Educators for Distributed Learning (Provincial Specialists Association of the British Columbia Teachers Federation)
Within the British Columbia K-12 educational system, Provincial Specialist Associations (PSAs) are designed to represent the interests of teachers in the public educational system. These PSAs are supported by the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) through providing grants and administrative support to run conferences and publish PSA journals. The British Columbia Educators for Distributed Learning (EDL) PSA supports the professional development of educators working in the challenging field of online learning. The EDL PSA is one of 32 Provincial Specialists Associations.
Teachers working in the new and ever changing teaching environment of distributed learning face challenges that were not recognized a decade ago. “Working conditions” and “class size” are terms best reserved for the regular classroom teacher. As the number of students taking online courses continues to increase, the question of what constitutes an appropriate class size for a distributed learning teacher needs to be answered. This is but one example of an issue that the EDL PSA might choose to address with its members.
The EDL PSA is working closely with the research department at the BCTF to try and resolve issues related to student composition for distributed learning educators. Through surveys, focus groups and the analysis of data, two particular trends have been identified to date. First, the online course delivery model has an impact on the way that teacher-student interaction occurs. Second, the experience and training of the online teacher plays an important role in the teaching of the course. On this second trend, there are some who hold the opinion that any teacher can teach an online course, while others will argue a distributed learning teacher should have advanced training in some aspect of distributed learning. There is also the rise of blended learning, which further confounds the issue.
To assist our colleagues in the distributed learning environment, the EDL PSA provides distributed learning teachers with the opportunity to dialogue with their peers through its website. There are links to other discussion groups in the “Virtual World of Education.” As another example of the services provides by the EDL PSA, this fall the association is planning to provide a mentorship program for teachers new to teaching online courses. Additionally, there is financial support available for teachers wanting to attend distributed learning conferences and workshops.
The British Columbia EDL PSA is open to all educators, largely based on the belief that within the next decade teaching an online course or supporting students enroled in an online course will be the norm and not the exception.