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Research Article | Volume 5 Issue 2 (April-June, 2024) | Pages 1 - 8
Virtual Professional Development: Teachers’ Perceptions and Implications
 ,
1
Faculty of Creative Industries, City University Malaysia
Under a Creative Commons license
Open Access
Received
Feb. 10, 2024
Revised
Feb. 20, 2024
Accepted
March 20, 2024
Published
April 30, 2024
Abstract

Providing excellent teachers’ professional development is vital to meet the demand for high quality education. Since teachers have multifaceted roles in ensuring successful pedagogy, their competencies should always be accelerated through professional development activities. The current educational landscape with technology integration has revolutionised the platform of professional development delivery. Virtual professional development (VPD) provides an avenue that connects teachers with other educators worldwide in order to enhance their professionalism. Webinars and other online professional development offer significant opportunities to expand teachers’ competencies. In alignment with its contributions to the teachers' profession, VPD also has its limitations. Therefore, this study aims to make a systematic review to gain teachers’ perceptions of VPD. The findings of this study are hoped to provide valuable insight and informative input for designing a more effective course of VPD in the future.

Keywords
Teachers’ Professional Development
Virtual Professional Development
Webinars
Teachers’ Perceptions.
Important Note

Key findings:

The study found that virtual professional development (VPD) through webinars and online platforms is valued by teachers for its ability to connect them with educators worldwide and enhance their professionalism. However, limitations of VPD were noted, emphasizing the need for more effective and targeted VPD programs in the future.

 

What is known and what is new?

The study underscores the critical role of teachers' professional development in maintaining high-quality education, emphasizing the need for continuous improvement in teachers' competencies. It acknowledges the transformative impact of technology integration on professional development delivery, particularly through virtual platforms like webinars. While VPD offers valuable opportunities for global connectivity and competency expansion, the study also recognizes its limitations. By systematically reviewing teachers' perceptions of VPD, the study aims to provide insightful recommendations for enhancing the effectiveness of future VPD programs, thus contributing to the ongoing evolution and improvement of teacher professional development practices.

 

What is the implication, and what should change now?

The implication of this study is that there is a clear recognition of the importance of teachers' professional development, particularly in the context of virtual platforms. To meet the demand for high-quality education, it is vital to enhance and expand VPD opportunities. This entails designing VPD programs that address the identified limitations and capitalize on the benefits highlighted by teachers. Changes should focus on improving the effectiveness and relevance of VPD, ensuring that it meets the evolving needs of teachers in a rapidly changing educational landscape.

Introduction

The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic which was initially reported in China in December 2019 has impacted humans’ life all over the world. It brings significant changes in almost every social aspect and routine. The main preventative measure has been taken to reduce the spread of the virus by restricting people’s movement. A societal lockdown or restriction policy has been enforced all over the world to restrain social interaction with the aim to control the outbreak [1]. People are forbidden to stay outside and they need to remain at their home as the entire human population was overwhelmed with the quick spreading of the virus and its devastating effects. This precautionary step has had remarkable impact on all aspects worldwide ranging from economy, education, sports, entertainment, social interaction and politics [2]. Education is one of the areas which is tremendously affected during adversity situations. The lockdown has brought a mandatory transformation at all levels of education which entailed teachers to adapt the new online mode environment of teaching and learning [3]. 

 

The closure of educational institutions has shifted the medium of learning and teaching to online pedagogy. The stakeholders implemented the potential of technology in facilitating learning to ensure students’ safety alongside their academic concern [4]. Many new online platforms have been introduced and explored by both teachers and students such as Microsoft Teams and Google Meet to adapt with the shifting of the educational landscape [5]. Teachers, who are arguably the most vital resource in any schooling system, made strenuous efforts to upgrade their computer literacy as well as information and technology skills. This unexpected arrival of the contagious disease and subsequent school closing required endeavours from educators and education practitioners to reduce the discrepancy between face-to-face instructional and online learning in developing students’ knowledge.

 

Apart from learning and teaching adaptation, teachers needed to be accustomed with virtualisation of meetings and courses by using web-conferencing in ensuring their continuous professionalism growth [6]. Covid-19 catalyses a new era in virtual teacher professional development which is still growing in the post-pandemic stage. Saving time, money and resources and other benefits that came with online and virtual conferencing make it preferable for future implementation. In fact, it can increase the outreach and internal collaboration with no boundaries as schools may get connected to other worldwide resources easily.

 

Virtual professional development (VPD) such as webinars and conferencing have been widely used as a medium for disseminating knowledge and skills among teachers worldwide. According to Gegenfurtner and Ebner (2019) [7], webinar is one of the most favourable platforms for continuing online teacher’s professional development when attending on-site seminars is impossible as it enables meeting at a predefined time of place. This opportunity also provides teachers with the accessibility in upgrading their professionalism as well as obtaining information rapidly at any time and anywhere. Since we are in the post-covid period, virtual meetings are still preferable and become part of educational establishments due to their flexibility and irrespective of physical location. Rathod (2021) [8] states that scope and context of webinars are growing tremendously to meet their desire in delivering knowledge. Therefore, this study is designed to investigate teacher’s insight on online meetings and webinars to develop their professionalism for post- Covid-19 adaptation. 

 

However, the selection of practice and design to improve teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge are crucial to ensure the successful delivery of online professional development [9]. In the context of academic meetings and conferences, there is a need for a set of guidelines to establish the best practice to meet its objective in delivering information. Apart from that, the other critical issue of webinars and virtual meetings are the lack of social interaction and disengagement of reality [10]. It is less dynamic as the interaction between people is difficult and this becomes the main limitation of webinar or virtual professional development programmes. Despite the heightened interest in utilising webinars and online platforms for professional learning, how teachers interpret their online professional development experiences, the impact and their preferences remain ambiguous [11]. Therefore, this study is interested in understanding the perception of teachers on virtual meetings and webinars for their professional development. The study also has interest in identifying the impact of teachers’ professional development through these online platforms during the post-pandemic era of Covid-19.

 

1. Virtual Professional Development (VPD)

 

Rapid and widespread technological advancements have had a profound impact on human communication. Computer-mediated communication (CMC) systems serve as a virtual bridge to connect people at great distances by facilitating communication with the aid of the internet via networked computers or any devices [12]. The development of CMC has contributed to the emergence of various types of virtual professional development (VPD) including webinars [13]. The term webinars is derived from the words web and seminar, which are characterised as web-based seminars where participants and facilitators engage in real-time, simultaneous, and ubiquitous communication via voice over IP technologies and shared virtual platforms over the internet from remote geographical locations [7]. Through this communication tool, anyone could participate remotely without having to travel to a real seminar room. Even though the basic concept of webinars is conducting seminars in an online environment, in a broad sense, webinars are significantly used for virtual meetings, conferences and demonstrations (Bartelt, 2023). Apart from that, webinars are widely used for training purposes through simultaneous audiovisual connection between participants and training instructors who are located remotely.

 

Other than that, the need to conduct VPD could be easily fulfilled through the utilisation of virtual meetings. Virtual meetings make it possible for people to gather whenever they want without being restricted by time and location with the help of various platforms such as Google Meet, Zoom and Microsoft Teams [15]. According to Powell and Bodur (2019) [11], online training via virtual meetings and webinars provide a great opportunity to enhance teachers’ professional development by offering more genuine, flexible and personalised experience. Attending VPD enables teachers to stay up to date on current trends in education and interact with subject matter experts and other educators from across the globe [16]. 

 

Teacher’s professionalism development 

El Islami et al.(2022) [17] defines professional development as activities done for teachers to meet their requirements in relation to their job as teachers. The primary goal of teacher development is to enhance teachers’ level of competency such as improving their social skills, personality traits, teaching and professional competencies. It should be able to empower teachers’ instructional practice in order to establish a high-quality learning environment in their classrooms. Since knowledge is the foundation for all concepts and ideas related to teaching and learning, providing teachers with the skills to adapt to the rapid changes in education may be achieved through the growth of teacher professionalism [18]. This effort is fundamental to facilitate acquisition of professional knowledge among teachers to enhance their own performance as well as their schools and pupils. A study conducted by Hyseni Duraku et al. (2022) [19] shows that teachers’ participation in professional development programmes can boost their self-efficacy and work motivation, which in turn positively impacts their pedagogical approaches as well as classroom management.

 

Since education has evolved drastically over time, professional development should not be restricted to newly hired teachers, but it is mandatory for experienced teachers to ensure that they are always abreast of current developments in their profession [20]. For example, to ensure teachers keep updating with the current educational landscape, they need to be trained with technological skills so that they could integrate the skills in the classroom to promote more individualised and meaningful learning [21]. Nurmaya et al. (2019) [22] outline few characteristics of professional teachers; they are dedicated to their students and the learning process, they are expect in subject they are teaching, they are in charge of monitoring students’ learning outcomes through various methods of evaluation, they are able to reflect systematically on their work and draw lessons from it as well as they ought to participate in the learning community within their professional setting. To support their continuous professional practice, teacher training should be systematically developed. When designing the professional development process, it is crucial to take into consideration teachers’ requirements, feelings, desires and their sources of inspiration [23].   Aroca et al. (2022) [21] emphasise the need of meticulous planning and systematic approach to ensure that teacher training, which becomes one of the important aspects in professional development, constantly enhancing teachers' abilities to deliver high-quality instruction to their pupils. A study done by Sancar et al. (2021) [25] reveals that effective professional development pays attention to context, support and control, cooperation, research scale, length, comprehensiveness, and assessment.  In addition, practicing theory and research application, reflection, coaching and mentoring as well as content and techniques of learning are all important components of teachers’ successful professional growth. Berman (2019) [26] lists engaging, timely, relevant, and a solid model for what teachers should do in their own classrooms as the characteristics of the most successful professional development activities. Overall,it can be concluded that it is important to have thorough planning for teachers' professional development to fulfill teachers’ demands and  to provide high-quality instruction through  excellent teachers.

 

Teachers’ perception of virtual professional development

The emergence of Covid-19 pandemic changed the educational setting globally. In the context of the teaching profession, teacher’s professional development has also shifted to online mode. Since teachers have adequate experience in conducting online instruction, they are presumed to have the ability to participate in virtual seminars and workshops for continuous professional development [27]. Interest has been aroused among researchers to carry out studies to address teachers’ perceptions and investigate their outlook regarding virtual professional development (VPD). 

 

A prior study before the pandemic, as done by McConnell et al. (2012) [28]  reports teachers’ preference for a face-to-face meeting against VPD through videoconferencing due to several reasons, like technological barriers and audio transmission latency which hinder open discussion.  As the world of technology is continually expanding, the results of a later study conducted by Kong et al. (2017) [29] shows that teachers have perceived VPD positively as it is easy friendly and successfully delivery clear course content. This finding is consistent with the results of numerous studies done after the pandemic especially in attending webinars. Silvhiany (2022) [30] carried out a research to investigate teachers’ professional development  practices and their needs in post pandemic conduct and the finding reveals that teachers believe attending webinars is one of the ways they have used for professional development. Additionally, they join teacher learning groups to exchange ideas, build connections with other teachers and receive the teaching resources that they require. Meanwhile, the study by Okky Leo Agusta et al. (2022) [31] reports that teachers prefer to engage with online seminars and webinars, which are more convenient and cost-effective. Similarly, most of the participants in a study conducted by Beach et al. (2021) [13] agree that VPD brings various advantages including the flexibility to go at their pace, the availability of material, and the capacity to connect with educators across geographical locations. In addition, the results of the  study done by Tarek Shal et al. (2024) [32] indicate that teachers greatly regard webinars as valuable resources for professional growth and believe webinars are an important part to be included in all future teacher preparation courses that use blended learning models. In alignment with the positive impacts of VPD, teachers in the study done by Thakarar and Kannan (2021) [33] report that webinars help them gain new topic knowledge, develop their ability to organise and conduct classes as well as facilitate their comprehension of important issues related to lesson preparation and delivery. Besides, teachers in rural areas who are located far away from the city also prefer to join video conferences or webinars despite the average speed of the internet and minimal computer facilities due to their geographical distance [34].  However, the result of a study carried out by Moussaoui (2021) [35] and Van et al., (2022) [36] are contradicted as teachers believe that online professional development is not actively and collaboratively oriented, they are not completely involved in online professional development and continue to show a greater preference for conventional types of professional development. Diverse perceptions of teachers may be due to multifaceted features offered by VPD.

 

Advantages and Limitations of Virtual Professional Development

Virtual conferences and webinars have a wide range of consequences for teacher' professional development. These include opportunities as well as difficulties that can significantly influence teachers' ability to grow professionally, make effective lessons, and interact with the larger educational community.

 

Virtual professional development (VPD) offers various opportunities in helping teachers to enhance their professionalism. Its remarkable features that benefit teachers are its accessibility and flexibility. Teachers can participate in sessions from everywhere since VTR has no geographical restrictions and they can flexibly arrange their learning time [15]. Those who live in remote places or have busy schedules would experience a great benefit from it. VPD has the potential for large enrollment and flexibility in timing as teachers can process and digest the information at their own pace and this could lead to optimal learning. Therefore, teachers can actively choose which VPD activities they find significant and, most importantly, when and how they will participate in them. In short, teachers may attend VPD and fix them into their hectic work schedules without having to travel to a particular place.

 

Alharbi (2023)[37] states that VPD can be more cost-effective if compared to face-to-face activities because it eliminates the need for physical resources, travel, and lodging. Since teachers can participate in the PD activities online and get direct access to digital learning materials, no commuting or printing costs are required [15].  Additionally, VPD offers teachers with diverse learning opportunities. Instead of participating in courses offered in their region, teachers have a much wider choice of VPD, as they have the opportunity to attend national or international seminars that meet their personal needs and interests [38]. VPD provides teachers with a broader selection of materials and foreign expertise that might not be available locally.

 

In addition, VPD also facilitates interactions among teachers from different backgrounds. Compared to conventional mode of face-to-face training, VPD such as workshops, seminars, conferences and online training becomes an ideal avenue that offers a convenient and accessible way to exchange ideas to promote collaborative relationships among educators [37]VPD is engaging especially when it involves collaboration in a small group consisting of educators from different countries. By taking part in VPD, teachers have the opportunity to build connections with colleagues from other cultures across disciplines and school contexts [39]This multicultural interaction enriches teachers’ insights and experiences which are useful for their professional enhancement. Thus, it can be concluded that, apart from having the potential to reduce costs, VPD also provides freedom for teachers who have time constraints and geographical issues to participate in learning activities. Moreover, it extends the reach of expertise sharing and offers more opportunities for networking and cooperation.

 

Virtual professional learning offers many advantages, but there are also certain obstacles that prevent it from being used effectively. The following are some limitations of online professional learning as noted by several authors:

Familiarity with online programmes and technology 

Unfavourable conditions in the classroom 

The administrators' lack of assistance 

Insufficient devices, technology, and internet resources 

Family support, time, and financial support 

Absence of tangible technological integration models 

Teachers' attitudes and practices [40]

 

Another drawback of VPD is a decrease in audience involvement. According to Guetter et al. (2022) [41], while video streams have the potential to improve connection, it is impossible to ascertain the exact number of individuals who are actively watching and taking part in the VPD event.  It is harder to retain focus when participating virtually as it is sometimes less motivated. Besides, due to the digital nature of the learning materials, it is challenging for teachers to actively engage with them, which consequently results in more passive consumption of the information offered online [42]. As compared to physical professional development activities, VPD may face some other problems such as technical difficulties where some teachers may be hampered by their lack of access to necessary technology or reliable internet connectivity [43]. Less interaction with speakers is also identified as one of the issues when they couldn't be able to communicate directly with the teachers as learners during the online course [44] which make the provision of timely and personalised feedback a significant challenge [11]. It might be difficult to stay involved in a virtual setting since interpersonal interaction may be less when there is a physical absence.

Conclusion and Implications

Virtual Professional Development (VPD) offers a practical way to overcome time constraints and geographic barriers [44]. Despite the disadvantages of VPD, it implies significant contributions to improve teachers’ professionalism. The ease of access to online education has the potential to motivate teachers to participate in reflective practices, which involve evaluating their own teaching techniques and devising new approaches for enhancement. VPD supports teachers’ continuous learning and adaptation where it provides informative knowledge about current teaching and learning techniques as well as helpful content that meet their professional demands. Access to a diversity of content areas and resources through engagement with educational practitioners worldwide enriches teachers’ pedagogical practices, knowledge and technological skills. It also improves teachers' digital competencies while taking part in various VPD activities. Overall, VPD highlights significant opportunities for teachers’ professional development. However, the findings of studies on teachers’ perceptions of VPD are not consistent since some of them prefer to participate in face-to-face teacher training due to some limitations of VPD. Therefore, it is important to minimize the limitations so that the VPD activities could meet teachers’ expectations. Understanding the factors that have an impact on teachers’ perceptions could also help to make informed decisions about the course and organisational design. The online course's structure and organisation should be thoughtfully designed to ensure teachers’ active participation as well as provide a room for cooperation, ideas exchange and experience sharing [38]. Formatting and design considerations should also include formative feedback encouragement and support interactive collaboration during VPD activities. Therefore, systematic planning is crucial in determining the effectiveness of VPD in the future. Future research should focus on the factors affecting the successful implementation of VPD.

 

Funding: No funding sources 

 

Conflict of interest: None declared

 

Ethical approval: The study was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee of Creative Industries

City University Malaysia

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Published: 20/05/2021
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