Continuing professional development (CPD) is important in all careers, and education is no exception. Teaching staff are under pressure to keep their knowledge fresh and up-to-date, and this is not only when it comes to the latest developments in their own subject area/s, but also skills areas essential to the teaching role.
The need to keep up with technology – so prevalent in all professions now – is also a part of this. Technology changes all the time and teachers, tutors and administrators are often called upon to learn new systems, platforms and applications.
Most people would agree that training is a good thing. Across industry sectors and types, employees generally value the chance to gain new skills that will help them progress in their careers. Indeed, for many this is a key determining factor in accepting a role. Providing the opportunity to undertake CPD in the workplace is therefore important but for the learner, factoring ongoing learning into an already packed schedule can be a challenge.
If CPD isn’t well organised, simple to undertake and engaging to do it may very well get sacrificed in favour of the other many activities that clamour for time and attention in busy schedules. An efficient and effective way of providing CPD is therefore essential if teachers and other staff are to successfully incorporate it into their professional lives.
Extending the VLE to deliver CPD
This is where the virtual learning environment (VLE) comes in. Now widely used by students and teachers to access assessments, course materials, provide grading and feedback and interact through, it can also be used to organise and manage professional learning, providing access to CPD material as well as a platform for tracking CPD progress.
By using the same environment for their own CPD that students use in their courses, teaching staff are able to get first-hand experience of the tool from the learner perspective. This is useful for teachers and tutors to build on their own understanding of the teaching tool, and to help them support their students.
Being online, the VLE can be a convenient way of undertaking training, as it puts scheduling in the hands of the learner, who can tap into it at times and locations that suit them, from a range of devices including mobile.
It’s also interactive, supporting videos and discussions. This can encourage peers to collaborate, provide feedback and share best practice. It’s a flexible approach that supports learners in practising and demonstrating knowledge they’ve gained, as well as receiving feedback which can be via a range of formats such as text or video.
A centralised view of staff development
For administrators and senior staff, a single platform for staff CPD can provide a convenient, fully centralised view of employee development within the institution as a whole. They can automatically assign learning programmes according to pre-set attributes (such as by department or according to level achieved within the organisation).
The ability to view CPD progress, and to look at the data in a range of different ways, gives a clear picture of the current level of skills attainment against the institution’s aims and objectives for people development, as well as insight into future scheduled training.
Ongoing learning, and continuing development, is a fact of professional life, but it can be something that is challenging to find time to do in the busy world of education. By providing a user-friendly, flexible platform for organising CPD, educational institutions can support teachers and other staff members in achieving their own career goals, while improving standards within the organisation and increasing staff engagement.
Elliot Gowans, D2L