The Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center (Mid-Ohio ESC) provides specialized academic and support services to 16 school districts in Ohio - including access to professionals and services - that might otherwise be not be affordable to many school districts by sharing these services among the districts. Mid-Ohio ESC provides curriculum support, gifted and special education consultants, speech pathologists, psychologists, special education teachers, occupational therapists and physical therapists.
In 2013, Mid-Ohio ESC, in collaboration with Knox County ESC and Tri-County ESC, received one of ten “Quality Matters” grants distributed by eTech Ohio.1 Six teachers from these ESCs were provided with professional development opportunities that would ultimately result in their certification as K-12 Online Facilitators, enabling them to provide their own sessions of Quality Matters‘ (QM) flagship course, “K-12 Applying the QM Secondary Rubric” (K-12 APP), to the school districts in which they serve. The grant also funded one to four teachers from each of those districts to receive the training. These teachers were then able to work with educators in their districts as leaders in online quality course development.
Conversations around online learning began at Mid-Ohio ESC two summers ago when a few ESCs in Ohio gathered to examine the variety of standards and professional development options for online learning. Quality Matters was singled out for the quality of its professional development. Mid-Ohio trained some of its staff and teachers in the Quality Matters Program. Last summer the program was expanded and rolled out across 10 regional ESCs to train teachers across Ohio in the K-12 APP workshop.
Luke Burton is a Technology Integration Specialist at Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center. Since 2012 he has taken four different QM-led professional development courses: the K-12 APP; the K-12 Reviewer Course (K-12 RC), which is designed to prepare experienced online course developers and teachers to become Quality Matters Certified K-12 Course Reviewers; and the K-12 Publisher Reviewer Course (K-12 PubRC), which allows Luke to serve on official, QM-managed, K-12 Publisher review teams. Luke participated in a Chemistry course review in 2013 as a subject matter expert. Additionally, participation in the grant has allowed him to take QM’s K-12 Online Facilitator Course (K-12 OFC), certifying him as a QM K-12 Facilitator for the Ohio Department of Education’s K-12 Systemwide Group (an option available to QM’s K-12 Systemwide subscribers with a training license) and has facilitated three QM K-12 APP online workshop sessions.
Currently Luke and his colleagues at Mid-Ohio ESC are working with many districts throughout the state, offering them professional development in a train-the-trainer model. In addition to the K-12 APP, they offer courses in Moodle training and assessment literacy. The workshop is offered face-to-face and in a blended learning environment using Moodle and Google docs.
Since Mid-Ohio ESC is a publicly-funded organization it’s Luke’s goal to work with the member districts on their needs and provide shared services for each district, mostly in the area of curriculum, assessment and instruction. His current top focus is on mapping curriculum to the Common Core, but his other specialty is blending technology with instruction. He really enjoys working with teachers on technology integration. Districts Luke supports lack Instructional Designers; Luke uses the information he learned from his professional development with QM and elsewhere to help teachers use technology to improve their online and blended courses.
Teachers in the supported districts are slowly building their awareness of online learning. The blended learning approach is the easiest model for many of the teachers to adapt. Blended learning involves students learning in both face-to-face and online class environments. School districts and teachers in the Mid-Ohio ESC know about QM’s K-12 Rubric; the Mid-Ohio ESC’s goal is now to provide additional time and resources to its teachers to allow growth in its online learning incubators. Additionally, there are a few online academies associated with the ESC investigating having some of their courses QM-certified. While some school districts are being asked to move toward including an online component in their classes, developing support across all districts will take time. Mid-Ohio ESC provides its districts with expertise in online course and curriculum development with QM’s assistance.
Mid-Ohio ESC is currently working to continue delivering the K-12 APP workshop to teachers who request it and is also using QM’s K-12 Secondary Rubric internally, conducting informal self-reviews as they improve and develop their own training courses. Mid-Ohio is also working with three districts on Moodle and Google docs training for their teachers. Professional development is offered one night per week for 5 hours; it demands commitment at the teacher level. Professional development fees are paid by the school or teacher. Other districts can also take these workshops.
In Luke’s estimation, the biggest hurdle to blended and online course growth at the K-12 district level is convincing teachers to develop and provide content and instruction online. Teachers, he thinks, believe blended courses are coming but will take time and effort to implement. There may no longer be a choice, however, as Ohio is moving to online assessment with the Partnership for Assessment and Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Ohio social studies assessment.
Students come to school with mobile devices and are online when not in the classroom. Districts across the country, like those in Ohio, are seeking to broaden the appeal and efficacy of online education. The Mid-Ohio ESC is pleased to have QM’s resources at its disposal as their supported school districts tentatively dip their toes into the online education waters.