Websites set up by organizations typically do not link to others with similar offerings. And research findings or assessments of online programs by independent evaluators are rare.
Also, educators rely heavily on peer recommendations and scientific research when making decisions about professional development, surveys have shown. A lack of experience with OTPD therefore limits the likelihood of personal recommendations. And a lack of good scientific research on the quality and impact of online programs may be holding back their adoption. (Scientific research on OTPD is the subject of the next major section.)
Finally, surveys show that educators desire face-to-face interactions in professional development (Wiley, in press). If they are unaware that online approaches often incorporate such interactions as part of blended or hybrid programs, they may be biased against online opportunities and fail to seek them out.
As important as it is for teachers to know about the potential of online opportunities for professional development, it can be even more important for principals, curriculum supervisors, and other administrators to know about their potential, since they are the ones who usually make the decisions about professional development options and control the funding for them.
However, surveys have shown that many administrators remain skeptical about the merits of OTPD. According to one survey, “administrators typically thought that online channels were very low in terms of effectiveness, and teachers ranked them relatively high. That was the biggest gap in perception,” said Leah O’Donnell (Wiley, in press).
Districts also have a tendency to create and retain their own professional development programs. These programs could still employ online technologies, but “if you have a district or administrator who isn’t particularly familiar with online channels and is keeping a lot of professional development in-house, it’s going to tend to create some of the more traditional face-to-face or workshop situations,” O’Donnell said.
One of the best ways of making administrators aware of the potential of online professional development is to have them participate in an online course. Administrators also need evidence of the effectiveness of current offerings if they are to make good decisions.