While e-learning is traditionally seen as an educational resource for students its can also benefit their teachers and directly impact on their professional development according to a report from US university Boston College.
It was found that English and maths teachers who took on e-learning courses in professional development have improved both their teaching methods and their knowledge of the subject itself.
"A series of online professional development courses that focus on specific content and target student learning needs can have positive effects on teacher knowledge and instructional practices," said Boston College Associate Professor of Education Laura O’Dwyer.
"The studies also show that teacher participation in online professional development can translate into improvements in targeted student outcomes."
The report came from four studies carried out on 330 teachers and 7,000 students over a three-year period where teachers completed three online courses, were assigned a trainer and each put in about 100 hours of training focused on the key areas of content knowledge, incorporating that knowledge into instruction and finally, classroom skills.
These teachers – and their students – were then compared to those who had not done any online courses.
What the researchers found was that teachers across the board of all grades and in both English and maths showed signs of improvement.
Although the results did not show the same uniform gain for all students it is thought that the timing of the data collection and the timeframe within which the teachers were working to implement the knowledge gained would have impacted on this.
Overall the findings of the research argue the case for e-learning as an option for educators in remote settings and to help schools build skill sets in the absence of an adequate number of highly qualified teachers.
"This set of studies included educators working in a variety of settings and demonstrates that online professional development is an effective approach for improving teaching and learning in remote areas and high-need schools," said Professor Michael Russell, the study director.
"Given the positive effects found across these studies, it is reasonable to expect that online professional development is an effective strategy for supporting teaching in difficult-to-staff content areas, like mathematics and science."