The NSTA Learning Center
As Assistant Executive Director for Government Partnerships and e-Learning at NSTA I oversee the design, development, implementation and evaluation of NSTA's online and blended professional development opportunities, many offered in conjunction with our government partners. I also serves as the Co-PI for an NSF grant that is infusing our NSTA print material, e.g., journal articles, books and book chapters, into the NSF funded National Science Digital Library collection in partnership with Ohio State University. In creating and implementing a back-end online cataloging tool incorporating IEEE LOM and Dublin Core extended tags, NSTA meta records, and in turn the content it describes, now appear within the NSF Middle School Pathways portal and the overall NSDL (http://www.nsdl.org). In this capacity I am fortunate to lead an outstanding team of individuals within NSTA that have created and implemented this system over the last 2 years, primarily, Claire Reinburg, Robin Allan, Tyson Brown, Ryan Foley and Todd Wallace. The fruit of this labor is now visible through the beta release of our NSTA Learning Center (NLC), our online e-Professional Development portal that will serve as the national “home base” for science educators desiring high quality professional development resources and materials.
The NCL project planning web site provides an in-depth overview of the myriad of planning, review, coordination that is necessary for a project of this magnitude. It also provides a description of the e-PD products and services that appear within The NLC in addition to the NSTA digital publications (books, journal articles), and the tools that will reside within the portal.
Formal third party usability testing has also been completed. We launched the beta version of the portal in November 2006 with aproximately 850 tagged resources within The NSTA Learning Center with the goal to tag all future NSTA publication content, and selected collections from the digital archive. Since the formal launch in April 2008, six months ago, there are now over 25,000 user accounts who have added over 138,000 digital e-PD resources to their libraries from the 3,000 existing e-PD resources
Mr. Byers provides executive oversight managing the cross-cutting institutional dynamics, helping to ensure hurdles are overcome and critical milestones are achieved. Coordination, tracking, and communication are essential across many divisions and departments for this portal as we seek to leverage the wealth of resources in our Professional Development, Conferences, Publications and e-Learning divisions. Marketing and Membership also play a crucial role in assuring the portal will achieve its ultimate impact on the national scale it seeks to support.
The development and testing of the tools within The NLC portal is also managed by Mr. Byers. Herein lies brief description of each tool (47.5 KB Word doc), as well as a document that describes how several of the products work in a blended model of professional development (33.5 KB Word doc).
NSTA Science Objects
Mr. Byers provides executive oversight of the creation of Science Objects. This 4 million dollar vision will create approximately 130 1-2 hour science objects over the next three years. Science Objects are discrete on-demand web-based learning experiences that utilize interactive simulations and embedded questions based off known misconceptions of scientific phenomena. The goal is to help the 2.9 million teachers of science across the US better understand the science content they are teaching (targeting upper elementary and middle level science educators). NSTA launched the first 33 Science Objects in November of 2007.
Science Objects are a subset of a larger "package" of asynchronous learning opportunities called SciPacks, which combine 3-5 science objects as well as a pedagogical implications component that provides a context to the content for appropriate grade-bands. SciPacks will provide an optional final content assessment for a certificate from NSTA as well as a content wizard to answer individual questions from educators as they progress through the SciPack. You may view the free Science Objects by creating an account within The NSTA Learning Center.
Mr. Byers has been engaged in this instructional design solution since first coming to NSTA full time in May of 2002 and was instrumental in forging the initial production roles and processes, design protocols and evaluation methodology for Science Objects and SciPacks. Science Objects and SciPacks apply the seminal research in instructional design, e-learning, inquiry, and simulation design. This research guides the creation of the interactive production process and its prospective team member roles, and the touchstone "How to" manual that guides SciPack and Science Object production. Mr. Byers helped author the major sections and edited the early drafts of the "How to" manual selecting examples from early science objects that typified the instructional design template. Extensive usability testing, small group focus groups, one-on-one end-user and expert reviews continue to be enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of this asynchronous learning solution. He helped forge the early Design Scope Document process that applies an Understanding by Design methodology as well as the application of the 5E inquiry model espoused by Roger Bybee. A sample Scope Document for the Universe is included. He is now fortunate to have a full time staff of 6 individuals, lead by our latest edition, Bob Sonant, Director of e-Learning Production, and Joan Scheppke, Senior Producer, that facilitate the intricate production of this program on a day-to-day basis.
Pilot testing of the initial Force and Motion SciPack and its related science objects has yielded positive reviews and significant gains in learning from participating teachers across three districts (Journal of Science Education and Technology Journal Article). NSTA continues to expand our pilot with a key partnership with the West Virginia and Hawaii State Departments of Education, as well as schools districts throughout the US.