Teacher Professional Development Formats: A Fast Reference Guide


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Teacher Professional Development Formats:

A Fast Reference Guide


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Teacher Professional Development Course Formats:

A Fast Reference Guide


teacher professional development classesIt can be confusing to sign up for teacher professional development classes today because course formats have evolved into a wide array of choices. You may come to find that you can’t fluently speak the new language of professional development. Here at Youth Change Professional Development Workshops, we get lots of questions like “How does an online class work?” and “What’s the difference between a streaming and recorded class?” In this high tech era, professional course delivery options are many, and it can be hard to keep up.

In this quick reference guide, I will run through the most common questions we get and do my best to help you nail down all the terminology so you can make informed professional development course selections. Hi from Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. That’s me in the image at right, as shown in our video Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Online Class. I’m a course presenter, keynote speaker and the Director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. I hope our quick manual will be a good guide to staying current with all the terminology that you need to know to take full advantage of today’s ever-changing teacher professional development choices.


Professional Development Class Terminology

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In-Person Professional Development Classes

Think of these courses as analog or legacy professional development classes. This is the old school or old style, conventional method of training. You show up at selected site and hear and see the speaker live. You know this format. Examples of live courses include our professional development classes (click) coming soon to Portland and Seattle. Live courses are interactive and you can usually ask questions and exert some control over the content. On the negative side, you have to get to the event site regardless of weather, traffic or competing demands.

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Online Professional Development Classes

This term obviously applies to professional development classes delivered via the internet, but the term can include an assortment of formats, all delivered online. When someone uses the term “online class,” they usually mean that the course is a pre-recorded video. Usually, the video will play just like any video you find on the internet, and you can fast forward, stop, rewind and save the video to watch at a later date. But, there are other kinds of online professional development classes. You can see PDFs, audiobooks and ebooks used as online classes. Instead of watching a video, you read an ebook or PDF, or you might listen to an audiobook. “Online class” can also be used to describe another format that varies a bit from video, the Powerpoint presentation. Usually, the Powerpoint presentation is automated and plays like a video. It may even be a video but instead of viewing a class or lecture as you might during a video, you see only or mostly slides that advance on their own. Typically this format does permit you to stop, fast forward, rewind and stop the class, and return to it later.

Not everyone learns well from online professional development. You have to have discipline or motivation to sit hours watching a screen. Most online professional development classes will play on most any internet-connected device but it can be trying to watch a 10 hour course on your little cell phone. These courses are all pre-recorded so you can’t ask questions or control the content of the class at all. There may or may not be a mechanism to reach out to the instructor. On the plus side, you can take classes while you jog on a treadmill or eat breakfast. See examples of our online professional development classes. Online courses are often cheaper than in-person professional development classes but not always. Online courses may or may not hold your interest. It is a lot easier for a presenter to hold your attention when she is live, standing right in front of you versus when she is a not even a half inch tall on your little iPhone.

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Streaming Professional Development Classes

This term seems to confuse people the most. Streaming means that the professional development class is happening live in real time but that it is being delivered online. Typically, you are asked to attend by going to an online meeting website link, often a site like GotoMeeting.com. You may listen and see the professional development course by yourself perhaps using your desktop computer monitor or your phone. Another variation: You might watch on a large monitor as part of a group or staff watching together. Sometimes, you can interact with the presenter, sometimes by phone or by using a microphone. Sometimes you can only interact through a human monitor who relays questions to the instructor, or you might type your questions into your device and that is relayed to the teacher. People can participate from any geographic location all at the same time, or the professional development class can be restricted to members of a school or agency.

Streaming is great because you don’t usually have to go anywhere to attend. The cost can be less than a comparable in-person class, or the class can even be offered free. On the negative side, it can get dull pretty fast. You may find it hard to stay engaged especially if the course is many hours long. It is tough for instructors to project their personalities or a sense of excitement through a screen. If you are sitting at work, you are vulnerable to distractions and interruptions. The course may stream at a time that is not convenient to you. Interacting with the instructor may be slow or difficult. There is always the possibility of technological problems like poor quality video, poor quality sound, lost connections and so on. You can not necessarily save the streamed class, rewind, stop or pause it. You may not be able to return to it. Instructors can generally provide a recorded copy of the completed streaming class, but that is not always done. One real limitation is that you are either watching at the designated time or you miss the course. Learn about our streaming professional development classes.

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Recorded Streaming Professional Development Classes

As you read above, once the streaming professional development class is over, it is often provided to you as a recorded course. Typically, this means that the once live online course now is a recorded online course. This progression can confuse people. Here is how you can understand it: When you are filming live with your cell phone, that is similar to the class streaming live on the internet. After you finish filming live with your cell phone, you may play back what you just recorded. The recorded streaming professional development class is simply the playback of the live streaming course. Because recorded online streaming classes are fixed, you have all the drawbacks of any online course. Once the streaming stops being live, you may or may not be able to reach the instructor, ask questions or make comments.

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Other Professional Development Terms to Know


Here are a few more terms to be sure you remember:

Self-paced: This just means you can take the class at your own pace. Online classes and recorded streaming courses allow for this if you can stop, pause, and rewind at will. 

eLearning: This umbrella term just means that the course is delivered electronically. That could mean the professional development course is provided online, on a CD or some other electronic method.

Hybrid or Blended Learning: This is a course that uses both electronic and in-person formats, or some other combination of virtual formats. For example, a learner might take an online course then email back and forth with the instructor, or meet with the teacher in person.

Synchronous Learning: This term means that all of the students are taking the professional development class at the same time.

Asynchronous Learning: This term means that not all the students are taking the class at the same time. So, this type of learning results in a single learner interacting directly with the content via a technology system. The learner can go as fast or slow as desired instead of progressing in unison with others or as a part of a group.

Distance Learning: This is another umbrella term that encompasses almost any professional development format that is not sitting in a classroom in person on a set schedule. Online classes and streaming are both types of distance learning, for example.


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About Ruth Herman Wells

Author/Trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. is the director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. In 2011, Ruth was rated as a Top 10 U.S. K-12 educational and motivational speaker by Speakerwiki and Speakermix. She is the author of several book series, a columnist, adjunct professor for two universities, and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Ruth's dozens of books includes Temper and Tantrum Tamers and Turn On the Turned-Off Student.