Why MOOCs are Perfect for Teacher Development 5 reasons why every teacher should know about MOOCs Being based in the UK, I am acutely aware of budget restraints within our state-run school system with schools struggling to afford to provide adequate training and development opportunities to their teaching staff. This is a major issue of concern given that developing and improving teacher subject knowledge and classroom teaching is core to improving overall pupil achievement. Parents want their children's teachers to be well trained and have the necessary skills to do the job properly, but they also (quite rightly) expect them to be up-to-date in their subject areas and teaching techniques. But with little financial support from the school added to time restrictions, teachers are faced with a brick wall when it comes to fulfilling their professional development needs. Schools and teachers faced with these cost and time restraints now need to be pretty innovative if they want to keep teaching standards high and in line with the latest changes and innovations in education. But it might be precisely these innovations in education that provide the solution. Although MOOCs have now been around for 5 years, it always amazes me how few people have even heard of the acronym (which stands for Massive Open Online Courses). And these courses could open up the door to a wealth of high quality, low-cost Teacher Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunities. So what's so great about MOOCs for teacher development? MOOCs are open courses that are available over the internet. They have no enrolment restrictions, are accessible from anywhere, at any time AND most often the course content can be accessed free of charge. You may question the quality of these courses if they are free, but you would be wrong to do so. MOOCs are mostly delivered by renowned professors from famous universities and generally offer the same course content that you would find if you were enrolled at the university. They usually run over a 2 - 6 week period either on on a rolling basis or multiple times a year, and enrolled learners are encouraged to interact with peers via discussion forums linked to each individual course. The subjects and topics that are covered are very diverse, meaning that teachers can find courses relating to a specific subject area that they teach or something more general about Classroom Management, for example. There are several reasons why MOOCs fit so nicely with Teacher CPD in the current climate: MOOCs are Free! As I highlighted earlier, school budgets are being squeezed making it increasingly difficult to provide quality teacher development opportunities. That doesn't have to be an issue with the availability of high quality online courses that can be accessed without spending a penny, or a dime, or a cent..... Naturally, MOOCs have to make money somehow, so you do have to pay a small fee if you want to earn a certificate, but that remains an option. (To access the courses for free, always look out for the "audit" option which sometimes appears in small print!). Any time, Anywhere Another difficulty faced by those in the teaching profession is a lack of time. Often teachers have a very heavy workload and it is not always easy to find the time for professional development. A great advantage of MOOCs is that they are delivered online which means they can be accessed at any time of day and from anywhere you can get your hands on a device and the internet. Self-paced & On-demand In addition to being available any time and from anywhere, the beauty of MOOCs is that teachers can dip in and out of a course as and when it suits them allowing them to learn at their own pace or access parts of a course that are more relevant to their needs. Also, the content can be revisited at any time if you want to go over a complex topic again or to remind yourself of something in particular before teaching it yourself. A great classroom resource Blended Learning, mixing classroom teaching with online resources, is becoming increasingly common in education, and, being freely available, MOOCs provide an excellent source for additional subject-based content that teachers can use to supplement their own classroom teaching. Teaching tips Last but not least, teachers who take MOOCs in their subject field can observe how certain topics are addressed from a teaching perspective, helping them improve and build upon their own delivery in the classroom. MOOCs are a very viable solution There is no doubt that MOOCs provide an excellent source for Teacher Development when faced with the hurdles that cost and time restraints represent. Fortunately, we live in a very innovative era for education and education technology bringing us new ways of both learning and teaching. Whether you are a school head looking for affordable alternatives to providing your staff with Professional Development opportunities, or a teacher wanting to develop your subject knowledge or teaching skills, MOOCs are a very viable solution. Where can I find MOOCs for Teacher Professional Development There are a number of MOOC platforms that deliver courses suitable for Teacher CPD which you can find in MoocLab's Guide: Top Platforms offering Free Online Courses for Teacher Development Don't have time? If you don't have time to look through all the different MOOC platforms for the right courses, MoocLab's Teacher CPD Study Groups provide a handpicked list of free online courses and resources selected by subject area. By joining a Study Group, you also get to meet and interact with other teachers with similar goals and interests from across the world. Learning from each other's experiences is also a great way to develop as a teacher.