Over the past ten years, I have seen more and more online or virtual professional development opportunities become available. Although I have been facilitating and taking online courses since 2000 I have not totally made the switch to an entire virtual professional development environment. I am a huge fan of any learning opportunity that I can do from the comforts of my own home but I occasionally like attending training face-to-face.
What I like the most about virtual professional development is that you can easily customize the learning to maximize your needs and understanding. For instance if you are attending a webinar and the presenter shares information that you are only vaguely familiar with you can easily do a split screen and run a search looking for more information. Or, if they mention an online resource that one should explore you can go and bookmark the site to explore after the presentation. The online courses that I have taken have a schedule to follow but as a learner, you can determine when and how you work on various projects. This flexible environment has allowed me to take courses and enjoy family vacations or a work trip at the same time.
Personal Learning Networks (PLN) can provide self-study opportunities in addition to facilitated or face-to-face interactions. Through these networks, you can engage in discussions, comment on blogs or collaborate with others sharing knowledge and resources in a virtual world. Long ago, I discovered that the key for me to be successful in a virtual world is to be organized and set a schedule for participation. Just because you aren’t meeting at a set time does not mean that you shouldn’t allot time in your week to ‘attend’ to your work.
So are you ready for a virtual learning environment? Here are a few resources to help you decide if you are ready to take the plunge into online learning:
If you are ready for virtual learning, I suggest starting out with one environment. Take the time to learn the in’s and out’s of virtual environment and if tutorials are offered review and explore. If you take the time to explore the tools and resources offered in one environment they will most likely transfer to any other virtual world and if they do not ask for help. I find that those involved in virtual learning are more than willing to share their tips and tricks as they recall when they first got involved online.
Do you have a resource that helped you make the switch to virtual learning? Or a recommendation for a PLN that is helpful to your profession? If so please share.