Creating a Total Learning Experience: Professional Development in an ODeL Era
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Professional development involves continuous retraining or upskilling through formal or informal programs to maintain or improve one’s competency in one’s profession. Professional development involves not only getting new information about one’s area of practice but also developing critical and analytical ways of considering related knowledge. It involves acquiring and developing new competencies to improve and render more efficient as well as effective, given areas of practice. This includes activities leading to the acquisition of new skills, attitudes and capabilities that are compatible with the practice and that support the professional in critically analyzing his/her practice, in diagnosing conflicts and in finding solutions. Loop-like, Schön (1987) argues that such initiatives lead to the creation of new knowledge that can then be fed back into the practice.
However, in ODeL professional development, it is instructional design that can create the space to fine-tune and improve competencies. Professional development in distance education requires hands-on opportunities to further inquire into how to make the teaching-learning transaction satisfactory and meaningful. It is a special world with experts evaluating experts and where elements like participant output, level of interaction, perceptions of effectiveness and value are given special importance.
The following elements need to be respected when mounting professional development programs for online distance education practitioners. Respecting these elements will ensure the quality of the training and eventual practice. When it comes to ODeL Professional Development (ODeLPD), it is important to first understand that instructor effectiveness is a highly valued variable. A quality professional development program will ensure the predominance of the following three notions: (i) instructor presence (ii) the ability to engage with the learner, and (iii) program effectiveness.