Attracting and Retaining the Online Student

This is a free web-based seminar about how to design a successful distant learning program, what is necessary for online education, what support is necessary to run the program, and an outline of lesson plans for the unique online environment.

For example, Palloff and Pratt (2007) describe the need for human contact in Chapter 3, and stress that the facilitator needs to be aware of the silent student and reach out via a phone call or email (p. 48). The webinar will address that and other steps to reduce drop-out rates. I automatically think in terms of highly motivated students, who will ask for  help if they are struggling, so it is important to remember that some may be reluctant to get what they need to succeed.

Palloff and Pratt (2007) also provide a detailed evaluation of an online learning program,  pp. 220-226. They stress that program evaluation begins at the planning phase and continues through follow-up contact with former students to evaluate the instructive effectiveness of the program.


Palloff R. & Pratt, K. (2007). Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom, (2nd ed.). San Franciso: Jossey-Bass.



31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader

This blog, ICT in Education, is just starting its 31 days series of articles on becoming a better educational technology leader, which perfectly describes the role of the facilitator in a Professional Learning Community (PLC). Day 2 article encourages delegation of the work and describes the development of an online course of study. If one substitutes “participants” for “students” in the following excerpt from Building Online Learning Communities, the thoughts align:
Because an active learning process is a desired outcome of distance learning, one way to ensure active participation is to share the responsibility for facilitation with the participants. Usually this is accomplished by assigning students responsibility for leading a portion of the discussion. The assignment can be made on the basis of a student having expressed interest in a particular topic or a rotation of presentations to the group by individual members, or roles can be rotated throughout the duration… (Palloff and Pratt, 2007, p. 173)

Day 1 article advocates a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. In the analysis, the community describes its current circumstances and assesses its environment. As a teacher and an optimist, I dislike the term threats, but I agree with the need to look ahead and note what stumbling blocks may impede progress. In the business world, from which this example is extrapolated, it is undoubtedly common to think in a competitive frame and to consider threats to potential profits. The example listed under threats, “budget restrictions next year,” certainly rang a familiar bell to those of us in the education field.

These are the same steps we have met with the first essay, as we rated our community in terms of readiness, and in Module 6 discussion, as we address questions of what technologies will be implemented, assess access issues, and the like.

I am looking forward to the upcoming articles, to see what areas Mr. Freedman will emphasize as essential to success of a PLC.


Palloff R. & Pratt, K. (2007). Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom, (2nd ed.). San Franciso: Jossey-Bass.

Five Keys to Effective Teacher Learning Teams

This article from Education Week Update, by Ronald Gallimore & Bradley A. Ermeling, identifies five points that are important in creating effective professional learning communities (PLC) which it also calls learning teams. Gallimore and Ermeling advocate small teams of 3-7 teachers from the same grade level or subject area. The authors state it is important to have written guidelines for the work of the PLC. Trained peer facilitators are cited as important to the success of the learning team. This leaves the coaches, “content experts,” free to work with the team members. The principal, the expert and the facilitators form a leadership team to support all PLCs. A stable environment and a published calendar are necessary for the teachers to improve student learning. The learning team needs 3 hours each month for formal learning; the leadership team needs 2 hours each month for planning. The last point is perseverance until the goals are achieved.

The conclusion of the article explains the essence of a successful PLC, “It’s not just meeting as a team that makes the difference. Rather, it’s how the teams use the time that’s set aside to gradually and steadily improve lessons and instruction. Job-alike teams, peer facilitators, protocols, and stable settings create focused opportunities and build teachers’ confidence that their efforts are paying off for their students. When that kind of work is sustained and supported, the promise of teacher collaboration is translated into achievement results.”

Building Scenarios for Online Learning

Module 4 examines some of the course management systems to facilitate learning in an online learning community. Once a teacher has been trained to use Blackboard or Angel, the teacher still needs to develop the course. This blog is written by Tom Kuhlmann, a man with fifteen years’ experience in online learning. He states, “I have a Master’s in Education Technology from Pepperdine, where I researched how to cultivate communities of practice through the development of personal expertise. Currently, I run the user community for Articulate with a focus on building a passionate community of rapid elearning developers.” The scenarios that he describes are similar to case studies, which is the latest method for collaborative online learning.

Published in: on April 15, 2010 at 4:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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Professional Learning Communities: An Ongoing Exploration

In this article, the author Melanie Morrissey explains the purpose, function, and design of a professional learning community. Morrissey begins the discussion of a PLC with the question of readiness. Morrissey begins with the principal, in contrast to Martin-Kniep, who begins with the administration, “School programs, structures, policies, and practices tend to foster isolation rather than collaboration…” (2008, p. 55) Both require an attitude of sharing of the leadership role and responsibilities. Both continue with evaluating staff readiness, the school climate, and the feeling of trust and respect among the staff.

Morrissey begins discussion of the development of a PLC with a clear expectation for the amount of time that development of a PLC will require. “The dedication of time for school people to learn and share is crucial to the accomplishment of school improvement goals as well. … Time, and the use of that time, will always be a factor in the development and continuance of a professional learning community.” (31)

Morrissey suggests the best place to start developing a PLC is to bring the staff together to assess demographics and achievement tests. The staff defines strengths and weaknesses. From there, the conversations flow naturally into identifying contributing factors to the areas of weakness and arranging staff development to address those problems.


Morrissey, M. (2000) Professional learning communities: An ongoing exploration. Retrieved on 03/28/10 from:

Martin-Kniep, G. (2008). Communities that learn, lead and last: building and sustaining educational expertise. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Coherent Instructional Improvement and PLCs

Jacobson, D. (2010). Coherent Instructional Improvement and PLCs: Is it possible to do both? Phi Delta Kappan, 91 (6), 38-45.

The author, David Jacobson, describes two common approaches to PLCs: an informal teacher-led discussion and review of teaching practices. The teachers identify issues that will be investigated, and because they have a direct stake in the answers, they are focused and driven to find solutions. The weakness of the inquiry approach is that there is no organization established, no leaders, and no direction identified. There is also the possibility that the group will get side-tracked, or that some teachers will get discouraged with the lack of structure and focus.

The second common approach to PLCs is to establish grade-level teams, and/or subject/department teams. These teams could be set within the same grade level, and/or within a vertical articulation of the subject/department, depending upon the structure of the school district. This approach is established by the administration, as the arrangement of common meeting times must begin with the administration. The administration also establishes the agenda, and, as it has conceded school time to the meetings, it has a stake in the process. The weakness of the results approach is that it is focused on a narrow, short-term goal of improving state-mandated test results.

Jacobson proposes a common priorities approach. These steps are to analyze the test scores, decide which learning goals to focus on, create common assessments to analyze students’ performance, work together to develop lesson plans that teach those learning goals, teach the lessons, analyze the assessment results, adjust the lesson plans, and analyze the state test scores. This brings the approach back to the beginning in a spiral of analysis and adjustment.

March 16, 2010

Tonight is face to face meeting. Many technological tools!

Published in: on March 17, 2010 at 1:22 am  Leave a Comment  

MARCH 17, 2010

I am still looking for the TAG button on Delicious. I think it will help me sort my 300+ favorites. Small task (tic). The students this year seem more adept at messing up. I have had to retrieve more than a few folders that were accidentally dragged into another folder. When the students are only in here for 30 minutes, that can take a toll on our planned activities.

Published in: on March 17, 2010 at 1:19 am  Comments (1)