Free courses and online CPD resources
It’s amazing how much continuing professional development you can do for free. The web has always been a great place for sharing knowledge and expertise, and there are new ways to do this appearing all the time. It’s almost always the case that someone will have written a blog post discussing just what you need to know. Then there are online tutorials, webinars and webcasts, e-books, and even full online courses. You can spend as much time as you can spare (several hours a day in my case, as I’m between jobs) brushing up your skills and knowledge for free.
This week I had a one to one session online with a trainer at Questionmark Perception: it was a public webinar but as I was the only one who turned up I was able to take part in a very focused and personalised session enabling me to quickly update my knowledge of the software and get a clear overview of the differences in the latest version which I hadn’t seen before. So many thanks to Kate Soper at Questionmark. Free webinars are increasingly being offered by manufacturers, organisations and interest groups.
Open Education Resources is a major initiative in the education sector, covering HE, FE and lifelong learning (JISC has a major initiative related to this). Many courses are released under a Creative Commons licence. Most are materials which any teacher, trainer or course leader can take and re-use with their learners, but some are aimed at or can be used directly by the learner.
Open Learning initiatives offer free resources on various subjects. It’s up to you to make what you can of these materials as the tutor-led and assessment elements of the courses are, of course, missing. So the kinds of materials you can access online range from Masters level to simple online tutorials.
- UK Open University OpenLearn LearningSpace
- MIT OpenCourseware
- Apple’s iTunes U
- Open Educational Resources Commons, a network of shared teaching and learning materials
- DiscoverEd: Creative Commons’ own search engine for open educational resources
- Free online courses from the BBC (I’m enjoying the basic gardening one at present)
- Alison.com: free online training courses, e.g., English language and IT
- Jane Hart’s list of 100+ Free Websites to find out about Anything and Everything
- MERLOT is a large, high-quality repository of learning materials for teachers and students in higher education worldwide
- The Excellence Gateway – resources and learning objects rather than whole courses. Generally FE level.
If you’re a member of a professional association or community of practice there are likely to be subject and topic specific opportunities. I’m involved in ELESIG – the international community of researchers and practitioners from higher and further education who are involved in investigations of learners’ experiences and uses of technology in learning. We organise free webinars on a range of relevant topics from e-portfolios to quality assurance in e-learning to the ethics of researching students, as well as free face to face events for members. Membership is free to those involved in or interested in the learner experience.
The National College offers a variety of resources on their website to school and children’s leaders and have recently launched a new social networking site ideal for informal CPD. There’s probably an association, a SIG, a forum or community of practice for every area of interest.
NAACE, thanks to TDA funding, provides free ICT CPD for Teachers, ICT Practitioners and anyone passionate about ICT In Education. These (based in Moodle) are aimed at primary and secondary school level and an invaluable resource for anyone working in this area. They include e-safety, Digital Media and using online forums. The latest added is Web 2.0 Visual Learning Collaboration Tools (Primary).
One thing to watch out for is how recent the course is. A resource about social media such as Twitter or Facebook, for example, will need to be regularly updated or it will soon go out of date. Check the version of the software that the tutorial covers – it’s not much use finding a great Photoshop tutorial for the latest version if you have Photoshop 5, or for Moodle 2.0 if you have 1.8. This is one advantage the web has over books. It must be a thankless task writing a book when just as you finish a new version of the software comes out and your book is out of date before it hits Amazon!