online Courses, Accessing Online Courses, First Steps in Teaching with Online Courses
    • A considered focus on the pedagogy and technology involved in Teaching and Learning Online

  • Networking
    • Although informal, networking with other interested educators is one of the best ways to learn and explore about best practices and emerging trends and technologies
    • Identifying a core group of like-minded educators - within your school jurisdiction and externally - is critically important

Teacher Coaching and Mentoring


  • Best Practices in Online Assessment
    • Assessment in online environments requires instructors to pay attention to their standard practice
    • Contentious pedagogical decisions must be made in advance of the course starting, as opportunities for informal learning and assessment are more rare in an online environment
      • Buchan, J., & Swann, M. (2007). A bridge too far or a bridge to the future? A case study in online assessment at Charles Stuart University. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 23(3), 408-434. Retrieved from: http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet23/buchan.html
      • Dihoff, R., Brosvic, G., Epstein, M., & Cook, M. (2004). Provision of feedback during preparation for academic testing: learning is enhanced by immediate but not delayed feedback. Psychological Record, 54(2), 207.
      • Pelz, B. (2004). Three principles of effective online pedagogy. JALN Volume 8, Issue 3. Retrieved from: http://www.sloanconsortium.org/sites/default/files/v8n3_pelz.pdf

Research

Dwinal, M. (2015). “Solving the Nation’s Teacher Shortage: How Online Learning Can Fix the Broken Teacher Labor Market.” Retrieved from: http://www.christenseninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Solving-the-nations-teacher-shortage.pdf
Focused on a logistical issue within the United States, online technologies are presented as a viable option to help solve a teacher shortage. The article highlights the importance for teachers to have appropriate training and education in their specific digital environment. "Increased flexibility and productivity will modernize the teacher labor market and resolve shortages in two ways. First, this focus fills teacher vacancies in the short term by promoting greater use of the existing labor supply. Second, it improves teacher quality in the long term by making K–12 education more attractive to highly skilled professionals; similar to the OECD report referenced in the previous section, findings from the Opportunity Culture Initiative suggest that increased flexibility and productivity help to recruit and retain the next generation of highly skilled teachers by offering them more freedom around location, more career advancement within the classroom, greater salary potential and, ultimately, more respect as members of the teaching profession."

Ferdig, R.E., Cavanaugh, C., DiPietro, M., Black, E.W. & Dawson, K. (2009). Virtual schooling standards and best practices for teacher education. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 17(4), 479-503. Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved Mar. 15, 2011 from http://0-www.editlib.org.darius.uleth.ca/p/30481
Although K-12 online education is beginning to become pervasive, supports for teachers in this environment are still in the developmental phase. Through their research, Ferdig, Cavanaugh, DiPietro, Black, and Dawson (2009) indicate that previous research into this field pointed towards the similarity between online and face-to-face environments, and focused on translating effective teaching and learning techniques into this new environment. However, that research also indicated the specialized nature of online learning, and the specific skillset that teachers would require. For example, the researchers highlight that teachers in an online environment need to become comfortable with technology so they can effectively combine the skills of a face-to-face facilitator with an instructional designer. Specifically, the authors suggest teachers need to become adept at telecommunication tools and techniques that draw upon the most current technologies. One of the recommendations is to have both in-service and pre-service teachers become better prepared for virtual school education. The authors highlight a study done through the partnership between the University of Florida and Florida Virtual School. The goal of this partnership is to have student-teachers participate in both face-to-face and online internships as part of their requirements for graduation. The results from this project suggest two important findings: “a) most of the in-service and pre-service students had misconceptions about virtual education prior to the experience; and b) after the experience some students saw new roles for themselves as face-to-face liaisons to virtual schools or as full-time virtual school instructors” (Ferdig, et al. 2009). By offering pre-service teachers the opportunity to intern within an online environment, they were exposed to novel and innovative ways of teaching; something unfamiliar to them from either a student’s or a teacher’s perspective. These opportunities only exist within systems with significant leadership, and a strong understanding of the value of online teaching and learning skills.

Kearsley, G. and Blomeyer, R. (2004). Preparing K-12 teachers to teach online. Retrieved from: http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/TeachingOnline.htm
Originally presented at the 2003 NCREL Conference on Technology, the authors re-formulated their presentation materials into this publication that highlights the necessity of training teachers to work in online environments. The authors understand that the nature of pre-service teacher education is changing, and these skills will eventually be taught in teacher preparation courses. However, until that time, it's essential that strong training programs be established to ensure that K-12 teachers are prepared for the complexities of online teaching. The authors suggest specific certification for teachers who are trained and appropriately qualified to teach in an online environment. They suggest that teacher certification be associated with a set of national standards (like ISTE or NETS). Leaders in education would find this a valuable resource when working with teachers new to the online environment. In fact, part of the discussion centres around the preconditions required for online teachers. The authors address common questions, such as "Can anyone teach online?" and "Why would anyone want to teach online?" The authors provided evidence and examples of online workload, teacher professional development requirements and specific strategies required to teach online. In addition, they have an extensive list of references they have used in the preparation of their presentation materials and this paper.

North American Council for Online Learning. (2006). National standards for quality online teaching. Vienna, VA: NACOL.
These National Standards are presented as an organized list of guidelines for online teaching and instructional design. These standards were strongly influenced by and founded on the SREB Standards for Quality Online Teaching (2006), although they have been re-ordered, re-packaged and combined with other categories from other (similar) studies and research. This is quite a prescriptive checklist that uses a 5-point scale to rate online teaching, and online school environments: Absent, Unsatisfactory, Somewhat Satisfactory, Satisfactory, Very Satisfactory. There are twelve different categories ranging from prerequisite technological skills, online leadership, online assessment and collaboration with colleagues. There are many critical factors that online administrators, leaders and teachers would need to recognize and address before instigating any changes in their online school. Technology and educational leaders would be able to use this checklist as an assessment tool for current online teachers or as a pre-planning activity when establishing a virtual school. Although each of the twelve categories are generally given equal weight through this checklist, a leader would be able to make some critical judgements and decide which aspects would be highlighted with the specific school staff. The inherent American biases (i.e. "state-authorized") would be easily overlooked, and adjusted to a Canadian context.

Southern Regional Education Board (2006). Online teaching evaluation for state virtual schools. Atlanta, GA: SREB. Retrieved from: http://publications.sreb.org/2006/06T04_Online_teaching_evaluation_checklist.pdf
This document is meant to be used as part of a teacher’s periodic evaluation, and has two distinct parts: First, a detailed and categorized checklist that is designed to help assess the online teacher, and determine if they meet the established standards; Next, an annotative narrative section used to highlight specific successes in online education. The checklist is categorized into three parts: Academic Preparation, Content Knowledge and Skills for Instructional Technology, and Online Teaching and Learning Methodology, Management, Knowledge, Skills and Delivery. There's a definitive spotlight on the last category, focused on all of the technical skills and knowledge required for being a successful online learner. Although they could, technology leaders should not necessarily use this checklist as written. However, there are a number of innovative ways this checklist could be used. For example, leaders could use it to design a set of specific standards that meet their requirements when analyzing online teaching and learning. Rather than using this as an actual checklist or assessment tool, it could easily be modified to describe best practices in online learning, and used as a planning tool. Alternatively, it could also be used as a self-assessment or reflective tool for an online teacher, or online Professional Learning Community.

Wortmann, K., Cavanaugh, C., Kennedy, K., Beldarrain, Y., Letourneau, T., Zygouris-Coe, V., & North American Council for Online, L. (2008). Online teacher support programs: mentoring and coaching models. North American Council for Online Learning, Retrieved fromhttp://www.inacol.org/research/docs/NACOL_OnlineTeacherSupportPrograms08-lr.pdf
Through the exploration of eight successful and diverse models of school-based mentoring and leadership, the authors conclude that the mentorship process, although heavily dependent on the specific school’s culture, is a critical aspect of success. As in many aspects of Teaching and Learning Online at the K-12 level, there is a lack of research and data on the effects of mentorship on teachers’ performance and student achievement. However, the research gathered within each of these eight unique settings truly indicates there is a positive reaction when mentorship models include: “personal and professional reflection, sharing of expertise to others with common interests, portfolio development, learning communities, professional development planning for both mentor and mentee, and short-term collaborations through co-teaching or team teaching”. (2008). As each school is located within a unique setting with unique challenges, these eight case studies offer the opportunity to customize and personalize a teaching and learning online mentorship program within any K-12 school environment.