Teacher PD ideas: Maximizing the Benefits of eLearning

by | Oct 3, 2023 | 1 Minute Mastery, Professional Development For Teachers | 0 comments

Looking for new teacher PD ideas? Me too. I live in the state of Michigan in the United States. Like many places in the world, Michigan has some great urban areas. In-between those urban areas are vast tracts of empty land and rural areas. I live in one of the urban areas, and unless I go traveling around, I tend to forget the vast amount of rural areas in my state.  

In all those rural areas, we have schools. As a matter of fact, we have one of the last one-room school houses in the U.S. in our upper peninsula.  Regardless of where a school is located, we owe it to the children to give them a world-class education. We can only do that with world-class teachers.  And believe me, we have them!  But part of being a world-class teacher is having a career-long commitment to the best, on-going, teacher professional development.

So how can you access outstanding teacher PD, anywhere in the world, even in rural areas?  It seems obvious that at least part of any PD program should involve an online component.  By now, we are all well equipped for virtual learning.  

We obviously should explore eLearning options.  We are eLearning specialists, but I will be the first to tell you, often my first choice wouldn’t be eLearning.  This is because I have seen too many eLearning courses that were boring and just not designed well.  The same can be said for in-person training as well. I have also been to countless all-day, in-person workshops. For several reasons, this kind of sit-and-get workshop, with no follow up or practical applications, is just not good practice. The in-person training could actually be worse than a poorly designed eLearning course, because teachers are forced to do lesson plans and be out of their classroom, missing out on precious learning time with the students. 

The Spacing Effect

So, what is the answer? What new teacher pd ideas are out there?  At 212 Creative, we are educators who design and develop eLearning courses, including our 1 Minute Mastery program.  We are tasked with creating courses that not only engage learners but also optimize their ability to retain and apply knowledge effectively. One of the reasons we are so successful is that we know education, we know the research and we know how to successfully apply the research. Whether designing eLearning or in-person courses, if you’re looking for teacher pd idea, look for ones that keep in mind one of the most potent tools at our disposal, something called the spacing effect. In this article, we’ll explore how harnessing the spacing effect can elevate your course design and delivery.

The Spacing Effect: A Brief Overview

The spacing effect, also known as distributed practice or spaced repetition, is a well-documented psychological phenomenon that underscores the importance of spacing out learning sessions over time. It runs counter to the traditional “cramming” approach, where learners attempt to absorb large volumes of information in a single sitting. Unfortunately, this is the norm in many places for teacher PD.  Instead, the spacing effect suggests that dividing learning into smaller, spaced intervals yields superior results. 

How the Spacing Effect Works

Instead of studying a particular topic or set of information in a single, intensive session, like an all-day teacher workshop, the spacing effect suggests that it is more effective to distribute your learning sessions across multiple, spaced-out intervals. For example, if you’re learning new vocabulary words, it’s better to review a few words each day over a week rather than cramming all the words into one day. It would be best if you could get just 1 idea or strategy at a time, then have time to practice it, to make it a part of your professional practice.

There are several advantages to spaced learning. For example, each time you revisit the material after a gap, your brain engages in something called retrieval practice. This process involves actively recalling and retrieving the information from your memory. This effortful recall strengthens memory traces and reinforces the neural pathways associated with that information. 

The spacing effect also helps improve long-term retention of the material. When you space out your learning sessions, you are more likely to remember the information not just in the short term but also for an extended period. This is especially important for academic subjects, language learning, and any type of skill acquisition.

Lastly, spacing out learning can also help reduce the amount of time spent on overlearning. Overlearning occurs when you continue to study or practice a topic beyond the point of mastery, which can be inefficient. The old saying of “Too much, too fast, won’t last.”  is actually very, very true. 

The spacing effect has been widely studied and confirmed in research on cognitive psychology and memory. It has practical implications for optimizing study habits and curriculum design. By spacing out learning sessions and strategically reviewing material over time, learners can enhance their retention and mastery of the content, making it a valuable strategy for effective learning and memory improvement.

If you are looking for teacher PD ideas, we have designed a program called 1 Minute Mastery, which is designed to take full advantage of the spacing effect and all best practices in eLearning course design. 

Teacher PD Ideas: 1 Minute Mastery

The fundamental advantage of the spacing effect is its remarkable impact on retention and recall. When learners encounter information repeatedly over spaced intervals, it becomes ingrained in their long-term memory. eLearning courses, with their flexibility and adaptability, are uniquely positioned to facilitate this spaced repetition. By breaking down content into digestible modules and scheduling periodic reviews, learners are more likely to retain and recall information well after the course concludes. This is exactly how the 1 Minute Mastery program is designed.

The Forgetting Curve

If you are looking for teacher PD ideas, the best eLearning takes into account the Forgetting Curve.  This research is over a century old.  In short, whenever we learn something, we almost immediately begin to forget the information. To combat the Forgetting Curve, information should be presented in small chunks and reviewed and practiced frequently.  1 Minute Mastery subscribers are sent 1 video, no more than two minutes in length, each week for the entire year.

Long-Term Skill Development

Beyond mere memorization, eLearning coupled with the spacing effect supports long-term skill development. Whether it’s mastering a new language, acquiring technical skills, or honing soft skills, the spaced repetition approach fosters deep understanding and proficiency. Learners are better equipped to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world scenarios, driving true competency.

Flexibility and Accessibility

eLearning’s inherent flexibility and accessibility make it an ideal platform for implementing the spacing effect. Learners can access content whenever and wherever they choose, fitting their studies into their busy schedules. This accessibility ensures that spaced repetition becomes a practical and sustainable part of their learning journey. Each 1 Minute Mastery video is under 2 minutes in length and gives practical strategies to overcome common classroom problems. The teacher then has the entire week to practice the skill until it naturally becomes part of their professional practice.

Efficient Knowledge Transfer

For organizations looking for teacher PD ideas, eLearning designed with the spacing effect offers a streamlined approach to knowledge transfer. Training materials and resources can be systematically delivered and reinforced, resulting in a workforce that is well-prepared and equipped with the knowledge and skills needed for their roles.

Conclusion

As eLearning specialists, we have the privilege of shaping the learning experiences of countless individuals. By designing eLearning courses with the spacing effect prominently in our minds, we unlock a powerful tool that enhances retention, mitigates the Forgetting Curve, reduces cognitive load, and fosters long-term skill development. The benefits of eLearning, when harnessed with the spacing effect, empower learners to not only acquire knowledge but also to retain, apply, and excel in their chosen fields. In doing so, we are not just designing courses; we are crafting transformative learning journeys. 

Whether you teach in a busy urban area or an out-of-the way area that is more rural, you can get world-class teacher PD delivered to you each week of the year.  Check out our 1 Minute Mastery program to engage in quality teacher PD for yourself, or for your entire school or district, in a most effective, practical way. Wherever you live and teach, you earned it, and your students deserve it.