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Cover Story Edu-Tech EduTech Oct-Dec-2019 Teacher Training Teaching Styles Teaching Tips

Effectiveness of Online Teacher Training: An Industry Perspective

Anand Ramaswami
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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which are free and open registration courses available on publicly shared platforms, was so popular in its early part of this decade  that the New York Times declared 2012 as the ‘ Year of the MOOC’. Since then, many changes have taken place  in the online learning front and the MOOCs too, have evolved and moved towards a learner-centric approach. 

The MOOC movement is now in its eighth year, with Coursera, edX, XuetangX, Udacity and FutureLearn leading the market. The global MOOC market size is expected to grow from USD 3.9 billion in 2018 to USD 20.8 billion by 2023, according to the Global Forecast to 2023 report by Markets and Markets Research Pvt. Ltd., which is good news for the future of online learning. A wide variety of subjects are currently covered in these MOOCs, with 40% of the courses dealing with technology and business. 

Teacher-training courses to grow in the next five years

The report further says that educational and teacher training courses will grow at the highest CAGR during this period, primarily due to the increasing demands for the adoption of innovative technologies and 21st-century skills in education/training. These courses help teachers, educators, professors and trainers enhance their teaching or training skills enabling them to prepare learners for future challenges.

Unfortunately, most of these courses are aimed at educators in the higher education domain. Very few courses are available  for those in the K–12 sector, and the existing ones have not garnered enthusiastic responses either due to lack of awareness regarding the availability of such resources or the infrastructure to support them. 

Mitigating instructional gaps in the K–12 sector

With the government focussing on upskilling of teachers via tech-integrated training programmes, regular refresher courses, workshops, fellowship programmes and subject-specific pedagogical instructions on SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active–Learning for Young Aspiring Minds), many public and private sector organisations have entered the fray devising  programmes to help teachers. For instance, the British Council has attempted to train teachers in English language teaching and assessment strategies. It also offers a MOOC on English in Early Childhood: Language Learning and Development. There are a couple of other e-learning solutions providers in the market who have designed MOOCs for school teachers, which primarily focus on training teachers to conduct effective classes. At the same time, there are very few MOOCs which focus on different subjects.

We at Next Education, have always been committed to training teachers with the latest pedagogies and instruction strategies that they otherwise might not have access to. We conduct workshops and other training programmes in schools, helping 1,25,000 teachers every year to implement our curriculum effectively. 

Challenges in existing models of teacher training

However, we found this model of teacher training lacking due to the following challenges.

  • Incorrect usage of curriculum components: It was noted that many teachers have not understood the usage guidelines of various components. For example, worksheets for homework are used in class, leading to mismanagement of the academic planner.
  • Unused components of the curriculum: Teachers are found overlooking certain components. For example, the resource kits, an ancillary component that can be used for hands-on activities and assessments, are often left unused.
  • Oversight of implementation guidelines: Teachers are found not adhering to implementation guidelines. For instance, it has been noted that an essential pre-writing activity aimed at helping students with a suitable language and context for a writing task is often skipped.
  • Additional cost of training: Training has to be repeated because a significant number of teachers are on leave at any given time due to various reasons. This often results in increased costs on the part of the school.
  • Time constraints: Schools often allocate insufficient time for training, which results in the teachers receiving only partial information and training. 
  • Training accessibility: Teachers are often taught by proxy by senior teachers, resulting in knowledge dilution. Secondly, schools are eligible for teacher training based on the commercial value of deals. Due to this, our training fails to reach all teachers.

Launching MOOCs for school educators

To address these challenges, we launched teacher training MOOCs on our online platform, NextGurukul. Starting from April 2019, Next Education started providing MOOCs on various topics and subjects such as Early Childhood Education, Computer Science, Environmental Studies, Maths and English. 

The courses are not only aimed at ensuring greater knowledge on formulating effective learning objectives, instructional strategies and methods of assessment in their respective subjects but also to open doors for collaboration in various aspects of teaching and learning, such as sharing experiences and best practices in teaching with their peers around the world. The courses are also designed to help teachers effectively use NextCurriculum, the robust curriculum solution designed by Next Education. 

The Learner-centric Model

We collaborated with education technology experts from IIT Bombay to design our MOOCs. Most MOOCs simply focus on technology features and try to mimic classroom activities. While tapping on technological affordances are important, it is equally  important to design a learner-centric MOOC. Learner-centric MOOCs consist of four important elements: learning dialogues, learning by doing activities, learning extension trajectories and learning experience interactions.

Learning dialogues are interactive videos, which consist of learning material along with reflection spots/questions related to the immediately preceding content. Research says that the interactive model results in higher retention rates than the usual videos.

Learning by doing activities promote experiential learning with customised feedback. This is especially helpful and studies on such learning activities estimate their learning benefit to be six times that of watching videos or reading.

Learning extension trajectories consist of multiple resources, followed by an assimilation quiz which furthers one’s learning. These mechanisms cater to  diverse learners and their different learning levels/preferences.

Learning experience interactions are discussion points and activities effective in fostering peer connections among MOOC participants, which is known to lead to better learning.

Our MOOCs are divided into weekly modules, which is further subdivided into smaller sections containing interactive videos, activities, customised additional learning materials, assessments and opportunities for peer learning. There is a weekly summative assessment with a knowledge quiz on the entire learning material for that particular week.

MOOCs Offered by Next Education

We have created  six MOOCs so far: Early Years – Learning and Development, Computer Science in the Classroom, Teaching of English in the Classroom, Environmental Studies for the 21st Century, Wonder Maths in the Classroom and Tinker: A Holistic Curriculum for Preschools. The courses focus on the philosophy of the respective subjects, the particulars of grade-specific teaching, the challenges that a teacher might encounter while teaching and ways to overcome those.

What we offer via our MOOCs

  • Learning about the best teaching practices for various subjects

 The MOOCs help teachers formulate effective learning objectives, instructional strategies and methods of assessment in subjects such as Maths and English to ensure the best way of learning for 21st-century learners. 

  • Learning new-age teaching skills

These courses enable teachers to develop skills necessary for 21st-century classrooms, such as the integration of technology in the curriculum, creating interactive learning environments etc.

  • Community-building through peer interaction

The MOOCs provide teachers with a platform to interact with their peers around the world. Besides promoting a sense of community, it would also open doors for collaboration in various aspects of teaching and learning, such as sharing experiences and best practices in teaching. Peer interaction and peer feedback also enhance creativity in teachers with respect to the implementation of new-age pedagogies.

  • Guaranteed certification

On the completion of the courses, Next Education offers certificates. Those securing an aggregate of  50% and above on assessments will be awarded an honorary certificate.

Observations on the First-generation MOOCs by Next Education 

The persistence rate was good across all the courses, with an average of 40% for each course. It reinforced our assumption that in spite of a lack of resources, teachers are motivated to upskill themselves in new ways of teaching practices whenever they have the opportunity.

The persistence rate was good across all the courses, with an average of 40% for each course. It reinforced our assumption that in spite of a lack of resources, teachers are motivated to upskill themselves in new ways of teaching practices whenever they have the opportunity.

Learning metrics

To measure the effectiveness of our MOOCs,  we asked participants to take assessments before and after completing the course. The average pre-assessment score was 59.63%, which increased to 70% post-assessment, indicating a marked improvement in knowledge related to the different components of the subject curricula, implementation guidelines of the curricula, subject philosophy and the use of technology for individual curriculum.

What the future holds

The insights we gathered from the MOOCs are very encouraging. Our survey results point to the fact that learning was effective for the majority of the participants who had completed the course, with 73.3% reporting  that the MOOC exceeded their expectations. This has encouraged us to plan for more MOOCs for the next academic year as well. Our major motivation lies in the fact that our MOOCs have been able to effective in dealing with the learning gaps efficiently and  in a cost-effective way, according to our research. 

A lingering problem in the teacher training programmes is that they all follow a one solution for all’ approach. Better strategies need to be in place to develop professional skills, with different approaches according to the many situations teachers find themselves in or the varying levels of teaching experience. In the case of non-availability of a particular teacher,  options such as common school login for MOOCs that allows a replacement teacher to access the MOOC and enjoy the benefits of the training should be made available.

Teachers are pivotal in delivering quality education and their upskilling can be best achieved through continuous development of our teacher training programme models. 

Anand Ramaswami
Anand Ramaswami

Anand Ramaswami has a rich experience in the field of education as a teacher, trainer and a product developer. With a keen interest in promoting experiential learning, some of the products he created experiential learning solutions for STEM subjects, leading him to head the Academic R&D at Next Education.

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