EVENT: Online Professional Development for Educators

On May 6th, 2004, DOT-COM and InterAction co-hosted the third session in its speaker series on ICTs and Development, focusing on Online Professional Development for Educators. Over 60 participants attended the session held at AED's conference center in Washington, DC.Stephen Tournas, USAID CTO for dot-EDU, welcomes the panelists and audience to this third DOT-COM/InterAction Speaker Series event, on Online Professional Development for Educators.

Presentations were given by:

Stone Wiske: World WIDE Online Learning Environment
Summary: Stone reviewed the pedegogical approach to online learning and professional development, starting with base principles and working through the key resources and factors for success. She uses examples from her work with WIDE World, especially working with the dot-EDU iNET Namibia program.


What is Effective Professional Development
  • Focuses on clear goals anchored in student learning
  • Derives from research on exemplary practice and focused on specific issues of curriculum and pedagogy
  • Embodies a theory of adult learning
  • Develops collaborative practice within and across schools
  • Models effective pedagogical practice consistent with message
  • Provides ongoing feedback around teacher and student learning
  • Involves school leaders and staff
  • Takes place in schools and classrooms
  • Maintains focus on continuous improvement over time
  • Builds local capacity to sustain system-wide improvement
The Promise of Online Professional Development
  • creates and supports teachers in learning communities
  • archives vivid images of exemplary practice
  • provides new structures and media for reflecting, communicating, and acting;
  • allows for construction and discovery of knowledge;
  • expands access to information, networks, people, and ideas;
  • increases the flexibility of time and places for learning.
WIDE World Educational Model
  • Build on teachers’ priorities and current practice
  • Walk the talk: Model desired approaches so that teachers learn from experience
  • Online tools to scaffold performance
  • Support cycles of learning, applying, reflecting, revising
  • Personalized coaching and feedback
  • Collaboration and exchange with a community of colleagues
Linking Online Learning to Onsite Support - Local Facilitator Role
  • Political Support
    • Lining up support from key Ministry leaders
    • Connecting change initiative to local policy priorities
  • Social Support
    • Face-to-Face workshops (four total) throughout 12-week online course: Orientation, Mid-course support, Closing showcase and celebration
    • Promote and model peer learning
  • Technical Support
    • Make sure participants have access to technology
    • Assist in developing sufficient expertise to use the technology
  • Educational Support
    • Augment the work that WIDE coaches do through face-to-face coaching
    • Relay learners’ challenges to coaches
  • Administrative Support
    • Identify people who need to work together to create initiative to work and sustain momentum
    • Provide synergistic energy to help coordinate and build local capacity to sustain the initiative.
Biography: Stone Wiske is a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She teaches, conducts collaborative research, and consults with educators both nationally and internationally. Her focus is the mutual improvement of public education and educational theory through connecting educational research with practice. She directs the Education with New Technologies web site at http://learnweb.harvard.edu/ent, a networked community to support teaching for understanding with new technologies. It combines interactive tools, online courses, a library of resources, pictures of practice, and electronic forums for over 2000 registered members. Wiske teaches and conducts research on online professional development courses through WIDE World at http://wideworld.pz.harvard.edu

A full copy of her presentation, Online Professional Development for Educators, can be downloaded by clicking the following link. stone_wiske.pdf 3MB PDF.

Kelly Wong: Online Professional Development: the NUR/UMD and NetTel@Africa Experiences
Summary: Using his experience developing online curriculum and courses for the Unviersity of Rwanda, University of Maryland and through the NetTel@Africa program, Kelvin Wong reviewed the key questions: What does the online model allow us to do that we were not able to achieve before? What are the challenges and potential pitfalls in the design and implementation of online learning? And what tools are appropriate in the developing world context?


What does the online model allow us to do that we were not able to achieve before?
Lots but not everything.
  • Increase efficiency - more ready to use course material
  • Increase activity capacity - gas pressure labs, ICONS, more courses available NetTel@Africa, CISCO, Merlot
  • Increased access to experts - NetTel@Africa has partnerships with NARUC, FCC, and others for access to experts
  • Ability to deal with sensitive issues, such as conflict and AIDS
  • Better education and/or training for more students
What are the challenges and potential pitfalls in the design and implementation of online learning?
  • Unclear or incorrectly stated purpose and objective
  • Inadequate local partners buy-in
  • Inadequate attention to local needs
  • Programmatic rigidity
  • Unrealistic time horizon
  • Short changing importance of curriculum reform
  • Elite focus
  • Too much focus on technology and hardware
What tools are appropriate in the developing world context?
  • Bandwidth is expensive and needs to be carefully managed
  • Use combination of technologies and applications
  • Challenge is human capacity not technical capability
  • Context is very important and occurs at multiple levels- concept of nested context may be useful
Biography: Kelvin Wong is Senior Associate, Center for International Development and Conflict Management. He co-directs, with Professor Ernest J. Wilson III, and manages the African Telematics Project at CIDCM. The African Telematics Project is actively engaged in Africa-focused ICT policy reform activities, ICT research, and ICT Project implementation. Mr. Wong has recently had published "African Information Revolution: A Balance Sheet" with Ernest J. Wilson III in Telecommunications Policy and is editing Negotiating the Net: The Politics of Internet Diffusion in Africa with Ernest J. Wilson III - forthcoming (Lynne Rienner) in 2005.

A full copy of his presentation, "Online Professional Development: the NUR/UMD and NetTel@Africa Experiences" can be downloaded by clicking the following link. kelly_wong_web.ppt MS PPT 1MB.

Sapnesh Lalla: NIIT Ltd Experience with For-Profit Online Professional Development
Summary: Sapnesh reviewed the experience of his for-profit company in developing a network of computer based and online professional development courses in India and other countries for teachers and other professionals.

Highlights: Sapnesh reviewed the software infrastructure his company developed for professional development programs. The user logs in and views his home page. A popup dialogue box notifies him of outstanding tasks and the status of his work. He can check his email inbox for emails from peers and instructors about the work assignments. Assignments and readings are located in another section of the home page. Tips, tricks, and news, related to the courses he is following are also offered to the user.

Instructors additionally, can email experts in the field if they need additional guidance, who promise a four hour turn around time for any questions.

Most courses involve collaborative forums, which involve instructors as well as peer learning opportunities. Both online technical support and expert assistance are only clicks away.

Biography: Sapnesh Lalla is the Vice President of OEM Business, part of NIIT Ltd. NIIT is a global leader in Technology-based Training solutions with extensive experience in providing courseware management software, support services, systems integration and online multimedia courseware development services. Training is NIIT's core competency. NIIT started as an IT training company in 1981. Today NIIT trains over 250,000 people and operates over 2000 training centers across the world in 28 countries, and develops over 2000 hours of online training and CBT each year.

Q & A Session

Q: Mark Frazier with Openworld Learning
I would like to ask a question about the rewards that the faculty receive in the different projects for taking full advantage of these online resources. I can imagine in the private sector with NIIT, that there are very clear feedback loops that the more you do - the more credentials, the more your salary can increase and your career prospects grow. In the public sector that certainly isn't consistently the case. Although there are instances, like Singapore, where every teacher's salary, in fact all the public are keyed to the growth of the private sector in the previous year - called Flexiwage.

So my first question is, whether in the public sector projects there are consistent ways keyed to objective performance to incentivize people.

And the second question is harking to the point that Kelvin Wong made about engaging students of developers of e-learning materials. Is this beginning to take hold in some of the projects overseas? It is potentially threatening to the professional status of teachers, but it is potentially also a very effective way to engage students in things that can open up doors for them.

A: Kelly Wong
Student development: The relationship is a partnership that is supposed to benefit both institutions. The faculty member and the business schools saw this as a viable way to put his students into a realistic business situation that would benefit them at the same time that it would generate benefits for the National University of Rwanda. So as to whether that would threaten the private sector or not, I don't know.

Q: Mark Frazier
No, not the private sector, but in public sector environments that was actually outlawed in the 1840s because the Lancaster system were a lot of kids teaching kids. And this became perceived as threat to the teachers.

A: Kelly Wong
I guess this wouldn't be kids teaching kids then.

Q: Mark Frazier
Well, in the sense that e-learning enables kids to create materials for other kids and often times they are less afraid of the information technology.

A: Kelly Wong
That seems to be a fundamental principle and a fundamental benefit of a lot of applications whether it is kids or others.

A: Stone Wiske
I think your questions about incentives and rewards are really central. In the case of WIDE World, we do not offer academic credits but many teachers in this country wish we would. Instead we offer what we call professional development points - continuing education credits.

For some teachers those are linked to salary bumps- and other times they are not.

I think the key question is to frame your astute point broadly, and to ask what would be "intrinsic rewards" for participating in these experiences, how could they be built in ways that would enable people to do the work they want to do and like to do better, in ways that they found intrinsically satisfying. And then also what sort of connections can you make between them and the reward structure they are part of.

In Namibia, I know teacher educators who were participating in this program were playing a part in an ongoing educational reform process, driven by a long range plan that included helping new teachers going into the schools learn how to teach with new technologies. And wisely they thought, if we want new teachers to learn how to do that, we better teach the teacher educators how to model these practices. SO I think in that situation, if you are aware what you are doing fits into a process that you endorse, then you can build in to this some intrinsic satisfactions as well as these sort of external rewards.

But this is time consuming, you know. Just because you are doing it online it doesn't mean that it doesn't take the same time out of the 24 hour day. I think it is a myth. Email actually does take the same amount of time as phone messages and opening your mail does. So if you want teachers to be participating in these experiences, you have to ask: What are they not going to do which will give them the time to do this?

Q: Dennis Foote, DOT-COM Alliance
I found this really, really interesting and yet not at all what I expected. I really expected to hear something about relatively rigorous comparisons between the online approaches and the face-to-face traditional alternatives. What is it that we give up in terms of effect? What is it that we have to invest in a course to make it work well? How seriously can we take it scale and over a long period?

I heard this spoken directly to by NIIT concerns of an economic assessment driving their business model. That makes good sense. We probably ought to be applying a similar model to the public sector. So my question to you is in part. What good data do we have about those trade offs? I understand that they are very complex. And what kinds of general guidelines might you give us about how you would find online instruction like this to be preferable or more economical to achieve similar goals that you might encounter within a public / Ministry of Education setting.

A: Stone Wiske
Isn't this session over now? Are we done? Because I think that is a really good question, but it is a hard one. I would say that the kinds of comparison studies you are looking for are difficult to design at this point because people are still evolving their understanding of what good online learning might look like.

We are at the point now where we have tuned up some of the courses that we offer to the point where I think we could design a face to face alternative and establish a sort of comparison of the type you are talking about, but I think up until recently, I think these online experience have been evolving as people's understanding of what is possible kept running in front of their comprehension.

Under what circumstances does it seem plausible or at least a good adjunct to what you can do face-to-face, I don't have an area dyed answer to that. Mine would be kind of common-sensical in the same way that I expect yours would be

In the situation where the expertise that you want people to develop isn't local yet, you might be able to achieve this scaffolding coaching experiences that you would like people to have, if you limited yourself to importing people. And part of what I find promising about the model we are working with, in a short order I think we can establish local capacity

I think we could we could sustain a couple more rounds, but ultimately spin off what online support for coaches, which must be the principle that you are working with too, I assume.

Sapnesh Lalla
I would make two points. One is online education as a model, at least what we experienced, works well for working adults and doesn't work as well for folks coming out of high school. In what I understand, I think the reason lies in, the person out of high school needs a lot of hand holding and structure. And I think from there what we have tried to derives is that this notion that online learning is anytime anywhere also has a flip side which is: No time nowhere. It requires a great deal of discipline. The reason, I believe, our model has been successful in NIIT is that we have made this the only method of delivering education.

If you give several options, people take the option that has the least resistance and then these initiatives fail. So that would be a point that I would make. It requires a great deal of discipline. It requires a management will. But you have to decide that you are going to do it this way only.

The only parallel I would draw is with banks. There was a time when you could only draw money from going to a teller to perform the transaction face-to-face. And then the banks went to automated teller machines and then you could do it on the internet.

If you look at the finances of how those things happen, banks ended up spending more money than saving. You can still go to the teller to make a face-to-face transaction, you can still do it on the Internet and you can do it over the phone. Now you have four systems that are essentially what one used to do. Now you see that banks charge money for those facilities.

I think one option leads to success and having discipline helps.

Kelly Wong
I would like to add, that I think it really depend on what kind of distance education you are speaking of. In some Maryland community colleges. College of Southern Maryland gets courses form PGCC. Univ. Maryland University Park is only distance education. Again, that is a little different model.

So, as to whether it's worth the funding and can it be justified, I'm not an economist and I will reserve judgment and I probably won't understand the answer.

Q: Siobhan Green, DOT-COM Alliance
Further into Dennis' question about the comparisons between traditional face-to-face and online, what are the differences in terms of cost throughout the whole project? When you talk about taking to scale, I know there is a significant up front cost [for online education] vs. [what you need] for traditional face-to-face training.

A: Stone Wiske
I think it is really hard to answer some of these questions because the kind of course can vary dramatically. I mean the kind of course that NIIT is talking about or what you were talking about, Kelly, is very deeply programmed. Lots of content is prepared up front. With kind of course at WIDE, a certain amount of content is built up front but a lot of the process of the course occurs through the interaction of the participants.

So you don't build gobs of stuff and send it out. You design a small amount of material and then provocative prompts or assignments. And then people respond to that and the material of the course comes from them. So it is difficult to prepare how much it costs to prepare this course versus that because these courses can be so dramatic[ally different].

Kelly Wong
A thought just came to me. The onus here seems to be in defense of online learning and what the cost is, and that is fine. The average number of years it takes to get a PhD in social science is 8 or 9. I don't know how one calculates that into the cost calculate of a face-to-face course. But I think that illustrates of what it takes to getting to a clean answer.

Sapnesh Lalla
We are a for-profit, so I'll give you a clean answer.

We have a fair amount of experience in creating courses both online and for on the ground students at the associate, bachelors and masters levels.

There are 2 keys costs if you want to deliver education on-line.
  • The first is structure and connectivity and those are capital expenses. This variable is based on your enrolled student body. But to get started, you should look at approximately $100,000 for base infrastructure that can support 500-1000 students. That should pay for connectivity in terms of servers and software and such. That is one key cost.

  • The second key cost is building the course. You can build courses following two models.
    1. Faculty members are not really required. A self-paced model that costs more to build, typically costs 10,000 to 20,000 to build 1 hour of interactive multimedia software.
    2. If you build academic courses which organizations like the University of Phoenix builds, it typically costs $15,000 to build a course. It needs simulations as a method to replacing the instructor. However in those situations, you also need an instructor so you have to factor in an instructor's costs.
Interaction through discussion is key. So your knowledge base comes for free.

So I guess those would be the base costs models.

Q: Stephan Tournas, USAID
If I could put you on the spot for a minute to see if you can look ahead.

When Sapnesh was talking a moment ago about ATMs, I was reminded that ATMs were initially set up in banks and it was sort of a revelation, after a few years, to realize that you could put them outside the bank and allow people to access financial services that way.

So I'm thinking along the lines of a diffusion of innovations. Something that we are still not getting because it is a bit hard to see the future- But I think we are still using sort of using conventional model of education. Putting things online, how is that different?

I think we are getting closer to the kind of innovation that in 10 years we will be saying why didn't we think of that?

So I guess I'm asking you to put yourself at great risk, and try to give us a sense of where you think interactive or online education is heading in the near future. I won't ask you predict 20 years from now. But given the trends that you are seeing, especially in the for-profit sector and education sector. Where do you think, given some of the things that we have tried to stitch together, where do you think, given the fact that you have, you know, 80% chance of a 15 year old boy dying in Botswana or southern Africa dying from HIV/AIDS. You have the decimation of teachers from HIV/AIDS in many places, especially in southern Africa. The relevance of conflict. What kind of a model, do you think or how much do you think the current model can be molded to help fit developing countries, which is of course what we at USAID are most interested in.

A: Stone Wiske
We can assume given the trends that speed of access and ubiquity of access will keep increasing. Wireless, smaller computers will make this access to the networked world much more available as time goes by. So technologically, I would predict that they would have much more fluid access to these experiences than we do now.

I was thinking back to your question, when is online learning more marginal value than face-to-face training.

From my experience and again I think we speak to the kind of learning we are interested in and the kinds of goals we are trying to achieve.

What has been more surprising to me on teaching online, the value of peer learning and the value that people gain from one another. Just as the internet was a producer and sent off to the consumer. And then gradually became an environment where everybody was a producer and a consumer. I think we will see more forms of education where more than instructor lead environment. I don't just mean peers getting what they need from inanimate materials, I mean peers teaching one another, exchanging their own ideas. Communities of practice taking the lead - not so much from a designated instructor.

Sapnesh Lalla
There is an experiement that NIIT is working on. If you look at world wide numbers and leaves 6 billion that are illiterate and if you were to look at that as a problem and whether leaders of education will solve that problem. The way that were deliver education now, we will not solve that problem.

One of the experiments that NIIT is doing, in part funded by IFC, called the Hole in the Wall. We use learning by discovery at the PhD level and we wanted to know whether it works at the K-12 level, particularly with under-privileged kids. It would take me a day to describe fully but here is our main take away from the experience.

We installed computer kiosks that were connected to the Internet. We put in a portal that we thought may be of interest to kids in the community. We found that kids learned on their own, with no instruction, just from access to the computer and Internet alone, and from watching other kids. These kids were semi-literate, and had never seen a computer before.

Now, what these kids learned, we used to teach in classes over two months. The expense of teaching those kids from the Hole in the Wall was 5 cents per day and over 200 kids could learn from one computer of a period of 3 months. In my mind the Internet could help us.

Kelly Wong
Just a quick response. If the education institutions could change their policies, then technology would be adopted more quickly. For example, a university could stream a class produced by another university instead of offering that class with a live teacher - but would that university want to do that?

This is a case of institutional interest, rather than technological challenge. Institutional vs. technological is fundamental paradigm issue.

Post-Event Discussion on Global Knowledge Discussion List
Following the DOT-COM/InterAction Speaker Series: Online Professional Development for Educators event on May 6, 2004, DOT-COM and InterAction are hosting a month long follow-up discussion on GKD, starting June 1, examining current examples of how online education is being used to bring professional development opportunities to developing countries.

To Join the Discussion

The agenda for this topic (June 1 - 24, 2004) will focus on:
  • Learning about activities that provide online professional development for educators
  • Identifying the technologies, tools, and infrastructure required to have the desired impact and sustainability
  • Examining approaches for evaluating online professional development efforts
  • Exploring what's on the horizon - and what online technologies and techniques will be available in 5-10 years
A White Paper citing the cases, projects, experience, success stories, and recommendations presented by discussion members will be widely circulated throughout the development community. We encourage all discussion members to participate and share their experience and knowledge. To Join the Discussion

DOT-COM/InterAction ICT Speaker Series Background
The DOT-COM/InterAction ICT Speaker Series, funded by USAID (DOT-COM) and the Markle Foundation (InterAction ICT Working Group), is intended to explore ways in which Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) impact development efforts.

The main goals of the speaker series include sharing information about innovative and effective uses of technology in development efforts, building a community around a broad spectrum of information technology interests, and exploring gaps and challenges to effective implementation and use of technologies in development.

For More Information, Contact:
Jeffrey Goveia
Deputy Director, dot-EDU
Academy for Educational Development
Tel: 202 884-8576

Kelly Wong
, Center for International Development and Conflict Management, University of Maryland

Stone Wiske
, WIDE World
Harvard University

Brian King
ICT Working Group Coordinator, InterAction
Tel: 202 667-8227

Partner: Sapnesh Lalla
, OEM Business
NIIT Limited

Related Resource Partners
Related Links
Click on USAID's logo to visit USAID
Click on Internews Network logo, to visit Internews
Click on Academy for Educational Development (AED) logo to visit AED
Click on Educational Development Center (EDC) logo to visit EDC
Core funding for the DOT-COM Alliance is provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture & Trade, Office of Infrastructure and Engineering (EGAT/OI&E), Office of Education (EGAT/ED), and Office of Women in Development (EGAT/WID), under the terms of Award numbers: GDG-A-00-01-00009-00, dot-GOV; GDG-A-00-01-00014-00, dot-ORG; GDG-A-00-01-00011-00, dot-EDU.
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