The Education Development Center (EDC), a non-profit research and development organization based in Waltham, Mass., specializes in professional development, curriculum development, education research, and education technology. One of its specific programs, EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO), brings together all of these strands as it explores the potential of online professional development to transform teaching, as well as professional development itself. ETLO accomplishes this mission within states, districts, and other organizations by training a select number of educators in an online course so that they can facilitate online professional development courses for their colleagues. This capacity-building approach is known as a “train-the-trainer” model. Since its inception in 1999, ETLO has worked with more than 200 educational organizations in more than 35 states to provide online training to more than 4,500 educators who in turn have delivered online professional development courses to more than 45,000 educators in their local states, school districts, regional consortia, or other educational organizations.
In 2005, with support from EDC, ETLO’s capacity-building approach was incorporated as the central professional development component in the e-Learning for Educators program, a federally-funded, five-year initiative to establish statewide online professional development programs in 10 states. The program included a large-scale experimental study of the online professional development program conducted by researchers at Boston College’s Technology Assessment Study Collaborative (inTASC). The results of this experimental study, the largest of its kind, showed that the online professional development program had significant impact on teachers’ content knowledge and instructional practices. The study also found that the teachers’ participation in the online professional development program could have positive effects on students, but the results were small and inconsistent. Although not part of the formal study, the program had important advantages over traditional professional development programs. For example, in West Virginia, the program saved teachers from traveling to a centralized location, being away from their students and families, and paying significant tuition costs. This case study looks at the impact of ETLO’s training and support in the e-Learning for Educators program and how one of the states, West Virginia, implemented and continues to operate the program.