Suppose you want to train up to 35 staff with rudimentary skills from multiple campuses in basic IT skills and the use of the Internet as a teaching tool. A tall order? Definitely, but it is possible. The following model was trialled successfully with South Australian staff.

In semester 2, 1999, a group of English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers from TAFE in South Australia undertook a LearnScope funded professional development activity that ran for 20 weeks. The following attempts to describe the project model used for this professional development activity. It is hoped that others may find this model useful for structuring professional development in their own organizations. It will describe the core components of the model, and the strengths and weaknesses of each stage.


This model of professional development had 2 discrete stages:

  1. a series of face to face workshops that concentrated on skills development. Each face to face group had 15 participants and sessions were held over 10 weeks.
  2. applying skills learnt in the face to face workshops in the workplace with mentor support


  1. two stages as outlined above
  2. minimum of two facilitators in stage one face to face sessions
  3. an advance commitment from participants in terms of time commitment and PC/Internet access (it was the participants' responsibility to arrange this)
  4. mentor support in the applying skills phase (an approximate ratio of 1 mentor to 10 participants)
  5. group email list that runs throughout the program
  6. project website


  1. Use of forums and bulletin boards for communication/discussion
  2. Remote online participants
  3. Facilitators from stage one become mentors for stage 2. In a more advanced group mentors for stage 2 could be drawn from among the more able participants.
  4. A 'consolidation' option in stage 2 for those who may not feel ready to apply skills to a workplace project



  • Biodata/photos of all participants/facilitators/mentors
  • All resources used in face to face sessions
  • Session outlines for stage 1
  • Records of progress (assessment)
  • Evaluations/reports on progress in stage 2
  • Links to completed projects from stage 2


All participants joined the list in week one. It was the vehicle for all group communication. Private messages between participants, and between them and facilitators/mentors were also sent via the public list if it was deemed useful for all participants.



  • Access to a computer suite with reliable PC's with Internet access, a browser, webpage editor, and an email program
  • Good technical support
  • Participants to have allocated time between face to face sessions and regular access to a PC with Internet connection
  • Minimum of two facilitators for groups of 10 or more


  • Group identity forged by regular face to face contact, and daily activity on email list
  • Gentle ("handholding") introduction to the tools and the medium
  • Set weekly tasks and announcements on the email list mirrored the online environment
  • Face to face sessions allow direct targeting of skills gaps (revealed via skills audits)
  • Website allows easy access to all course materials
  • Allows facilitators to broach theory and practice
  • Face to face sessions allow:
    • peer group support
    • participants the opportunity of measuring their progress against others
    • facilitators to monitor participants' progress and identify particular needs
  • participants are removed from normal place of work and are not subject to interruptions


Many weaknesses of this stage are the same as classroom teachers anywhere can encounter - participants do not all progress at the same speed, don't attend all sessions, do not do weekly assignments, etc!

  • Skills sessions may not allow enough time for discussion of relevant issues
  • Participants sending essentially private mail to the public list
  • In the initial stages some participants still unable to work independently on set weekly tasks
  • Initial deluge of email for participants can be daunting
  • For webmaster: keeping project website up to date and ready for each session



  • Mentors to mentor at least 2 project teams to enable continuation of a sense of group identity and direction
  • Facilitators and mentors remain in constant contact via the email list
  • Selected email discussion re individual project teams to go to the public list
  • Private email NOT to go the public list where it is not of general interest


  • Participants can apply skills in authentic workplace conditions
  • Participants can focus on skills that need attention or that are of particular interest
  • Change of pace and focus - facilitators take a step back and participants are more responsible for programming their own learning
  • Satisfaction of real 'product' - websites, resources, etc
  • Participants get some sense of what it's like to be an online leaner
  • Email list remains an immediate helpline if needed
  • Presence of ongoing mentor support
  • Participants can work at their own pace


  • participants are back in normal place of work and routine demands of workplace can interfere with requirements of the project.
  • Sense of group identity can wane as participants no longer meet face to face. Not all participants will respond to attempts by facilitators and mentors to maintain group identity
  • Participants may aim to achieve something beyond their skill level. This needs to be monitored and managed by mentors.
  • Lack of technical support in normal workplace


Before Beginning

  • Advertise the course at least 4 weeks before starting to enable participants to make necessary arrangements for relief teachers, PC/Internet access
  • Send skills audit to interested parties
  • Receipt of completed skills audit indicates intention to take part
  • Conduct review of skills audits - modify course content as necessary

Stage 1

Face to Face Sessions

Weeks 1 - 6: gradual introduction to skills

Weeks 7 - 10: consolidation and review of skills sessions

Week 9 - 10: negotiate applied skills project for stage 2

Week 10: conduct second skills audit

Stage 2

Applied Workplace Projects

Weeks 1-2: project teams begin applied projects

Week 3: first session with mentor

Weeks 4: post progress report to email list

Weeks 4 - 7: teams meet with mentor as necessary

Week 8: post second progress report to email list

Week 10: final meeting to discuss final products and plan future pathways


The project ran for 20 weeks and the two facilitators worked for 2 days a week throughout the project. Facilitators effectively became mentors for stage 2. A third mentor for stage 2 was engaged two days a week throughout this stage (10 weeks).

Project Homepage:

For more information contact Michael Coghlan at: