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Free or Low-Cost Resources for PD in Distance Learning

Get ready for blended or fully remote instruction with these flexible professional development options.

Paul Barnwell | July 16, 2020

With so much uncertainty about the 2020–2021 school year due to the coronavirus pandemic, one fact remains: The skills and resources that reflective, dedicated teachers need to navigate remote, hybrid, and face-to-face learning environments are plentiful -- and ever evolving.

To help you find the professional development you want and need for the upcoming school year, we've put together a short list of free or low-cost PD opportunities. All the options here provide support for the shift to blended or fully remote instruction as well as for the many other challenges of teaching during the coronavirus pandemic. Most of these options are self-guided and offer flexibility for adult learners. We hope you find something that fits your needs and schedule!

Pick and choose

The following events and resources don't require a huge time commitment, offering choice, flexibility, and many one-off topics and sessions:

Global EdTech Academy (free, ongoing through September 6)

With sessions scheduled through September 6, the Global EdTech Academy is loaded with free one-off sessions on topics ranging from "What is the Hype with HyperDocs?" to "20 Ways to Engage Students Virtually." If you miss a session, you can catch up on the Global EdTech Academy YouTube channel. Master classes for deeper dives into technology applications and office hours with presenters are also available. This project is sponsored by Microsoft and CUE (Computer-Using Educators), an ISTE affiliate in California.

Teaching Digital Citizenship (free, sign up to access)

This roughly one-hour, interactive online training prepares educators to teach students the crucial skills and dispositions to be mindful and responsible online citizens. After all, addressing cyberbullying, analyzing news media, and understanding a digital footprint (among other topics) are all crucial components of functioning effectively in the digital world. You'll need to sign up for a free account with Common Sense Education to access the digital citizenship curriculum and other resources.

Distance Learning with Common Sense (free)

In response to the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges of distance learning, Common Sense Education is hosting a weekly webinar with educators from across the country. The webinars cover a range of topics and can be watched live or viewed later on the YouTube channel. Past topics include "Empowering Student Expression Online" and "Giving K–5 Learners a Voice and a Choice" during distance learning. You can get registration notifications and watch live by signing up for the Common Sense Education newsletter. Each archived video also has links to slides, documents, and relevant resources.

edWeb (free)

edWeb offers a range of professional learning, including a huge archive of more than 1,850 recorded webinars. Many summer webinar topics are directly related to teaching during the coronavirus pandemic, including "How to Mix STEM and Play with Hybrid Learning," "Using Focus Skills to Close COVID-19 Learning Gaps," and "Remote Learning for Early Learners with Autism." A bonus? If you need to earn PD hours, the platform and its programming is currently approved by the credentialing boards in nine states, and local districts that approve edWeb are usually supported by state-level agencies. Here's a map where you can verify eligibility to earn credit.

Share My Lesson: Professional Learning Webinars (free)

Find more high-quality and relevant webinars at the Share My Lesson site by the American Federation of Teachers. Webinar topics reflect the widespread adoption of remote or hybrid learning for the 2020-2021 school year, including "Hybrid Learning: Seven Strategies for a Successful and Flexible Year Ahead" and "Remote But Not Disconnected: Engaging Students Online via History, Civil Rights and Anti-Racism." You can register to attend webinars live or view them on demand for up to a year after they air. Share My Lesson provides a certificate of completion for each webinar you attend, which can be used to earn one PD hour per webinar if your district and/or state approves it. 

Teaching Channel ($9.99 a month, self-guided)

Teaching Channel has an unparalleled collection of more than 1,400 videos showing teachers in action across grade levels and content areas. Teachers who subscribe can access downloadable resources as well as PD Express mini courses including "Moving Your Instruction Online" and "Family Partnerships," which take less than two hours to complete.

Deeper dives

The following PD opportunities require a potentially greater time commitment -- but might have a greater payoff!

KQED Media Academy (free, register for summer session by July 27)

Even without the pandemic and its demands related to screen time and critical thinking, digital media literacy skills are increasingly important in a world flooded by information and multimedia. KQED's academy offers four courses, three of which focus on media production. But the upcoming, instructor-led summer session is "Analyzing and Evaluating Media for the Classroom." The other three courses are open for registration and will take place during the fall and winter. The time commitment for the course is 20 hours.

The Friday Institute (free, self-guided)

Organized and administered by North Carolina State University's College of Education, the Friday Institute offers numerous choices for MOOC-Eds: Massive Open Online Courses for Educators. Check out "Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) for Educators" or "Teaching Remotely: A Practical Guide." The MOOCs are self-directed and offer videos, activities, digital forums, and other resources. Past participants estimate the courses take roughly three hours a week.