Product Index
Teacher Needs

Facilitated professional development courses and online tools for instructional coaches


PBSTeacherLine offers a collection of for-credit and noncredit courses. (Creditsare awarded through a partnership with a dozen universities.) Most courses aregraduate level, with the for-credit courses lasting for six weeks or ten weeks.Most teachers take the for-credit courses as Continuing Education Units or tocomplete their teaching certification.

Thefor-credit courses focus on pedagogical and teaching strategies within severalcentral realms: Instructional Technology, Reading/Language Arts, Math, SocialStudies/History, STEM, Science, and general Instructional Strategies, whichinclude topics like Curriculum Mapping and Assessment/Evaluation. Theself-paced, noncredit courses, on the other hand, are only content-based. Theyserve more as refreshers for teachers, and place more of an emphasis on smallerunits of PD.

  • Purpose: Learn
  • Primary Users: Teachers (K-12, all subjects)
  • Cost: Facilitated courses are $265 for a one-hour/one-credit course,$295 for a two-credit course, and $345 for a three-credit course. Self-pacedcourses are $49. If teachers chose to take higher credit (more thanthree-credit) courses, they then pay the partnered university directly.
  • Skill Development: Mostly pedagogical and teaching strategies,though some integrate content knowledge. The shorter, self-paced courses solelydeliver content knowledge.
  • On-Brand Use: Use online courses to learn pedagogical strategies for avariety of subjects (ELA, math, science, history) and adjunct topics(instructional technology, leadership, teaching for multiple intelligences).
  • Off-Brand Use: Teachers looking to brush up on information can choose totake the shorter, self-paced courses.
  • Platforms: Browser-based.
  • Deal breakers: There are no specific offerings foradministrators. Also, not all courses are offered year-round.
  • Types of Schools Using It: Originally, inner city Title 1 schools were theprimary users; the platform was originally designed for them, based on thespecifics of the funding grant issued to PBS. Rural schools also make up alarge percentage of users. However, PBS Teacher Line reports that they haveusers in a variety of districts and school settings.

Product Brief

Value Added

PBSTeacherLine provides teachers with graduate-level, high-quality, and rigorousprofessional development. Long courses are rigorous, asynchronous, and ofteninquiry-based, where individuals work as part of a team to solve problems orcomplete projects. Courses start out as instructional; the content builds overthe weeks, culminating with projects. Oftentimes, these projects can providetakeaways for a teacher’s further use, i.e. a collection of lesson plans.

Althoughparticipants may take a class with people from all over the US, the number ofparticipants in a single course is capped. This results in intimate, yethigh-feedback, high-participation courses.

How does it work?

Longer, For-CreditCourses

PBSTeacherLine offers 30-hour and 45-hour for-credit courses. Courses are composedof lessons on content, online discussion boards, and submitted work that isgraded by an instructor Courses are moderated by a single facilitator andcapped at 30 participants, to ensure as much one-on-one virtual feedback (fromthe facilitator) as possible.

Ina sense, the design of these courses mirrors that of a Professional LearningCommunity. While the facilitator does provide grading, the other participantsare responsible for the majority of back-and-forth dialogue about conceptslearned in the course.

Inthe first week, participants are given a rubric on how they’ll be graded alongwith a description of their assignments Facilitators provide feedback within agradebook throughout the course. The online gradebookis integrated into a course management platform.  The final course grade is calculated based onthe predetermined weight of each assignment.  Facilitators also providefeedback on the assignments within the grade book.  

Contentmedia includes a mix of articles 3- to 5-minute long videos (typically 5-6 per coursefocused on best practices), interactive media, and audio clips. Additionally,teachers can take part in a discussion board within the course. Assignments canbe journals, papers, discussions on boards, and/or a final project.

Teachershave access to the course materials for up to one month after the course ends. 

Shorter, NoncreditCourses

Shorter,noncredit courses are only three hours long and do not have an onlinefacilitators. They are completely self-guided. Upon completing the course,participants can continue to see the course materials for up to a year.

Thecourse consists of video and instructional strategies, but lacks the peer-to-peerconnection of the larger courses elements of the for-credit courses. 

How is it used?

The longer courses, which teachers usually take as part ofgroup, help teachers develop skills while earning credit (such as ContinuingEducation or graduate studies credits). Teachers take the self-directed shortercourses to brush up on skills (but do not earn credit for this.) 

Participants log in a couple of times a week. Courseworklaunches consistently on Wednesdays. Usually, participants will complete acombination of reading articles, watching instructional videos, completing anassignment like a reflective paper, and contributing posts to a discussionboard.

The duration of sessions varies. For-credit online courseslast either six weeks (30 hours) or ten weeks (45 hours). Noncredit self-pacedcourses typically last 3 hours, School districts and/or individual teachersseeking teaching credits sign up for seats. Each seat supports one individual.

Who’s Using It?

Originally,inner city Title 1 schools were the primary users; the platform was designedfor them, based on the specifics of the funding grant issued to PBS. Ruralschools also tend to gravitate towards use of the product. However, PBSTeacherLine reports that it has users in a variety of districts and schoolsettings. Primary marketing channels are throughlocal stations’ outreach efforts, email, and social media

TeacherLine had over 3,000 paid enrollments for the longcourses in 2012. Fall term is the slowest term for facilitated courseenrollments with winter and spring seeing the highest enrollments. Individualteachers can enroll in self-paced courses at any time; their enrollment trendsare similar. There are no wait lists. PBS opens enough sections to accommodateall enrollees.

At this point, the only district fully integrating TeacherLineis LA Unified School District. PBS provides LAUSD with a course list each term,which the district integrates into its existing PD page.

Content, Content, Content….

Tocreate the course content, PBS TeacherLine partnered with developers from threemajor institutions: Annenberg Learner, the Concord Consortium, and WGBHTeachers’ Domain. At least a dozen partner universities offer course credit forthose who successfully complete TeacherLine courses.

Uponcompleting the course, teachers will have either 1) completed graduate-levelcourses that push mostly pedagogical and teaching strategies (though some do sowhile integrating content knowledge), or 2) have gained content knowledge fromthe shorter, self-paced courses.

Coursetopics cover all grade levels, and range from more general instructionalstrategies (such as “Digital Lesson Planning for Different Learning Styles”) tosubject-specific courses (such as “Teaching with Primary Sources from theLibrary of Congress” for social studies teachers). PBS TeacherLine also offerstwo K-12 leadership courses, “Promoting Positive Behavior in Schools” and“Professional Learning for Peer Observers.”

Tocreate the courses, PBS TeacherLine has partnered with content developers fromthree major institutions:  AnnenbergLearner, the Concord Consortium, and WGBH Teachers’ Domain. Annenberg Learninghas provided the multimedia resources to help teachers increase their expertisein the subject they teach. Concord Consortium contributed math offerings withits “Seeing Math” courses. WGBH Teachers’ Domain contributed a specialcollection of PD courses in Physical, Life, and Earth Sciences.

Othercourse material is developed by PBS TeacherLine’s internal staff, and updatedbased on the organizations ability to raise grant money for new contentcreation. The coursecatalogue contains about 45 facilitated courses, and 21 self paced courses.

PBSreps describe the course facilitators as the "secret sauce.". Facilitatorsread 60-80 page handbooks about strategies for teaching content to prep forgiving their courses. The facilitator’s guideprovides a comprehensive orientation to the online course. It includesinformation on the material covered in each course session, as well as adviceon providing feedback to learners on their coursework, and suggestions for howand when to communicate to learners about coursework and deadlines.

Tobecome a facilitator, candidates must have taught before, must have a graduatedegree in the subject they are teaching, must have taken PBS online instructioncourses before (“Mastering the Skills of Online Teaching” and “Adjusting (orDusting) Your Facilitator Hat”), and get mentored when they’re going to teachthe program.

Training and Integrating

PBSTeacherLine is a professional development tool to be used by teachers on theirown time and at their own discretion.

PBS TeacherLine does not offeran API plug in that will integrate its content with another site. But it doesprovide a “remote catalog” that  organizationscan use o list PBS courses on their website, with a line of HTML to insert ontheir page which in turn displays the courses that are open for enrollment.

Assessment and Data

Severalresearch studies support the effectiveness or “promise” of PBS TeacherLine. One study in the Journal ofAsynchronous Learning Networks writes that, “Findings reveal promisingpractices for preparing and supporting any online faculty, whether in K-12 orhigher education, and suggest outcomes that may be appropriate forcharacterizing the effectiveness of these efforts.” In the study, approximately110 of PBS TeacherLine’s online instructors participated, and courseparticipants were asked to give feedback on their quality.

Ona 1 (needs improvement) to 3 (excellent) scale, participants who completed thecourses rated their instructors as an averaged 2.9 for course climate andcommunity building, 2.8 for instruction, 2.8 for interaction and discussionfacilitation, and 2.8 for course organization. Additionally, 94.5% of learnerssaid that they could immediately apply what they learned during a TeacherLinecourse in their own professional practice.


Themain landmine relates to time. For-credit courses are offered during foursemesters throughout the year: Fall, Winter, Spring, and early Summer. And manycourses are only offered for a few of those semesters. Only two courses(Teaching Phonemic Awareness and Phonics, and Teaching Phonics and Spelling forBeginners and Transitional Readers) are available during all four seasons. As aresult, online access to course materials is not available at the drop of ahat.



Allcourses are browser-based and available on any browser as a result.


Facilitatedcourses are $265 for a one-hour/one-credit course, $295 for a two-creditcourse, and $345 for a three-credit course. Self-paced courses are $49. Ifteachers chose to take higher credit (more than three-credit) courses, they paythe partnered university directly.


Teacherscan gain continued education unit credit for completion of the longer courses, and work their waytowards a full certification or graduate degree offered by one of PBSTeacherLine’s 12 partner universities. The price range varies according to eachuniversity's preference; oftentimes, the price is the same as PBS charges plusthe additional graduate credit fees that any TeacherLine learning would pay ifthey need graduate credits. However, not all graduate credits count toward Master Degree programs. 


Many colleges offer theirown online graduate-level courses related to CEUs and certification. PBSTeacher Line competes mostly with these programs. Coursera could be a potentialcompetitor in the future, but currently does not offer any graduate degreecredit. 


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