Notes from iNACOL’s Midwestern Regional Professional Development Symposium


Random Notes from the meeting, April 4, 2011.  Symposium wiki.

Susan Patrick’s Keynote. 

  • It’s a new landscape with new leadership at the state levels and in state houses.
  • Global trends (from Educause):  mobile learning, cloud computing, 1:1 computing, ubiquitous learning, gaming, personalized learning, redefinition of learning spaces, open content, smart portfolio assessment, teacher managers and mentors.
  • Open Content:  ED — open high school courses and community college courses, $2B.  Open RFP for $500M  (
  • From 2003-2007, China spent about $1B to implement online learning projects in the rural areas.
  • 39 states have state virtual schools; 27 states have full-time charter schools.
  • Online learning is growing about 30% each year.
  • Harris Survey:  40% of secondary students want to take online courses.

Challenges for states:

  1. Declining state fiscal revenues
  2. Mounting teacher shortages
  3. Demand for skilled workers.

Digital Learning Now

CCSSO — Next Generation Learners

  1. Personalized learning
  2. Systems of Support
  3. World Class Knowledge
  4. Performance based learning
  5. Anytime, Everywhere
  6. Authentic Student Voice

Next Generation (Gates Foundation) — Current conditions (low graduation rates in some schools, college readiness) in education necessitate breakthrough change. (

Rose Fernandez, The National Parent Network for Online Learning

Home schooled children and moved them into cyber charter school.  Advocate for online education to personalize learning for her children.  Allows her  family to focus on outcomes with challenging learning activities.  She sees her school as a different way of public schooling.  School was closed by a lawsuit.  Parents worked to save the school.  Her view is that adults need to serve the students not the system.  She urges that schools seek parent involvement when developing the school.  Parents are the messengers of urgency and options to serve the families.

Interventions to Increase Online Learner Involvement (Phonekeo Siharath & Jan Mitchell)

Instructor works in a blended classroom.  Although students are scheduled to see him each day, about 40% of learning is online.  Uses action research to guide his instruction.  How does instruction impact learning?  He states that this provides immediate feedback.  Research study:  Does requiring students to respond to other students in online discussion post affect the quality of the original posting?  (He states that it does, when a student must respond to all students.)  What happens to responses when students are grouped?  This may not result in positive student engagement.

Introduction to online  learning environment  (All things in moderation —

  1. Welcoming environment — be helpful
  2. Socialization — create community for newcomers, tap the excitement, and build bridges.
  3. Information exchange  — provide for interaction with content and others.
  4. Knowledge construction — probe for depth, summarize new understanding.
  5. Development

Best Practices in Online AP Instruction (Dawn Nordine, Dennis Kostac, Karen Kitze,  Jim Kinsella, Eric Lehman)

Help with AP courses:  AP workshops,  Reading AP exams, Experience teaching AP; AP central web site; local training sessions.

Professional development to teach online AP courses:  teaching online, certification for online instruction,  taking an online course.

Challenges:  Discussions, Labs

Recruiting students:  take another course first, meeting prerequisites

Successful AP students: communication, local (technical) help for student, having time during school day.

Student Panel

Why learn online?

  • Focus on courses that are difficult.
  • Take online back at my home school while living out-of-state  for father’s military deployment.
  • Athlete
  • Work at own speed
  • Family Flexibility
  • Prepare or college


  • Flexibility
  • prepare for college
  • Work at own pace, slow or fast
  • Teachers help energize students
  • Develop stronger work ethic

How do you handle multiple inputs (multitasking) and helping you with future?

  • Helps me learn other computer programs
  • Helps me organize my time and priorities.  Uses a binder to help with planning.


  • Easy to procrastinate


  • Faster technology for students
  • Course-long projects
  • Using game theory in courses
  • Use multimedia
  • More tutorials, step-by-step, especially in math
  • Different explanations
  • Getting faster response with teachers
  • Use video conferencing software

Adult Question:  Would you like more structure? 

  •  Preparing for AP Exams; Having intermediate deadlines.

What about socialization? 

  • I can meet people in other places. 
  • I am there to study, not to socialize. 
  • There are other ways to connect with kids. 
  •  It is difficult to make friends, but I don’t have people around with the drama. 
  • My school has social events.

Has the relationship changed with your parents? 

  • Yes, I have good discussions with my parents about what I am learning. 
  • Yes, I have more communication with my parents about my coursework.

What incentives are needed to encourage students to stay on pace charts to complete courses? 

  • Grade-dependent event. 
  • Posting class average to let me know how I am doing compared to the other students. 
  • Having parents off my back is enough incentive. 
  • Give rewards for students who show up to live online sessions.

Ensuring Quality Online Teachers (Sue Steiner, Rick Nettesheim, Kris Keckler, Kelly Pochop)

  • Use iNACOL’s standards to select teachers.
  • Use a consultant to get personalized training.  Consultant can serve as support for teacher.
  • Screen carefully; some teachers trying to escape traditional classroom.
  • Connect new teacher to a mentor, experienced teacher.
  • Meet only when necessary for professional development; communicate routine information by email.
  • Students and Families should use chain of command to resolve issues — teacher first, then program head.
  • Understand and address every concern from student and family.  Use technology to help — such as following email thread.  If organization has a way to track student contact (email, phone call, f2f meetings) use it.
  • Use written document to establish teacher expectations (teacher manual).
  • Focus plans that set high expectations for all teachers that are consistent across courses and post them on web site for all to see.
  • Use non-traditional ways to evaluate teachers.  Have teacher focus on things they can control, such as when and how many phone calls are made.
  • Administrators should take many opportunities to make informal observations — assessments, communication, etc.
  • Use effective and timely communication as keys to online teacher evaluation.
  • PCP — Positive feedback, Constructive direction, Positive direction.

Blended Learning Opportunities (Dawn Nordine, Paula Hagerman, Annette Walaszek, Kaye Lietz)

  • From Keeping Pace 2010:  Blended Learning, Competency based Learning, Mobile Learning are key issues
  • BL — combines face to face with online courses.  Convergence of online and f2f.

In summary, the day’s symposium provided means to reaffirm understandings of online learning constructs and implementations.

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