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By: Carla S. Rogg
You’ve decided to pursue a Child Development Associate® (CDA) credential™. That’s great! And you get emails every day about training. Free! Discount! Click here and buy! These emails promise to deliver excellent content and teach you everything you will ever need to know to earn your credential.
But really, how do you know what’s good training? How do you choose?
Whether you are an individual seeking training or the person responsible for training in your organization or state agency, it can be confusing or overwhelming to sort through the many available options. Let’s look at what you can do!
Start by looking for CDA coursework with the CDA® Gold Standard℠ certification. The Council for Professional Recognition developed this designation to recognize excellence in early childhood education training. This standard identifies providers of leading CDA training programs.
Even with the CDA® Gold Standard as a guide, you’ll want to consider differences among the training programs and their providers. It’s kind of like finding a college or university. The degree might be the same, but that still leaves you with a question: Which school feels personally right for me?
To decide on your eLearning provider, try following these five steps. By the way, I use “eLearning” to mean a provider who uses technology (instead of traditional in-person classrooms) to deliver instruction and build engagement.
Step 1: What’s Your Preferred Type of eLearning?
Delivery through eLearning can be on-demand, live online, or a blended or hybrid combination.
On-demand instruction is fully self-paced (reading plus audiovisual) and accessible any time. In a live online course, an instructor leads the training, via video, at specific, scheduled times. Blended or hybrid delivery can mean lots of things, but it will combine some form of self-paced learning and some form of human instruction and/or support (such as chat, email or “office hours”).
In high-quality eLearning, the instructional design team maximizes the advantages of each type and minimizes the disadvantages. So, your first step is to simply know what you’re looking for!
Step 2: Do Your Homework
Now, look more closely at each offering and take the time to read the syllabus and course descriptions.
• Are all 120 hours of training provided in the eight required subject areas?
• Does the coursework guide you in completing all the requirements of the CDA credential—including the online portfolio, verification visit and exam?
• If applicable, does it offer IACET CEUs and meet state training requirements?
Step 3: How’s the User Experience and Learner Engagement?
Once you’ve narrowed your choices to two or three options, it’s time to look at user experience and learner engagement.
Have you ever been frustrated when trying to use a website or app? Maybe it was hard to move around or find what you needed. That’s an example of a poorly designed user experience.
With eLearning, your user experience is going to be just as important as content and delivery—so you really need to pay attention to it. Sample each course if you can (or look at screenshots) to find the courses that are designed to be efficient, pleasurable and even fun to use. Look for ease of navigation, access to help and links to useful resources.
Now what about learner engagement? See whether the course keeps you interested, motivated and active. This is important for any kind of instruction, but especially so when we are learning via online technology. Whichever you choose, there are a few things you should look for in a quality CDA program:
• Stated objectives
• Online help
• Prerecorded video and audio
• Interactive learning activities or games
In a live online course, look to see if it uses polls or chat rooms. In a hybrid model, look for a form of instructor support that appeals to you. In on-demand or self-paced training, check for things that boost learner engagement like games, video and audio.
Do your best to look for high-quality courses with strong user experience and learner engagement—where the trainer or training company took the extra time to skillfully plan and enhance your learning experience. This quality is what makes your CDA learning the most effective possible!
Step 4: Look for Support with the Technology
If you think about all those promotional emails that you receive, they don’t often mention what support you’ll find when using their technology. It’s just not that “newsworthy.” But it is critical to a successful learning experience and outcomes! I can’t emphasize this enough because it’s so easy to skip over.
Here’s what you can look for when assessing the level of support for technology use:
• A reliable customer support team or help desk with rapid response (toll-free phone number or email)
• Clear, concise written directions for all activities, including uploading files
• Links for help right where you need it (such as a link for video help placed alongside the embedded recording)
• If applicable, a teacher’s office hours and contact information
• If live video sessions, learners can sign on before the session to test their equipment
• Self-guided course tour showing the interactive tools or features
Step 5: Look for Administrator Support
If you are an administrator purchasing coursework for multiple CDA students, be sure to find out what means are provided to help you support, monitor and report on the progress of your teachers. Administrator supports can include:
• Adding and removing students or managing their access
• Managing records and running progress reports
• Printing student and administrator certificate copies
Sign Up and Start Learning!
By now, you’ve browsed, compared, sampled and read the small print on CDA training coursework from different providers. You’ve made sure your final selection meets your state’s training requirement (if applicable) and fits your budget. Terrific! Now you are ready to sign up and START LEARNING! Congratulate yourself. You’ve just taken a major step towards earning your CDA credential or helping your teachers earn theirs!
Authored by Carla S. Rogg, President, ProSolutions Training, the training division of Care Solutions, Inc.
ProSolutions Training is an online training company offering professional training for providers in early care and education. Its staff work with numerous owners, franchises, and state agencies to deliver quality training for providers to help in their daily work and meet state training requirements. ProSolutions Training has been offering the 120-hour course requirement for the CDA Credential in both English and Spanish for over 10 years and was in the first cohort of providers chosen to receive the CDA® Gold Standard℠ Certification by the CDA Council. The company prides itself on delivering quality training and is supported by a team of technical assistants and instructional designers. Visit www.prosolutionstraining.com.