Tech Talk Live Blog

Designing Online Professional Development Modules for Faculty and Staff

Emily Sanders and Lindsey Myers


Online professional development is an excellent way to provide flexible and customized professional development opportunities for faculty and staff while at the same time modeling effective blended and online learning. Additionally, with more and more state mandates such as the Common Core standards, Student Learning Objectives, Teacher Effectiveness, and Pennsylvania Value Added Assessments (PVAAS), school districts have to find time in the already busy day to provide growth opportunities for teachers. Online professional development is one way that districts can provide these opportunities with very minimal cost.


  • Structure: Use A Lesson Plan Format
    • Design online courses/sessions so that they follow a typical lesson plan format (i.e. Madeline Hunter). This will help teachers work through the course modules more easily, as they are familiar with that standard lesson style and format. Examples:
      • Your online modules should have clearly stated objectives that outline what the learner should know and be able to do at the end of the course
      • Modules should have an exciting Focus Activity or Anticipatory Set as well as a Closing Activity.
      • Modules should have a variety of formative assessments throughout the course that provide meaningful feedback.
      • Courses should have a mix of independent and guided learning activities throughout.
      • A culminating activity or summative assessment should be embedded at the end of a course for learners to demonstrate their understanding of the material.
  • Model Best Online Pedagogy
    • Using a variety of features within the Learning Management System (LMS), as well as online flipped learning tools, exposes teachers to numerous methods of incorporating similar activities in their own classroom lessons. Examples:
      • Links to helpful resources or an online helpdesk forum where teachers can submit technical questions and get answers.
      • Record tutorial videos and screencasts to demonstrate step-by-step how to complete a complex task using digital tools, or how to model a flipped classroom.
      • Incorporate quizzes, surveys, discussion boards, and other features within the LMS to model interactive online learning.
      • Embed collaborative activities and a digital workspace so teachers can discuss, reflect, and create together.
  • Pacing: Create Learning Modules
    • Make sure the course/session is broken into concise modules that flow seamlessly from one to the other.
    • Give teachers a timeframe for how long each module/course should take to complete so they can gauge how much time they are spending on each activity.
    • Modules should be able to be completed either all in one sitting or broken up over time.
  • Support: Scaffolding and Peer Coaching
    • Since all teachers are at different levels of comfort with regard to technology, the first few times online learning is used the administration should offer a time when the sessions can be completed with face-to-face support available.
    • Support sessions can be held after school or during the regularly scheduled professional development time.
    • During the first session, many teachers may attend the scheduled session, but during subsequent sessions, you will see this number decrease as more and more teachers become familiar with this format and are able to complete the activities on their own or with minimal assistance from colleagues.​


  • Coursesites: This free version of Blackboard is the perfect LMS for cash-strapped districts that want to create and manage online and blended learning professional development sessions. Incorporating almost all of the features offered by a paid Blackboard subscription, it allows for an unlimited number of students to join and interact in an online class format.
  • Schoology: Another free LMS that offers interactive features in an online class format. Popular alternative to Blackboard and Coursesites.
  • Google Classroom: A simple method of sharing assignments and posting announcements, this new tool offered by Google will hopefully be expanded in the coming months to offer more advanced and interactive features. Many add-ons are currently available to enhance the platform. This is an easy way to create professional development activities for schools already using Google Apps for Education.
  • iTunes U: The perfect tool for schools with a 1:1 iPad initiative, this service allows teachers to create courses and push them out through the iTunes U app.
  • Canvas: A relatively new LMS system, this is similar to both Coursesites and Schoology and offers numerous interactive features, and the ability to design an online course from scratch. Free accounts are available as well as district subscriptions.

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