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Build or Buy Online PD?

At her session about whether schools should build their own online professional development products or buy a ready-made set of online professional development courses, Nancy Howell, the president of the Atlanta-based N.W. Howell & Associates—a consulting firm that helps school districts develop online-learning and professional-development programs—discussed what kinds of factors administrators should consider when putting plans in place for online professional development.

Whether you decide to create your own courses or buy pre-made courses, having the right amount of staff and support in place is essential to the success of the program, said Howell. In addition, there needs to be open communication between teachers, administrators, and stakeholders about what the needs and expectations are for the professional development, she said.

If your district is leaning toward ready-made programs, there are certain features to check for, such as communication tools (like blogs, chat capabilities, and wikis), media tools (like streaming video), the age of the content and whether it's aligned to standards, ease of use, and the amount of support that comes with the program.

Howell's PowerPoint presentation contains much more information and is currently available online. In addition, check out Michelle Davis' Digital Directions story about this topic.

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