By Graham Watts, Deputy Executive Director, Association of International Schools in Africa
AISA professional learning (PL) events will remain online in the first semester of the new school year. The uncertainties of the pandemic such as access to vaccines, the need to quarantine when arriving at a new country or returning home, third waves and new variants all mean online PL remains the norm for now. But what of the future? The evaluation surveys conducted at the end of the annual AISA Conferences show participants value the opportunity to learn collaboratively with their peers as much as they value the role of external, expert facilitators. We know that onsite PL offers the buzz of human interaction and that participants value the sharing of ideas and experience with each other. There will be a return to onsite events as soon as it is safe and practicable to do so. But the variant of online PL will continue and flourish alongside its onsite precursor.
Kendall Zoller recently stated on the Learning Forward blog;
“Virtual professional learning will continue to be part of our landscape for a variety of reasons, including ongoing health concerns, convenience, and the opportunity to connect with people outside of our immediate geographic area. We should leverage this opportunity, not because we have to, but because it’s the right thing to do”.
In addition to these reasons, there are some that are specific to our region.
Formats are already changing from a full conference day of five or six hours to shorter, online workshops complimented by time for asynchronous learning and application wrapping around the live component. Some of the key facilitators we have grown to love and look up to may not make the shift to leading online professional learning that is effective and engaging. There will be opportunities for new facilitators to step forward and dazzle in this new digital space. From August, the AISA PL Programme will include Deep Dives for groups who have not traditionally had the budget to travel to PL events, whether they are in the same country as the school or further afield. For example, we will offer our first Deep Dive specifically for Teaching Assistants and with online PL registration fees being less than half of the onsite fees, we hope many of these key colleagues will be able to access PL in a way they have not been able to do so before.
Returning to Zoller’s (2015) work, he offers generalizations rooted in Communicative Intelligence that help us identify what makes online PL effective and engaging. His work has the potential to support facilitators as they plan to lead online PL and offers those arranging online PL for their school, a framework for quality assurance.
Effective components of online PL include:
As we move forward with a new partnership of online and onsite PL opportunities, we will need to find a balance that works for our PL budgets as well as our preferred adult learning styles. This new partnership offers more opportunities to learn with others and not just in our region, more cost-effective PL for groups who may only have had limited access to PL before and endless opportunities for learning innovations that combine onsite and online in ways that add value to our professional growth.
Zoller, K., (2021). Virtual professional learning is here to stay – how to make it stick?. Accessed 21.4.21 https://learningforward.org/2021/03/31/virtual-professional-learning-is-here-to-stay-heres-how-to-make-it-stick/?utm_source=Informz&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=various_promos&_zs=xV2Tj1&_zl=iPEX7
Zoller, K., (2015). The philosophy of communicative intelligence in cross-cultural collaboration. In N. Erbe and A.H. Normore (Eds.), Cross cultural collaboration and leadership in modern organizations (pp. 303-320). IGI Global Publishers.
The Association of International Schools in Africa is dedicated to serving its members throughout Africa during this challenging time. Please let us know if you require additional or specific information, resources and or support, and we will endeavour to assist you as soon as possible.