Online vs face-to-face: educator opinions on professional development delivery methods
The purpose of this study was to assess teacher perceptions regarding the effectiveness of online courses as a delivery method for professional development. Participants were divided into two groups, educators who have participated in and now teach professional development courses online (instructors) and educators who have participated in the instructors' online professional development classes (online participants). Additionally, the study explored the rationale for professional development and the need for a revolution in the methods of delivery for professional development. The focus was on the opinions of instructors and online participants regarding the ability of online professional development to address this change. Results indicated an overall positive perception of online professional development by both groups. Instructors and online participants with more years of teaching experience were found to have a more positive perception of the effectiveness of online professional development. They also prefer to teach/participate in online professional development over face-to-face professional development. Additionally, online participants who had participated in the largest number of online courses responded more positively that their teaching methodology had changed due to the courses they had taken. The ability to work anytime and the ability to work from any Internet accessible computer were selected by the majority of both groups as factors that influence teaching/taking online professional development courses and as benefits of online professional development. The majority of both groups selected slow Internet and lack of face-to-face interaction as the barriers to online professional development. Future research should focus on several areas related to the effectiveness of online professional development, including the effect of the quality of the online professional development content and design on educator learning. Comparing the design of online professional development courses to traditional courses would allow for expansion of this topic. Another area for future investigation might focus on the effects of online professional development on the participating educator's students. The true litmus test for any professional development is its ability to improve student learning.