The Online Teaching Academy (OTAC) enters its fourth year with the goal of increasing online instruction for adult learners. Funded by the California Department of Education, Office of Adult Education, OTAC will accept 10 experienced and/or aspiring online teachers and provide training and support for the initiation and development of online and blended instruction. Subject areas may include ESL, ABE, ASE, GED, especially those focused on transition to employment, job training or postsecondary, and CTE courses with basic skills and/or work skills integrated into the curriculum. OTAC will provide an environment of open sharing, collaboration, and personal and professional growth in the area of online instruction. Participants will create their own online or blended course presence using Moodle as a course management system. Projects can include complete stand-alone courses complete with assignments, assessments and other resources, supplemental materials to support classroom instruction, or support for existing online curriculum such as GED Connection or Crossroads Café.
The Technology Integration Mentor Academy (TIMAC ) is a peer-mentoring-based professional development initiative with the goal of supporting individuals at adult education agencies to become the technology mentor for their program(s) and thereby increase the effective use of technology in adult education classrooms. The TIMAC project continues to focus on technology integration, such as increased effective use of interactive whiteboards or document cameras, or using software, whether computer- or internet-based within the adult education classroom. Recently TIMAC participants have created Web-based resources such as Web sites, wikis, and blogs to extend learning beyond the classroom.
Online learning is expanding rapidly in all areas of education from K12 to postsecondary. In the past, adult learners were often regarded as individuals who had no, or limited, access to Internet resources. In the 2014–2015 academic year, the California Department of Education required all Adult Education agencies to complete a Technology and Distance Learning plan to meet Adult Education and Family Literacy ACT (AEFLA) Program and Accountability requirements. This requirement surveyed approximately 35,000 Adult Education learners on their access to, and use of technology. The figure on the right is a sample of how adult learners access the Internet other than home or school. Clearly, adult learners are accessing Internet resources, and they are doing so using a variety of methods. To review additional results of this learner survey, use this link: Adult Learner Survey Results.
These results show that adult educators can no longer assume their learners do not have access. Now, adult educators ca and should use the full capabilities of online resources and technologies to help learners meet their goals and gain critical online and technology skills to be successful and contributing members of the community.
In June, 2008, the National Commission on Adult Literacy released a report entitled Reach Higher, America: Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce.i To address the goal of serving 20 million adults annually by 2020, the Commission called for several broad actions, including the recommendation that "(s)trong national leadership must be provided to develop and deploy technology-assisted learning..." As a follow-up to the Reach Higher report, the Council for the Advancement of Adult Literacy released a report in 2009 entitled The Power of Technology to Transform Adult Learning, which calls for expanded access to adult education and workforce skills through distance learning, including the recommendation to use Web technology to reach adult learners.ii
Can adult learners benefit from online learning? A study published in 2008 affirms that students at even the lowest levels of literacy can benefit from online instruction given the right curriculum and appropriate support.iii Adult educators need to participate in the development of the right curriculum, and in determining the appropriate supports that will work for various learners. OTAC seeks to support instructors and coordinators in learning the skills needed for successful online teaching, and in determining the right content for students.
Moodle is a widely-accepted open source course management tool. OTAN has chosen to support Moodle, and will host the participant's course during development and beyond. Although OTAN has chosen Moodle, it does not advocate using one tool over another, and the skills learned with Moodle are easily transferable to other course management systems.
Participation in OTAC is a one-year commitment. For 2015–2016, ten participants will be selected. Participants will attend a professional development event in Sacramento on October 8–9, 2015. At that time they will participate in training, network with their fellow participants, and plan for their distance learning work for the year. They will be assigned a Distance Learning Mentor who will be available to them throughout the school year.
During the project, participants will complete an online course facilitated by EdTech Leaders Online . Teaching Students in Blended Classrooms, a seven-session course (with additional one-week orientation), prepares educators to teach in blended classroom environments. Participants will learn effective strategies for managing and teaching students in blended environments and explore the ways blended learning can effectively support teaching and learning in all subject areas. Participants will learn techniques to foster student collaboration in an online learning community through online discussion and group projects and to assess student work. In addition, participants will learn to meet the learning needs of all students by selecting and using a variety of teaching strategies that aid in personalizing learning for students. During this course, participants will learn about and practice using tools to teach critical thinking skills, explore student academic integrity issues and the safe and legal use of online resources. Course content includes online readings, web-based and multimedia activities, and facilitated online discussions.
OTAC participants will also attend a second face-to-face training January 15, 2016 to continue learning new skills in online teaching, and adding new resources to their Moodle course shells, and learn about online conferencing tools. Lastly, in May, OTAN will host both the OTAC and TIMAC project participants to provide final reports on their project experiences. Throughout the year, participants will meet regularly with their Distance Learning Mentors and the project coordinator. Participants will be required to attend regular OTAN distance learning webinars that best fit their project needs.
Travel costs will be reimbursed by OTAN, but not participant salary. The training will be provided by adult educators and mentors from across the state experienced in distance learning, and will include:
During the training, participants will plan and implement an online/blended teaching project for spring of 2016.
Participants in OTAC should be committed to the development of an online or blended course for use with their students or part of a professional development project for the teachers at their agency. It is not expected that an online course be created by the end of the year, but it is expected that participants will explore and develop online tools that best suit their project goals. Participants will also make a significant time commitment to the EdTech online course. Participants should expect to spend an average of 15–20 hours a month to complete the Teaching Students in Blended Classrooms course during the first two months of the project. The remainder of the time will be spent working on their project plan, attending meetings or attending online workshops. Participants need to collaborate with their Administrator to develop a shared goal for this project and to secure any necessary release time to attend the required meetings. In addition to attending training in Sacramento, participants will communicate and collaborate with their support mentor and with other academy participants throughout the year as they develop their online teaching project.
Participants will also attend online workshops sponsored by OTAN to support project goals. Titles, dates and times will be provided. Participants are encouraged to attend as many online workshops as they can, especially those that would support development of their project. At a minimum, participants should attend at least two (2) online workshops. These webinars are designed as training sessions for different aspects of online teaching and the use of Moodle as a course management system. Each webinar is one and a half (1.5) hours long. The project coordinator will also schedule regular bi-weekly online meetings. These dates/times will be mutually agreed upon and scheduled for the entire year. Participants are expected to attend these one hour online meetings.
At the end of the project year, participants will return to Sacramento and provide a short report on the scope of their project, the current status, future plans for additional development of their course and feedback on their overall experience with the Academy. Participants will also be asked to complete a final project evaluation form online to provide feedback on the project.
To summarize, participant responsibilities include:
The adult education agency nominating an individual for OTAC will need to meet the following requirements:
Individuals participating will have the opportunity to take part in professional development to expand their skills in online teaching and curriculum development. They will become members of a cadre of distance teaching experts that will be a resource for the state, and will be encouraged to share their experience and expertise through regional and state conferences and other options. Agencies will benefit by having a skilled online instructor who will be able to offer online courses for students as well as possibly training, mentoring and supporting other distance teaching staff.
iReach Higher America report, CAAL, www.nationalcommissiononadultliteracy.org/report.html
iiThe Power of Technology to Transform Adult Learning, Mary McCain, CAAL, www.caalusa.org/POWER_OF_TECH.pdf
iiiSilver-Pacuilla, Heidi, Investigating the Language and Literacy Skills Required for Independent Online Learning, National Institute for Literacy, October 2008. lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/NIFLOnlineLearningReport.pdf