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Online Professional Development Opportunities for K-12 Teachers

Learn about online training programs with professional development options for K-12 teachers. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

Essential Information

K-12 teachers have a number of online professional development opportunities that enable them to meet their career objectives. Online education options for K-12 teachers seeking advanced or continued learning opportunities cover a wide variety of subjects. Teachers can enroll in stand-alone courses for continuing education. They may also consider enrolling in a graduate certificate or a master's or doctoral degree program. Some courses are offered entirely online, but some programs are offered in a hybrid format and include a field experience requirement.

Program Information and Requirements

Online students should have computers with updated hardware and software. Online coursework is often completed in an asynchronous manner, which enables students to access materials and complete assignments at a convenient time and location. This is typically done via a virtual instructional platform, such as Blackboard. Though coursework is completed online, many degree and certificate programs require the completion of research projects and field experience that allows practical application of core concepts.

Individual Courses

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), teachers typically need to complete continuing education annually in order to keep their instructional licenses current. Continuing education courses for teachers are available for professional development credit toward licensure renewal. Courses are offered at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. as well as through education-related organizations.

Course Topics

Areas of study may include the following:

  • Teacher leadership
  • Instructional strategy
  • Language arts and reading
  • Social studies
  • Science
  • Math

Instructional Technology Certificate

This program is ideal for teachers who wish to take a more active role in the integration of technology into the classroom experience; it is also well-suited for those transitioning to a career that focuses on implementing instructional technology. Students may be able to obtain a master's degree by completing only a few additional classes.

Course Topics

Distance learning courses may include the following:

  • Introducing the World Wide Web
  • Internet security in the classroom
  • Software and hardware installation
  • Online program evaluation
  • Multimedia educational presentations

Special Education Certificate

Many schools are experiencing increased enrollment of special-needs students. This certificate program equips K-12 educators with the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the needs of these students. Depending on the school, a master's degree may be obtained with the inclusion of a few additional credits.

Course Topics

Participants may study:

  • Technology and instructional design for differentiated instruction
  • Current issues in special education
  • Diagnostic assessment and progress monitoring
  • Students with emotional, social and behavioral disorders
  • Students with low-incidence disabilities

Master's Degree

Online master-level degree programs may result in either a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Education or a Master of Education (M.Ed.). They provide teachers with the opportunity to pursue an advanced course of study, which potentially increases classroom skills as well as provides opportunities for advancement.

Course Topics

The following topics may be explored:

  • Modern applications of classic learning models
  • Teaching special populations
  • Instruction for students speaking limited English
  • Social contexts for urban schools

Doctoral Degree

Teachers who wish to enhance their classroom skills or transition to an educational leadership role may find a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership program useful, although it is not a requirement for most roles in education for K-12.

Course Topics

Core coursework may include:

  • Leadership and communication
  • Strategic problem solving
  • Education law and policy
  • Ethical and societal educational leadership
  • Managing organizational change

Experienced teachers who need to renew their licensure can choose from a wide range of online standalone courses that can augment their expertise in their specialty area or provide training in an unfamiliar area. For teachers who are looking for more comprehensive training or to redirect their careers toward educational administration, a master's or doctoral degree program may be more appropriate.


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