UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Extension’s Better Kid Care program, which provides professional development opportunities for those who care for children and youth, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its On Demand distance learning system.
“No matter what their role, adults who spend time working with young children are important,” said Christine Anthony, program coordinator for Better Kid Care. “Caregivers who are kind, nurturing and responsive to children’s needs make quality possible. Equally important are intentional planning and ongoing professional development.”
Launched in July 2011, the On Demand distance learning system was the brainchild of Claudia Mincemoyer, former director of Better Kid Care and professor emeritus of agricultural and extension education.
“At the time, we had a distance learning program in place, but it was time-consuming and costly,” said Mincemoyer. “To address those obstacles, we created On Demand so that child care providers from the U.S. and beyond could access high quality online learning at an affordable price — $5 for two hours of professional development.”
The team charged with creating the system had a few challenges to overcome, including developing a system that was user-friendly and capable of meeting licensing and certification requirements not only for Pennsylvania but other states as well.
Offering customized learning and documentation based on user profiles also was a priority, Mincemoyer noted. “On Demand also didn’t fit into the traditional noncredit course framework, so we had to educate those involved with approving the system about the unique customer who would access it,” she said.
Their persistence paid off. In the first year of On Demand, 9,177 learners completed 35,290 professional development courses, earning 67,315 professional development hours. Over the course of 10 years of On Demand, 415,366 learners have completed 1,964,363 courses earning 6,318,526 professional development hours. Learners from all 50 states and 35 countries have completed lessons in the system.
On Demand’s course offerings cover competency-based training in child growth and development; curriculum and learning experiences; families, schools and community collaborations; communication; professionalism and leadership; health, safety and nutrition; program organization and administration; and positive youth development.
In addition to On Demand’s low cost, Anthony pointed to its other advantages for participants, including staying abreast of current research, 24/7 self-paced learning, excellent customer service, networking with other professionals, and automatic uploads of learning certifications to state professional development systems.
One of the many faithful On Demand users is Tammy Keller, a preschool teacher at Building Blocks Learning Center in Lehman, who has taken the courses since 2009.
She said a recent class, “Addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences with Brain-based Approaches in Trauma and Informed Care,” helped her better understand the defensive behavior of one of her students. Another training, “Adventurous Play: The Whys and the Hows,” provided tips for educators on how to convey to parents the benefits a child receives from playing outside.
“The trainings are engaging and relevant; I gain at least three new ideas or reminders of things to do in the classroom from each training,” said Keller. “Being a seasoned teacher, it helps to be reminded of our roots and of things we have done in the past that we have forgotten about. I love taking the courses and sharing information with my colleagues.”
The Better Kid Care staff will celebrate the On Demand milestone throughout the year with a special 10th anniversary logo, social media and email communications, and an in-person event in late spring 2022.
“We also will recognize the many partners and stakeholders who make our program such a success,” Anthony said. “We could not do what we do without them.”
Those partners have included the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning, Pennsylvania Department of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense/Military Community and Family Policy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nemours Children’s Health System, the William Penn Foundation, Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation, the Vitamix Foundation, Share our Strength, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the Virginia Department of Social Services and Department of Education, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, Vermont Department of Children and Families, Rutgers University, University of Nebraska Extension, and Cedar Crest College.
More information is available online at https://extension.psu.edu/
–Amy Duke, Penn State University