By Beverly J. Irby, Matthew J. Etchells and Erin A. Singer
Recently, Dean Joyce Alexander said we have to be prepared to assist our teachers and schools, and we are ready.
While administrators, teachers and parents are serving their students from home, they may feel they are not able to participate in professional development on their campuses, or in their districts in person.
The Education Leadership Research Center and the Center for Research and Development in Dual Language and Literacy Acquisition has been providing virtual professional development since 2013, and is ready to serve the needs of educators and parents in Texas and worldwide.
This is made possible through a project called Massive Open Online Professional Individualized Learning, in which VPD has been further developed under two federal projects from the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Beverly Irby, principal investigator of APLUS and Project MOOPIL, said she envisioned the need for a virtual professional development platform several years ago, and with the support of federal funding they have had opportunity to design and develop this concept.
“With the assistance of the Continuing Professional Education Program at Texas A&M University, and in collaboration with the Texas Center for Educator Excellence, we have been able to launch these MOOPILs for teachers across Texas, and such a program is especially critical since the COVID-19 pandemic,” Irby said.
To date, over 23,500 credits of MOOPIL have been completed virtually across the hundreds of MOOPILs available for free. Educators across Texas and can complete as many MOOPILs as they wish and earn credit, or micro-credentials, toward their required 150 continuing professional education hours.
“There are over 90 topics in Project MOOPIL alone as to how teachers can improve their instruction, particularly for those who teach second language learners and students experiencing economic challenges,” said Dr. Erin Singer, research specialist for Project MOOPIL. “However, we do not stop with teachers; we are also offering support to teaching assistants, parents, and administrators.”
Rebecca Daley, a participant in Project MOOPIL, has been using MOOPILs during the pandemic. She said the modules that the Project MOOPIL team put together are necessary and vital for educators to absorb and utilize as the demographics and needs of our student populations continue to shift.
“Additionally, Project MOOPIL provides a unique experience for educators from different districts and different walks of life to come together and learn from each other’s experiences, while also allowing us to learn in a collaborative manner,” Daley said. “This particular cohort is extra blessed as MOOPIL’s digital platform allows us to continue to learn and grow as we all endure the closures of schools and the struggles of being away from our students.”
Dr. Sharon de Marin coordinates a component of MOOPILs within the APLUS grant. She said there have been more than 3,233 micro-credential certificates awarded to date in the project with over 120 MOOPILs for teachers with whom she works in Project APLUS.
“MOOPILs have proved to be a great support to our teachers and school leaders who are at home and cannot get to a physical professional development session,” de Marin said.
Dr. Matthew J. Etchells, research specialist and director of education outreach, marketing and communications for ELRC and CRDLLA, said he is thrilled to provide these resources.
“We are happy that Texas A&M University can serve its land-grant mission and Aggie core values in this way, and by serving our Texas teachers — we teach Texas,” Etchells said.