NLC Spotlight: Best Practices for Online Professional Development using Moodle

Beth Schultheis

Marion County Public Schools

Distance Learning Program Specialist

Make sure you stop by Beth’s session at the National Learners Conference during Focus Session 3 on Day 2!

At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, Marion County Public Schools formed a Professional Development Council to advise the development, monitoring, and revision of the Professional Development System.  A district- and school-level comprehensive professional development needs assessment was conducted.  Disaggregated student performance and behavior data, reading plan, strategic plan, school improvement plans, professional learning needs, assessment data, and data from the district’s educator observational system were used to design a continuous, flexible professional development program.  As a part of this process, the Distance Learning department was formed and 2 program specialists were appointed.

The first mission created for this department was to develop a distance learning overview and process with the following mission statement:  Provide high-quality, relevant, and current, 24/7 online Staff Development that is concise and easy to use for ALL staff members of the Marion County School District. We developed a set of objectives and procedures to process and handle building an online Professional Development program using Moodle.

A decision was made that we would recreate any face-to-face training in order to allow absent employees, new hires, etc. access to all previously delivered content.  Content Specialists were taken through an Instructor Planning Guide to facilitate this process.  Each objective of the planning guide is aligned to a specific protocol standard to assist content specialists in focusing on adult learning needs.   The Distance Learning team is part of the Leadership team that meets twice monthly with each of the Content Specialists to make determinations of current needs and adjust offerings based on this need.  All courses offer practice and feedback through discussion, modeling effective teaching through online videos or lead teacher video examples, databases to share and critique work, differentiated lessons, extensive practice, and feedback.

Currently we have 3 program specialists facilitating our Distance Learning courses.  A decision was made 2 years ago that we would bring the 300 hour state required Reading Endorsement and 300 hour ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) Endorsement courses “in-house” which created the need for a specialist in these areas.  Between 2013 and today we have developed 2,400 hours of online training and issued 137,000 hours of inservice points to our faculty.  These courses include the Endorsement courses mentioned above, new hire trainings that ALL personnel are required to take prior to being hired, as well as the state mandated 20 hour ESE training requirement.  The Distance Learning team is continually monitoring for effectiveness and modify our offerings as needs arise.

bethBeth Schultheis worked in the business field prior to getting her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Information Systems, and a Masters in Educational Technology.   She worked as a secondary mathematics teacher and secondary mathematics program specialist for 14 years prior to establishing the distance learning department with Marion County Public Schools.