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Online staff development

A new OU service keeps teachers up to date - and on site. Debbie Davies investigates

TeachandLearn.net is a new, online professional development service from the Open University. It allows staff, including teaching assistants, headteachers, governors and qualified teachers, to use the internet for continual professional development.

Keeping up to date with subject knowledge or pedagogical developments generally means inset days or schools having to manage while staff attend off-site training courses.

By providing a subscription service online, the Open University is hoping schools will have much more flexibility in managing their staff development. About half the courses on TeachandLearn relate to subject knowledge.

According to Bob Moon, professor of education at the Open University, keeping up to date on fast developing topics like global warming can be time consuming for busy classroom teachers. "We have produced very high quality subject material. Already there are about 150 topics covered with another 150 in production," he says.

Several high profile names in education have contributed to its development. TeachandLearn's advisory panel includes Estelle Morris, Professor Ted Wragg and Professor Tim Brighouse, the commissioner for London Schools.

It also has the backing of BBC Worldwide which will be marketing the service. Andy Ware, director of children's learning, BBC Worldwide, said:

"We consider TeachandLearn.net to be a personalised answer to the government-led Continual Professional Development strategy." In theory therefore, teachers should find it a lot more useful than another website for swapping worksheets.

The subscription service includes access to chatrooms and hosted electronic conferences. There are plans to accredit some of the pedagogic courses that teachers can take online. The annual subscription rate for a secondary school is pound;1,295. Small primary schools can subscribe for pound;495; large primaries for pound;795.

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