Teaching across time zones

A teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) assists a young girl in using an assistive technology device.

Working with youths who have Autism Spectrum Disorder and visual impairment is a challenge faced by educators all over the globe. So when Perkins announced its latest eLearning workshop on that topic, participants eagerly signed up from as far away as Cairo, Egypt.

That, said Mary Zatta, educational resources manager for Perkins Training and Educational Resources Program, is exactly the kind of audience she is hoping to reach.

"The format of these online workshops lends itself really well to people who are anywhere in the world," she said. "What’s really exciting is that we can reach people who are in places where they just can’t get the training anywhere else."

Perkins has long held the reputation of being a teacher of teachers. These workshops are one more way that educators and professionals can benefit from Perkins’ experts and cutting-edge strategies. And their virtual nature means they can be available to anyone with access to the Internet—even those who may work in distant, rural communities across the world and may not have access to university courses.

Since Perkins launched its first workshop in January, the response has been overwhelming, said Zatta. Positive feedback from participants proved Perkins eLearning was addressing a real need.

"Word is spreading. The workshops are flying off the shelf," she said. "People are asking when the next ones are happening, and saying they want to sign up."

Each workshop includes discussion forums, readings, quizzes, group projects and web "quests," where participants must research information pertinent to their local government, policies and culture.

"People will get into online conversations about challenges they face. They’ll share experiences and ask each other for advice. It’s a nice community-building activity," she said.

Weekly course work can be completed at the time and pace convenient to each participant. Credits earned range from 35 to 40, depending on course length, and can be applied to Professional Development Points, continuing education credits or Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) credits, depending on the participant’s need. The maximum number of participants allowed in each workshop is 25. Workshops range from four to eight weeks, and registration costs between $250 and $299.

The workshops are led by Perkins instructors and other renowned experts in the field, such as Marilyn Gense, chair of the Oregon Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders, who is teaching this latest eLearning workshop. A summer offering, titled Social Skills for Students Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, will be led by Sharon Z. Sacks, director of curriculum and professional development at the California School for the Blind.

To learn more about eLearning workshops or to register for a future workshop, visit PerkinseLearning.org.