dynamic communication

In my realm of influence, we have 3 courses that we work hard to build relationships and communicate frequently with our stakeholders: the Coaching Partnership, Teaching Online Practicum (TOP), and New Instructor Preparation Course (NIPC) courses. I'll discuss just some of the ways we work to engage our participants in each of these courses.

new instructor preparation course (nipc)

This course is the first onboarding course our new hires take when they are first hired. This course is 4 weeks long and a bit like trying to drink from a firehose. Many are learning the Canvas LMS for the first time, preparing to teach online for the first time, and learning about our school policies.....in addition to doing their full-time jobs.

It. Is. A. Lot.

The first thing we do is send them an introductory email with information about the course, a video tour of the course, and the name of their coach and tell them to be on the lookout for communication from their coach.

Their coach sees the introductory email and jumps into action. The coach sends the new hire an email with some information about themselves and asks for a time they can connect by phone. The coach and new teacher have a phone call, where the new teacher usually asks a lot of questions about the time investment, etc. and the coach calms their nerves before the course starts.

The first day of class (and every Monday night for the 4 weeks), we meet synchronously as a group. We try to start with some ice breakers and gauge their mindset that week. We explain that it's okay to feel overwhelmed. Take it day by day and contact your coach with questions. We go through some housekeeping items and walk them through a few of the difficult assignments for the week.

When grading their assignments, we use a rubric, but we also leave encouraging comments and try to utilize each type of feedback at least once - written, annotations, video, and audio so they can experience each type as a student.

Each week, the coach also sends the new teacher an email with some tips and tricks and suggestions for the assignments for the week and the coach encourages the teacher to reach out with questions.

We also send targeted announcements - about upcoming assignments, or introducing myself or the coaching team.

All of this together helps the coach build a relationship with the teacher, and helps me get to know each teacher, as I'm usually the one grading their assignments and leading the live sessions.

teaching online practicum (TOP)

Once a teacher has completed NIPC and is assigned a course, they are enrolled in the Teaching Online Practicum (TOP) course. This course lasts the entire first semester and we try very hard to pair our new instructors with the same coach they had in NIPC, so they can continue building that relationship with the new teachers and because, usually by this point, the new teacher feels comfortable coming to their coach with problems.

We have several avenues to continue to build relationships with these teachers. In fact, most of this communication happens OUTSIDE the course.

We enroll all new teachers in a special Yammer group for new teachers. Some admin and the coaches are in this group, but it is a safe place where the new teachers can ask questions without feeling like they're asking a "stupid question". It's also a place where coaches can post helpful tips and tricks for the entire new cohort. Teachers stay in this group 1 year, so one semester after they finish TOP. After a year, we remove them from the group.

Our coaches continue to send targeted weekly emails to their new teachers. We frequently hear, "I was just about to email you about this!" or "This information came at the perfect time!"

We also have targeted announcements scheduled to go out at different times and continue to hold live synchronous sessions, but only once/month to preserve our teachers' limited time in the evenings.

Lastly, our teachers complete 3 check-in self-reflections throughout the semester. The coaches read these and set up live check in meetings (usually through Teams), to continue to build that relationship, but also have some informal time for the new teacher to ask questions, and for the coach to share some glows and grows with the teacher.

This format has proven pretty successful. Our teachers continually leave feedback about how well-supported they've felt, how this was one of the best professional development experiences they've been part of, and continue to reach out to their coach well past the conclusion of TOP. Our coaches have also made long-term friends out of some of their new hires. One of the best compliments is when a former new teacher applies to be a coach because they want to help new teachers the way they were helped when they were new. ☺️

coaching partnership

Finally, we have our new Coaching Partnership. We built this experience while we were enrolled in this endorsement, so we've taken quite a bit of what we've learned while going through this endorsement, and woven it into this partnership.

Everyone in the cohort is a member of our Coaching Partnership Yammer group. They are able to ask questions of one another, and also share about each other. We had such fun this summer reading about everyone's summer, families, and why they chose to participate in this experience.

Then, we held a live session during our yearly Lunch and Learn (again, to preserve their personal time), where the coaches explained the format of the course, and the teachers could start brainstorming what they'd like to focus on for their goal.

We also have targeted announcements scheduled to go out at different times - this is a constant in all of our courses.

We've embedded discussions in the course to encourage participants to visit each others' classrooms and also to help each other refine their goal for the year.

Because this program is larger than our other programs, we were worried that requiring synchronous sessions would be a strain on both the coach and the teacher. So, we borrowed from our KSU PLE courses and created asynchronous checkins, where the teacher can create a screencast discussing their goal, their progress towards the goal, or how they're analyzing their data.

In addition, the coaches communicate regularly via email with our teachers, and encourage them to reach out whenever they have questions. Many have said the only reason they even signed up for something like this was that the environment at Georgia Virtual is always so supportive, and we try to continue to model that through our professional development courses.


Downey, M. (2020, December 1). Georgia Tech faculty member: I didn't think I connected with my students online. they disagreed. AJC. Retrieved August 25, 2022, from https://www.ajc.com/education/get-schooled-blog/georgia-tech-professor-i-didnt-think-i-connected-with-my-students-online-they-disagreed/WTQWA2ZNGNA43FTTTMDIA2QSLY/

Fisher, Douglas B., and Frey Nancy. “The Good, the Bad, and the New Plcs.” Corwin Connect, 1 Mar. 2021, https://corwin-connect.com/2019/05/the-good-the-bad-and-the-new-plcs/.

McConnell, Tom J., et al. “Virtual Professional Learning Communities: Teachers’ Perceptions of Virtual versus Face-to-Face Professional Development.” Journal of Science Education and Technology, vol. 22, no. 3, 2012, pp. 267–277., https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-012-9391-y.

Parmalee, G. (2020, November 22). Teaching in the Time of Covid-19. College of Engineering. Retrieved August 25, 2022, from https://coe.gatech.edu/news/2020/11/teaching-time-covid-19