Several years ago I was asked to review several online professional development programs along with the Assistant Superintendent to determine which program would be most beneficial to the paraprofessionals in our school district. In Georgia, teachers and paraprofessionals have to complete 100 hours of training within a 5 year period of time to renew their certificates. The two of us reviewed several programs and picked the one we thought would be most beneficial to those that had to use it. These teachers and paraprofessionals were to use this program on designated staff development days or on their own time to get their needed training hours.
In my opinion, and now looking back at this project, I can see that we did not handle it the proper way. First, we should have analyzed the needs of the users. We should have sent out surveys or met with them to see how familiar they were with the technology required, what type of professional development classes they felt would help them the most on the job, and their preferred way of learning – online or lecture.
We decided on one program and then held a “train the trainer” session with one person from each school with the intentions of that person being able to redeliver to their co-workers and be able to support them when needed. The trainers went back to their schools and briefly went over the new program in a staff meeting. Employees had no idea how to sign on, how to sign up for specific classes or how to complete the process to get the credits. It would have been a good idea to have the employees from each school system in a computer lab and let them actually have some hands on experience with the program at the beginning. This would have alleviated many problems and questions during the process.
The program turned out to be a waste of time and money on our part. Very few employees took advantage of the online classes and many felt that we were forcing them to work on their off-time. I am in the process now of conducting surveys to see how I can serve their needs and make on-line classes more appealing to them. I plan to design a few courses on Blackboard that will offer specialized training with videos and interactive presentations. I am also planning to create either a step by step powerpoint or video that will explain how the program works so that it can be viewed as many times as needed.