From 2008 to 2010, about 150 teachers participated each year in the New Hampshire Department of Education (DOE)’s OPEN NH program. This year, only about 100 teachers enrolled in the same program.
OPEN NH offers four sessions a year of online classes for teachers seeking recertification. New Hampshire state law mandates that teachers must receive 75 hours of training courses every three years; 45 of those hours must be spent on general teaching classes, while 30 of them must be from courses dedicated to a specific content area. According to Stan Freeda, State Educational Technology Director & Online Learning Specialist for the New Hampshire DOE, the classes that teach about teaching are well liked.
“There’s a species of courses that are very popular,” Freeda said. “The content ones are in less demand because the content teachers have their own specialties. The pedagogy ones are the most popular.”
The New Hampshire DOE established OPEN NH in 2005 and offered the first set of courses in 2006. The program saw a bump in participation during its first few years because the state received funding from the U.S. Department of Education and a local television channel at the time. When money from the five-year funding dried up in 2011, the number of participants decreased. Freeda said if the opportunity for funding appeared again, he would apply for it.
Forty-two teachers are taking part in OPEN NH’s summer session this year. The program offers about 55-70 courses each semester, and has boasted 300 courses over its 10-year life span. Some of its online tutorials allow teachers to take the classes as their schedules allow. The longest one, a tutorial on tech skills, is 15 hours long.
“If you want to take it in a day, you can take it in a day. If you want to take it in six months, you can take it in six months,” Freeda said.
Although the number of participants has not been astronomical, Freeda said the teachers themselves have displayed staying power. According to Freeda, many teachers return to take subsequent classes; some even come back as facilitators. He also said that class attendees feel more comfortable when a teacher from their district is facilitating a class.
“It makes them feel better to know Susan’s in the building,” Freeda said. “We try to create a culture. We try to create a professional learning community within the classes.”