I recently took an online professional development course offered by the Massachussetts School Psychologists Association entitled Ethics 102: The Ethical Practitioner. It provided me with ten hours of NASP-approved PD, plus helped me satisfy my National Certification in School Psychology requirement of three hours of ethics training per three-year renewal cycle (my new cycle just started at the end of July).
Beyond the immediate benefits, however, I thought it would be a good “dry run” of online learning for me, as my upcoming doctoral program is a hybrid online/F2F format. Having been through graduate school once before, I’m familiar with the F2F part, but I’m curious as to what the online part will look like. With my first online learning experience now behind me, I thought I’d write down some of my initial reflections on the process. Please note that what follows is not a critique or endorsement of the content of this program, but rather the online format.
My biggest takeaway from this experience was how much I liked setting my own pace and focus. This course covered a broad array of topics under the “ethics” umbrella, and as I expected, I was more knowledgeable in some areas than others. The fact that this course was available online meant that I didn’t have to sit in a lecture hall or hotel conference room and be spoken to (or worse, read a PowerPoint). I was able to wear what was comfortable and sit where I wanted (I completed most of this course horizontal on my living room sofa). I was able to skim over some parts, and spend more time focusing on others, both in reading more closely and in utilizing external resources to learn more. While the course provides the same content for anyone who takes it, the asynchronous nature of the delivery allows for greater differentiation than the standard lecture hall setting.
That said, I acknowledge that reading text is far and away my preferred method of receiving information. I’d sooner sit and read than watch a video or listen to a recording, at least for academic purposes. As such, this particular course was right up my alley (about 200 pages or so of reading), but I can see how folks with preferences for audio or video might find this format limiting or off-putting. Also, while the course did allow for self-reflection with some case study-style exercises, the drawback to self-study is that you’ve only got yourself to work with. Here is where having someone else in the room to bounce ideas off of or discuss options with would come in handy.
As part of the course evaluation, I left this comment for the folks at MSPA:
I would be very likely to take another online-only course for NASP-approved hours. I am not always able to attend NASP-approved events in my area due to my own professional and personal scheduling constraints, and I applaud the MSPA and NASP for promoting online learning opportunities for their members. I wish more state associations would follow suit.
My own state school psychologists association usually has two conferences a year, but I have only been able to attend one or two in the last six due to demands at work. The national association convention is in a different city every year, and long-distance travel hasn’t been in my budget for some time (although I do hope to attend the 2012 NASP Convention right here in Philadelphia!). That leaves me very few options for obtaining those necessary NASP-approved hours, but this course really fit the bill.
Although doctoral study will obviously be much more in-depth than a single PD course, I thought the experience would be a nice teaser of what’s to come. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed my first major formal online learning experience, and I’m looking forward even more to starting the hybrid online/F2F format in a few weeks.