One of the first steps in the CDA process is acquiring 120 clock hours of training. Choosing where to get this training can be confusing, overwhelming, a shot in the dark,or all three. This is especially true if the candidate begins to search for online CDA training.There are literally hundreds of training agencies vying for your business, with more popping up every day. Most have catchy ad campaigns and promise quick and easy completion of CDA training hours from the comfort of home. After a while, they all start looking pretty much the same to the casual browser. So then, price becomes the next logical criterion.
Some of these online programs charge a base fee good for a year of unlimited training at your own pace. Others charge by the course or number of CEU's completed. Still others have more complicated payment plans, based on group sign-ups or specific courses chosen. The headache is starting.
Add the lists of customer testimonials and suggestions from friends to the frenzy and it's no wonder the final choice is just a matter of a few clicks. Money is paid, a username is generated, and it's a done deal. Surely the training will be just what is needed... or will it?
Before even beginning to investigate CDA training, some important homework needs to be done. Consider these:
1. Look in the CDA Competency Standards booklet for the listing of required subject areas that must be covered by the training hours. This is where it all has to start. Otherwise, when choosing a course track, you'll be comparing apples to oranges- or not comparing at all and end up taking (and paying for) courses that aren't even needed.Or, you may come up short at the end, not having all of what's needed.
2. Make sure the course vendor you've chosen is approved by the Council. For example, some courses are sold by independent trainers. These will not be recognized or approved. Similarly, training acquired by attending workshops is not accepted. Don't guess. Make a call to the Council and ask before you give anyone a credit card number.
3. Think about this... Are online classes really for you? Are you a self-starter? Can you set deadlines for yourself and then meet them? Have you had good luck in the past working on your own without collaborating with other students? Some online training doesn't even have a live instructor. You read the material, take a quiz, and repeat until the program is completed.
4. What about actually learning something? Will this be possible with the training you choose? One of the most important outcomes of taking courses toward a CDA is new or expanded knowledge that translates to improved practice in the early childhood program. If this doesn't happen, the training certificate earned is not worth the paper it's printed on. Good, quality child care training should build on the skills the care provider already has, should challenge, stimulate higher level thinking, and provide opportunities to learn new developmentally appropriate ideas and improvements that can be put into practice.
5. Do these training hours go anywhere beyond a CDA? In other words, is this vendor offering dead-end training that has no further value? State child care licensing continues to raise the entry-level educational requirements for early care and education providers. What may be a CDA today may be a BA or BS in a few years. We are seeing this happen in Head Start programs, with others soon to follow. Why spend money on courses that can't transfer to a degree program? 120 clock hours can equate to 9 or more college credit hours... a nice entry into a degree. CDA should never be seen as the end of the road, but rather as the first step in an early childhood professional's life-long learning. The best choice of all may very well be to fore go the Internet "by-guess-by-golly" and take college credit courses from the local community college. You can still take them online, if you like, but you're more likely to receive quality content, valuable interaction and networking with others, a real live instructor, and hours that count for something.
These are just 5 points to consider. I'm sure some of you reading this have other words of wisdom to share! Please join the conversation with more ideas and personal experiences.