A Global Initiative to Provide Professional Development to Educators New to Online Learning: the International Advisory Board for Online Learning


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Brief Abstract

 This presentation introduces an opportunity to become involved in a global initiative that provides support for educators new to online learning. A community of practice has developed for online learning and innovation in teaching at a distance. There are over one-hundred global members from sixteen countries involved in the initiative.


Dr. Rich Schultz is currently the Senior Online Learning Administrator at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA), located in Aurora, Illinois. He has prior experience as a tenured faculty member, university program coordinator and program director, creator of three entirely online programs in geospatial technologies, and Associate Dean of Online Learning. He serves as the Associate Director of the National Science Foundation-funded National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence (GeoTech Center) in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. Dr. Schultz holds a Ph.D. in environmental geochemistry from the University of Cincinnati and is an internationally recognized expert on geospatial education and online learning. He is the sole or senior author of more than ninety publications, book chapters, presentations, and abstracts. His major areas of research are: online/distance learning, spatial cognition and geospatial thinking, unmanned aerial systems (drones), global climate change, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and the use of technology in teaching geography literacy. He has received over $7.3 million in extramural funding to support his research and is currently involved with two National Science Foundation grants focusing on GIS education and unmanned aerial systems (UASs). Dr. Schultz was the recipient of the 2008 Distinguished Teaching Award from the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE). Dr. Schultz also received the 'GIS Service Award' for geospatial education service to the Illinois GIS Association (ILGISA) in October 2009 and was the inaugural recipient of the Richard Hilton Collaboration Award from ILGISA in 2010. He serves as the North American editor of Reviews in Geographical Education Online (RIGEO), on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Geography for the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) as well as having served as the NCGE National Vice President for Products and Publications. He formerly served as the chair of the Geography Education Specialty Group (GESG) for the Association of American Geographers (AAG) and sits on the editorial boards for several prominent international journals. Dr. Schultz is the founder of the International Advisory Board for Online Learning and has presented at numerous conferences and events in the areas of online learning, instructional design, and professional development for educators.

Extended Abstract

This presentation provides attendees with an opportunity to become involved in a global initiative that provides support for educators new to online learning. This initiative is focused on the formation of a global community of practice that seeks to push the envelope for "global online education innovation".  While the number of committed members is growing every day and is now over 100 global members from sixteen countries, the larger group is divided into smaller directorates/specialty groups based on areas of expertise. 

An Advisory Board was formed from global experts in areas of expertise such as instructional design, online pedagogy, DEI concepts, innovative teaching techniques, groundbreaking technologies and tools, and alternative audiences (adult learners, special ed students, young learners PK-5, differently abled students, spectrum students, and ESOL students). The goal was to form directorates/committees that could tailor professional development support from each area of expertise and collaborate between directorates to provide a holistic learning experience for educators. Those directorates/specialty groups are spearheaded by a leader who will recruit further members and concentrate on the focus of the area within that particular specialty group as their mission. 

The initial pilot study concentrated on a small cadre of seventy faculty serving a very diverse student body of 650 gifted students. Professional development was in the form of webinars, one-on-one virtual conference sessions, and an asynchronous learning experience that educators could learn at their own pace and on their own time. Best practices for professional development were employed such that educators could learn on demand from experts in areas of concentration regarding online teaching in a variety of formats.

From the initial study, feedback and data were gathered on what best served faculty in developing their online learning experiences.  Feedback was compiled on what tools were most productive and effective in presenting inquiry-based and problem-solving methods of online pedagogy.

Future goals of the initiative include presentations at conferences and events, publications in peer-reviewed journals, professional webinars, a virtual library of resources, and the publishing of an evolving e-book to support educators. Grant proposals to fund expansion of the organization along with sponsorships, partnerships, and global connections is the vision for sustainability and development through the future.

The initiative is open to all who feel they can contribute to the effort. The time commitment for members is based on their own schedule and what they feel they can contribute.  Should their schedule not allow, others will fill in because of the sheer size of the group. Dedicated time is completely flexible, and members can contribute as they see fit according to the mission of a given directorate. Attendees here at OLC Accelerate are encouraged to contact the members of the Advisory Board to become involved and circulate the flyer at https://tinyurl.com/IABOL2021 to attain a larger involvement on a global basis.

Leaders of directorates are responsible for assembling their own global team members in their area of expertise. Directorates are unlimited in size and can tap into tremendous resources over a wide geography.

Larger, more outreaching initiatives will be formulated by the advisory board members in time as new pathways originate organically. The overall philosophy of the initiative is that board members, as experts in their craft, will be empowered to drive this initiative in the direction they see fit. The opportunities for collaboration between the community of practice members and beyond is unlimited as the expectation for numerous publications, presentations, and other products to be forthcoming.