Mentored Self-Paced Learning Works for Online K-12 Professional Development Courses

Author Information
John Sener
The Sloan Consortium
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Indiana University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

The Learning To Teach with Technology Studio (LTTS) at the Indiana University School of Education uses a self-paced, one-on-one mentored format for more than 45 courses designed primarily to serve K-12 teacher professional development needs.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Survey results supply substantial evidence that students are applying what they learn in LTTS courses to their classrooms: 90% of surveyed students said that they have used or expect to use LTTS-developed projects in their classroom courses. Survey results also indicate that LTTS students valued the ability to move at their own pace (94%), that the facilitator significantly helped their learning process (93%), and that relatively few LTTS students (only 27%) stated a preference for going through these courses with other students as a class.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

learning effectiveness: The Learning To Teach with Technology Studio (LTTS) at the Indiana University School of Education has developed more than 45 courses designed primarily to serve K-12 teacher professional development needs. Each LTTS course is offered in an online, self-paced format which includes a one-on-one facilitator/mentor via e-mail only, which constitutes the full extent of instructor-student interaction in the course. As the LTTS website states, "LTTS is a Web-based professional development system that helps teachers learn how to integrate technology into their classroom teaching. We use a problem-centered instructional format and encourage teachers to develop inquiry-based instruction for their classrooms...Courses are based on ISTE NETS standards, connect directly to state and national content standards (as appropriate), and are developed by experienced teachers." According to Project Director Thomas Duffy, the key factors in developing these courses were accessbility, flexibility, and relevance, i.e., professional development designed to support teachers' work in their schools. A key design feature of these courses is that each starts with a curriculum problem and ends with a lesson plan, using a guided problem-based learning approach which supports teachers' "thinking about issues as they work toward a curriculum solution." All of the LTTS courses also help teachers learn how to integrate technology into their teaching, focusing on "how to design inquiry lessons and how to use technology as a vehicle for student inquiry," as well as maintaining a focus on relevant curriculum standards and competency-based assessment. Courses are also designed to have 5-7 guided steps which include submitting an assignment to the mentor at each step in the course process. Mentors grade student work, provide feedback and dialogue with students on submitted work, offering suggestions based on their own experiences and also recommending additional resources for students to pursue. LTTS research on the mentoring process indicates that "cognitive aspects of the course," or cognitive presence, is more important in the success of these courses than establishing a "a high social environment" beyond "base line of friendliness" or social presence. Accordingly, LTTS mentor training focuses on how to do cognitive facilitation in online courses.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

Costs to students: Tuition is $75 per course, which take on average of 15 to 20 hours to complete. Students who want to earn one graduate-level credit from Indiana University for each course pay an additional $204.50. Development costs: LTTS was started with a $1.5 million FIPSE-LAPP grant in 1999; ongoing development and delivery costs were not reported.

References, supporting documents: 

Lorenzo, G. Online Self-Paced Learning with a Mentor Works Well Inside Professional Development Courses Provided by IU School of Education. Educational Pathways, Volume 3, Issue 2, February 15, 2004.

Other Comments: 

As LTTS research thus far indicates, focusing on 'baseline' social presence + high cognitive presence can be an effective alternative approach to emphasizing interaction and community-building between students in online-learning environments. Compare with the "tutorial model" on online learning illustrated by case studies at Northern Virginia Community College [-js, 3-2-04].

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Thomas Duffy, Project Director, Indiana University School of Education
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