Prior to the pandemic, when I looked for online CPD, I often struggled to find anything useful and mostly attended in-person events, like most of us.
Yet over the past 12 months, with trainers and teachers unable to travel, we have seen a huge surge in online CPD courses, and many teachers are now confident in this way of delivering – and receiving – CPD.
Finding the best online teacher CPD
This is great, but it comes with the issue of how do you know that what is being offered is any good and will actually benefit you? Below I have listed ways in which I have found the best, reasonably priced or free CPD for teachers:
1. Research speakers and events
There are lots of search engines and databases, such as Eventbrite, that allow you to find webinars, training and conferences, even job fairs.
In order to find events that interest you, use the search option at the top of the website. You can check for general "teaching" events or specifically search for your key stage, interest or specialism.
To ascertain the quality of this training, it’s worth checking out the provider and the host/guests. If the training provider is not well known, or not part of a focus group that you have heard of through social media, the quality of the event might not live up to your expectations.
For example, I found what I thought would be a great online webinar, through a recognised university. But the speakers I could access were limited, because when speakers from other nations presented, I could not follow the language. It was a little frustrating to watch interesting concepts on Google Slides without any understanding of them. There was supposedly "translation" for half of the talks but really it was just a short cribsheet with a few comments.
On top of this, many of the sessions felt rushed and overran. It made me realise that it’s worth being thorough in understanding how an online event or conference will be managed.
2. Go direct to the source
Check the websites and social media (Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn) of experts in your field to see if they are offering courses, online training or are part of any conferences.
In my experience, such training has been high-quality. You can be sure the trainer will be well informed, especially if they have published work. If you are unsure of the quality, search social media forums or even directly on their website, as there can be recommendations from others.
Or post the question yourself within a group. I did this when I was considering a level 4 qualification in neurology. I received many responses and a follow-up from the expert, which made me feel confident they were engaged and a reputable source.
Examples of excellent training that I have been part of recently are Anna Ephgrave's "In-the-Moment Planning" and Greg Bottrill’s "Drawing Club". What was really special was being able to ask these experts directly questions regarding their publications and training, which really clarified my understanding.
Greg’s training offered access to his "Discord" group, which gave further depth to the training. He regularly chats on this and, as we work through his training together, professionals all over the world share their insights.
3. Word of mouth
Often colleagues will come from a course full of ideas and genuinely excited to share them.
If they have been motivated and have valued the course, follow up on the recommendation by investigating future courses with the training provider.
If the colleague is willing, see if they will share the documents and ideas from the course, which, of course, is entirely free.
You could also follow this up by seeing if the course trainer/expert has published, as often courses are reflections of an expert’s books.
4. Take up tech-providers courses
When I taught online, I also viewed the Seesaw activities that my daughter completed.
I was new to Seesaw and I was impressed by the excellent examples of online work she completed. Therefore, I decided to upskill my knowledge of Seesaw and completed ambassador training. This was completely free.
You can also become a Certified Google Educator, beginning at just $10, and Microsoft and Apple have similar courses. Given the scale and reach of these firms and their technology tools, there should be no concerns about the quality of long-term benefits of engaging in this training.
You can also find plenty of YouTubers who will talk you through almost anything you wish to do. I taught myself how to set up a Wordpress account through YouTube videos, for example.
Sometimes you have to search through a few to find one that really gets to the point of what you’re trying to solve, but it’s usually worth the effort.