Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So, what is OLLIE?

Online Learning for Iowa Educators (OLLIE) is a new initiative by Iowa's Area Education Agencies.  Its central aim is to deliver quality professional development in online pedagogy to Iowa teachers, and do so in a systemic way.  It is a 5-course sequence built around best practices in online teaching:
  1. Introduction to the Online Learner (1 cr.)
  2. Technology for Online Instruction (2 cr.)  
  3. Instructional Design in an Online Course (2 cr.) 
  4. Facilitation in an Online Course (2 cr.) 
  5. Assessment and Evaluation in Online Courses (2 cr.)

The AEAs began offering courses in the sequence during the 2009-10 school year, and will have all 5 courses being offered by the summer of 2011.  Currently, the AEAs are also partnering with Drake University, which will be offering a 15-credit certificate in online teaching, using a core of the 9 credits above with 2 electives (6 credits) from their online pedagogy offerings.

As taking an online experience is one of the keys to learning how to teach, the courses are all online.  More importantly, they are being delivered in a train-the-trainer, modular format, meaning that schools can deliver school-wide professional development to teachers using the course content with a local or AEA facilitator (we are currently in the process of training a cohort of AEA trainers).  Courses will also be offered as catalog courses through AEA PD Online for instructors looking to learn on their own, outside of a district initiative.

The courses do build on each other sequentially.  Participants have hands-on activities helping them construct an actual course they will use, so the learning is an efficient use of time.  However, the "Introduction to the Online Learner" is an excellent course for all educators to take, whether they will be teaching online or not.  Given that many administrators, counselors, at-risk coordinators, and TAG coordinators are pondering online offerings for students, this course gives must-have information on ensuring student success online.

OLLIE is a central part of the ARRA Ed Tech grant to help build capacity in Iowa to deliver K-12 content.  Some of the grant dollars are being used to provide piloting districts with stipends for early adopter teachers who take OLLIE courses.  This summer, we held a cohort of 19 districts who completed coursework in the OLLIE sequence, representing over 100 teachers and administrators.  In addition, the Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Des Moines, Norwalk, and Van Meter school districts have committed to delivering OLLIE content to selected teachers in their district.

Map Channels: free mapping tools

Teachers participating in the cohort not only had a chance to engage with the content, but they also had the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers across the state on similar projects, including the creation of common courses.  Several teachers participating in the summer program are implementing hybrid units this fall as the first step into online learning.

One important step for schools looking to dip their toe in online learning is to target specific teachers who will actively challenge themselves to deliver the curriculum in new and exciting ways for students.  More cohorts are planned to begin this year in regional areas for district trainers or early adopter teachers.  Districts interested in professional development should contact me or their AEA Ed Tech consultants to find out more.

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