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5 Questions to Ask When Choosing an Online Learning Platform for Early Childhood Professional Development



Tech platforms saturate education. There is no shortage of solutions, apps, online courses, or software available to early learning programs. They help streamline everything from family enrollment to educator certifications to basic business management processes.

In the world of educator development, an online learning platform (OLP) is quickly becoming a central asset for driving sustainable professional learning in early childhood education programs. 

In a best-case scenario, an OLP enables educational institutions to provide more coaching and training to teachers with greater efficiency, cultivating high-quality educators who improve developmental outcomes for the families and children they serve. The right OLP is the difference between modern, high-efficacy professional development opportunities with satisfied users — and one that wallows in outdated processes and frustrates users. 

Despite the increasingly important role they play in early childhood education, it can feel overwhelming to find the right OLP from the wide range of interactive learning platforms available. Each program is unique, and an online education platform must be able to support an organization’s specific professional development needs.

But the search for your ideal platform doesn’t have to be complicated!

From our team to yours, we will share five key questions that every early childhood program director should ask when assessing OLPs against their goals for professional development (PD): 

  1. Does it provide opportunities for educators to apply and grow their skills?
  2. Does it promote regular reflection on current teaching practices?
  3. Does it cultivate ongoing support and coaching for educators to refine practice?
  4. Does it enable differentiation in independent educator learning activities?
  5. Does it facilitate anytime, anywhere collaboration among early childhood educators?

Let’s dive in!


Table of Contents



5 Considerations for Online Learning Platforms in Early Educator PD


#1: Does It Provide Opportunities for Educators to Apply and Grow Their Skills?


This may seem obvious — but for an online educational platform to be effective in supporting professional growth, it needs to support educators to, well, grow! 

These days, many early education settings use practice-based coaching to support teachers in building a wide variety of skills. This methodology is effective because it encourages educators to be active participants and drivers of their own learning and career paths. An OLP is where modern technology meets coaching practices. 

Consider these factors when examining an OLP for its ability to cultivate professional development opportunities for teachers to apply their skills directly to student learning:

  • Observations beyond in-person
  • Time-stamped feedback

Customizable access to resources


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Observations Beyond In-Person


Coaching practices are evolving beyond the days when in-person observation was the only option. To be sure, classroom visits still play a role in improving teacher practice — but these sessions are difficult to do frequently and at scale across an organization. OLPs help early childhood programs increase the dosage of coaching provided to educators through video-based observation tools. 

Look for platforms like TORSH Talent that make it seamless for teachers to record high-quality videos of themselves utilizing specific skills, and easy to share those videos directly with their coaches for reflection.

 Be sure to consider how an online education platform supports staff who teach in or may travel to remote locations without consistent access to the internet, too! TORSH Talent’s mobile app does not require connectivity to record and store videos, which automatically upload to the platform as soon as a teacher’s connection to a network is restored. 


Time-Stamped Feedback


Online learning programs and platforms should also build on these video-based coaching tools by enabling two-way communication and feedback within its digital environment. But few platforms allow the level of precision with feedback granted by an in-person activity or observation — where coaches can, in near real-time, make a note of a positive student-teacher interaction or flag soft skills that may need refinement to manage student behaviors.

TORSH Talent is the exception among interactive learning platforms: coaches can leave time-stamped feedback on their mentee’s classroom video recordings. This specificity is important; it ensures a coach can provide highly targeted support without physically being in the classroom. By pinpointing bright spots and opportunities for growth between coaching sessions, coaches can tee up more effective conversations with teachers when they next gather. 


Customizable Access to Resources


A foundational feature of many OLPs is the resource library, where programs can curate specific documentation, templates, lesson plans, exemplary practices, and more in one central location for all staff to access with ease. Most solutions will also enable administrators to create libraries of courses on a variety of topics for teachers to complete on their own time. 

TORSH Talent takes the self-guided approach to professional development opportunities to the next level. Teachers who receive the PD or coaching each have different learning styles, needs, and experience levels. Learning Paths in TORSH Talent allow PD to be fully differentiated to reach audiences with vast styles and experiences. The observation, self-assessment, data forms, goals, and video tools provide a unique set of learning modalities to reach the preferences, needs, and experience levels of organizations.

The key here is customization. Administrators can craft single courses and other interactive online learning opportunities from that very same resource library, and then string them together into curated, in-depth learning journeys. The possibilities for content creators are limitless, from offering teachers hands-on learning exercises for specific instructional practices to individual courses on broader topics.

TORSH sees education institutions use Learning Paths to create a specific range of courses on a variety of topics, sometimes granting staff access to courses without individualization. They also develop targeted online courses intended to support focused learning in one area, then enroll those teachers with that area of need to complete these in-depth learning paths. Many TORSH partners also leverage this functionality to build certification courses that allow staff to fulfill important requirements around their busy teaching schedules. 

The beauty of TORSH Talent’s customization — from micro-learning doses to full-blown online learning programs — is that early childhood teams can create their own unique library of courses that meets their needs.


#2: Does It Promote Regular Reflection on Current Teaching Practices?


Another crucial consideration is teachers’ self-reflection. Remember, coaching best practices emphasize a teacher’s active engagement and ownership of their career path and learning. Strong self-reflection practices are essential muscles to build here — after all, adults are always learning and growing, too!

Coaches serve as facilitators of these reflective strategies to improve a teacher’s ability to notice their own behaviors, thought patterns, and approaches to instruction. OLPs should also support these practices by creating space for self-reflection that both teachers and coaches can easily revisit. 

Here again, TORSH Talent’s video tooling is an excellent resource to cultivate these soft skills for teachers by allowing them to record and watch themselves teaching in action. Many educators on the platform find it useful to reflect on their practices with high-quality videos just before a live coaching session. That way, they are prepared with specific bright spots to celebrate and opportunities for growth on which to seek additional support.

Educators can also collaborate with their coach to set and track progress toward achieving their goals, turning their self-reflections as well as coaches’ input on these video recordings into tangible action steps.


#3: Does it Cultivate Ongoing Support and Coaching for Educators to Refine Practice?


With this inquiry, ongoing is the word of note. Educator professional development isn’t limited to discrete windows of time as they once were. Now, early learning programs can lean on modern technology to ensure that services are available year-round and even on demand. 

This matters especially in the world of early childhood education, where teaching tools such as early childhood assessments depend on effective PD, coaching, and training to correctly and equitably implement. TORSH Talent is an ideal platform for scaling up access to professional learning, coaching, and technical services in early childhood education programs

Perhaps just as important as the groundwork of ongoing support is the higher-level visibility that administrators and program leaders need around these activities. When planning how to allocate funding, staffing, coaches, and other resources, early learning directors must be able to see the impact of these strategies.

TORSH Talent creates this insight for top-level program staff through robust reporting on active users, popular courses, coaching activities, and more on the platform. The solution also integrates with many LTI-compliant platforms, allowing directors and other administrators to triangulate patterns across multiple data sources and make more informed decisions. 


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#4: Does It Enable Differentiation in Independent Educator Learning Activities?


Just as every young child has their own journey of growth, so too does each educator who supports them. And yet individualized professional learning requires a lot of effort, time, and staff — which may not be feasible for an early childhood program. An OLP is an excellent resource to help a program balance staff’s unique growth opportunities for support with their available resources to meet that wide variety of learning needs.

Remember the Learning Paths module in TORSH Talent? We’ve already explored the customization options that this function offers for right-sizing individual courses and focused learning opportunities for educators. Now picture how a range of courses can be strung together into in-depth learning paths for staff to follow — at their own pace. Now scale these customized, high-quality courses across an entire program! 

TORSH Talent designed its Learning Paths module to be easy for everyone involved, no matter the size or nature of a program. From accessible authoring tools for admins to simple enrollment for staff, this functionality helps programs create that balance between efficiency and individual growth. With its friendly learning interface, the platform ensures teachers and administrators are all satisfied users!

When a program cultivates differentiated learning opportunities within an OLP, it must also identify key factors universal to all opportunities to evaluate their impact. This is why TORSH Talent again is the ideal platform, as it includes detailed reporting on learners’ progress toward lesson goals through competency-based assessments, aligned resources, discussion groups, and learning completion rates. 


#5: Does It Facilitate Anytime, Anywhere Collaboration Among Early Childhood Educators?


Collaborative efforts to drive continuous improvement can make a huge difference in early education settings. Common models like professional learning communities (PLCs) bring educators together to share insights from their practices, reflect as a team on their efforts to support student learning and iterate on programming to incrementally create more positive outcomes. 

An OLP can become a valuable hub for learning within PLCs. In TORSH Talent, for instance, educators from the same program (or better still, from across multiple programs using the platform) can form groups in the Communities feature. Some teams may create groups based on teaching experience, pairing newer staff with veterans for guidance. Others may form PLCs around particular priorities within an organization, while others further focus instead on a range of topics tied to professional growth goals and current industry practices in those areas. 

And of course, coaches and educators benefit from having access to asynchronous tools and customizable workflows within the platform to connect between their individual video or in-person sessions together. TORSH Talent is also an excellent resource for peer-to-peer coaching opportunities


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Why the Right Online Learning Platform Matters For Early Education PD


Early childhood educators benefit from guidance to refine their knowledge, soft skills, instructional practices, etc. And every program leader knows that offering a wide range of PD opportunities, from certification courses to video-based coaching, is the key to unlocking every teacher’s potential.

Effective PD is inextricably linked to positive child learning outcomes, including improved school readiness, increased educator engagement and satisfaction, and improvements in meeting specific program requirements such as Head Start performance standards. These trends all impact the learning experience for students and their families. 

It comes as no surprise that modern technology can either help or hinder professional learning strategies in early education institutions. The most important benefit that OLPs offer is efficiency. Self-paced online courses, resource libraries with high-quality videos and documentation, community features, and more enable lean program teams to more effectively support more educators on a wide range of topics with fewer resources consumed. 

This matters! The goal of any professional learning strategy is to support a high-quality early childhood workforce that improves developmental outcomes for children, and OLPs create a hub of learning that drives the PD behind these gains.

In addition, the best interactive learning platforms also provide:

  • Key data, insights, and reporting into all facets of a professional strategy to support informed decisions
  • Mechanisms to reinforce consistency with coaching or instructional practices
  • Centralized resources such as digital coaching rubrics, documentation of core protocols, exemplary lesson plans or videos of classroom activities, etc.
  • Features to streamline and expand coaching services using either virtual, hybrid, or in-person models, such as video-recording options, goal-setting and tracking tools, etc.


Streamline Early Childhood Professional Development & Certification With TORSH


From building a comprehensive training resource library to driving high-impact virtual coaching, TORSH Talent is the ideal platform for your professional development needs. Early childhood education programs can take full advantage of the easy-to-use and secure tools built into TORSH Talent, including tools for:

  • Video-based observation
  • Providing targeted, specific feedback to teachers on their interactions with children and families
  • Synchronous and asynchronous collaboration with coaches and among peers
  • On-demand training for professional learning and certification
  • Individualized coaching tools for goal setting and tracking
  • Insights to guide professional learning and training

Take a look at how your early education program can leverage TORSH Talent to nurture high-quality early childhood learning and ensure every family you serve can thrive.

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