Last year the New Jersey School Boards Association announced a partnership with Rutgers University Department of Continuing Studies and the launch of the NJSBA Online University. The extension of NJSBA’s Board Member Academy will make training available around-the clock, seven days a week.

While the partnership was not created with the thought that in-person training programs were going to become impossible to conduct, the introduction of NJSBA Online University has allowed the Association to seamlessly transfer the valuable professional development that NJSBA is known for to an online platform during the COVID-19 crisis.   

Since schools — and NJSBA offices — closed in March and transitioned to remote learning and work, the New Jersey School Boards Association has mounted a schedule of virtual training programs which has been enthusiastically embraced by the membership.   

The NJSBA has developed new and engaging online mandated training, online virtual conferences, webinars, Facebook Live sessions, and Education Matters videos and podcast programming, all centered around the challenges that school districts are facing during the coronavirus pandemic and the school closures.

The one-day New Board Member Orientation programs now educate newly-elected and appointed board members about their roles and responsibilities through three online sessions.

The NJSBA technology conference was held online — and significantly, NJSBA’s flagship conference, Workshop, will be held virtually in October — with the recorded sessions available to registrants for an entire year!

This summer NJSBA also debuted the first-of-its-kind online course for board members, using Canvas, a learning management system. The release of “Introduction to Salary Guides” represents the launch of a modern method of professional development. This course — which delves into a topic crucial for board members who serve on negotiations committees — allows board members to complete the program over the course of five weeks from the comfort of their homes. The course has weekly assignments, readings, and interaction with an NJSBA staff member who is facilitating the course. The format is based on a more traditional online college or certification course, which creates an online community for the class. The connection is established through discussion groups, which can include written or video logs, and enhances the learning process.

Through its partnership with Rutgers University’s Division of Continuing Studies, NJSBA has been able to tap into the expertise Rutgers has developed in more than 20 years of online course design and development. Courses conducted through the Canvas learning management system include differentiated learning techniques and interactive engagement activities. NJSBA staff are available for questions and answer sessions via chat, email, discussions, or telephone calls. 

Over the next year, as part of the Rutgers partnership, the NJSBA will be creating more courses. Each course will expand our experience and enhance how we provide PD to all. We look to bring synchronous learning opportunities — live events — with expert guest lecturers on topics like social-emotional learning, equity, school finance, and crisis management, as well as partnering with some of NJSBA’s sponsors to provide certifications in technology and online education.

Marcia Lavigne is NJSBA’s manager, member training and professional development.