Perhaps no profession understands the power of continued education more than educators. Add in a historic event, such as a pandemic, and teachers turned to multiple sources for adjusting to diverse students’ needs.
While teachers fully embrace the importance of continued education, the rush to emergency online classrooms served as a dynamic catalyst for new, customized professional learning services. Many turned to the Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance (VLLA) members who had the trusted experience needed to develop new learning pathways.
“Our professional learning services are pretty diverse,” said Rich Copeland, supervisor of teacher quality, Office of Technology Services, Georgia Virtual, and a VLLA member. “We serve our faculty, the Georgia Department of Education and other agencies. For school districts, we provide the tools, resources and the pathways that district leadership can create for their students.”
Funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant in 2020, Georgia Virtual’s PartnerUP program provides district- or school-based digital solutions powered by local teachers. Along with these personalized learning solutions, Georgia Virtual provides the professional learning services necessary for successful implementation.
“We offer all of our Georgia Virtual School’s courses for them to use along with the tech expertise to integrate into their schools,” said Copeland. “We offer Canvas, our learning management system, branding and professional learning to fully integrate digital learning into their schools. We are here to help and support them realize their vision for what they want out of digital learning.”
In 2021, eight Georgia districts served as PartnerUP pilot programs. Today, Georgia Virtual works with nearly 30 districts in some capacity.
Educators appreciate access & cost of online professional learning
Just as Georgia Virtual intentionally couples tech with teaching, VirtualSC believes in the power of making professional learning services accessible and affordable for today’s educators. This state-sponsored online program, also a VLLA member, focuses on creating affordable courses that teachers can take to renew knowledge and further their education.
“We want to help teachers keep up with current trends in education,” said Tammy Hegler, team leader for VirtualSC Professional Development. “We provide teachers with affordable courses to further their knowledge to help students.”
Online teaching endorsements and graduate courses “blew up” in 2020 due, in part, by the pandemic. VirtualSC offers a variety of professional learning courses, including those for gifted and talented, advanced certifications, and literacy coaching and specialist endorsements.
“The cost of education courses can be astronomical especially for endorsements and certifications,” said Hegler. “Our online courses are accessible and easy for teachers to take, benefitting them, their students and their schools. They can take courses anytime and anywhere with no limit.”
VirtualSC has grown the number of professional learning courses to 64 with hopes of expanding its offerings to cover every subject matter and aspect of education.
“Professional learning services are a passion of mine. I am ready to build new and innovative courses,” concluded Hegler.
Her VLLA colleague in Georgia cannot agree more regarding the future of professional learning services.
“We’ve taken small steps with our standards for professional learning,” said Copeland. “I’d like to take in some more wisdom … to learn what other members have done with professional learning.”
Both Hegler and Copeland share excitement for the future of online professional learning services. They envision a multitude of quality courses that are easily accessible, affordable and meet the needs of modern educators. They appreciate that continued learning enhances the individual and all those whose lives they enrich.