Insights to Better Connecting a Growing Team

Guest Post by Kris Ritter, InsideNGO HR Manager

InsideNGO is a membership association dedicated to strengthening operations staff and fostering leadership in the international NGO sector. InsideNGO is a supporting member of LINGOs.

Using Learning From The Insights Discovery Program

To meet significant growth in its membership and the range of benefits and international services it provides, InsideNGO has increased its staff from five to twenty-five in just over five years.  With the addition of the new staff, it quickly became clear that the less formal management style of InsideNGO was no longer effective.  After efforts to clarify position descriptions and reporting lines, we realized that there was an element missing:  an understanding of management and interaction styles, which are essential in any organization, but especially important in a smaller, growing one.

We leveraged our LINGOs member benefit to the Insights Discovery Profiles

Insights: “…released capacity we didn’t know we had”

Looking for a means to drive individual self-awareness, better communications and organizational development, InsideNGO launched the initiative to have each staff member complete the Insights Discovery profile to incorporate as the major focus of the all-Staff Retreat in December 2013.   We used the individual assessments, online learning available to us as part of InsideNGO’s supporting membership in LINGOs, as well as in-person exercises. As we implemented the Insights Discovery program, a new language, culture (and humor) began to emerge across InsideNGO,  leading to major benefits of a more effective teaming and partnering style across the organization. “Insights unlocked the “software” that allows our hardware (i.e., role/job descriptions) and wiring (i.e., reporting lines) to work even more effectively and release capacity we did not know we had,” observed Tom Dente, InsideNGO Chief Operating Officer.

Insights-InsideNGO

A more effective team means more creativity and innovation as InsideNGO looks to meet the changing needs of its more than 300 members working around the world.

Learn More

InsideNGO Annual Conference: Insights’ Don Johnson will be speaking at the InsideNGO 2014 Annual Conference “Sustaining Excellence in a Changing World.”

LINGOs Member Benefit: Many InsideNGO member organizations are also members of LINGOs (Learning in NGOs). Click to see a list of LINGOs Members. Among the benefits in the LINGOs Membership Toolbox are facilitation tools including Insights Discovery Profiles.

Insights – LINGOs partnership strengthens individuals and teams for global development

 

 

 

 

LINGOs Board of Directors names Chris Proulx as next CEO

Guest Post by Alison N Smith

Chairperson of the LINGOs Board of Directors and CEO of InsideNGO

Chris_ProulxIt is with great pleasure I announce the appointment of Chris Proulx as the next President and Chief Executive Officer of LINGOs. Chris comes to us from eCornell where he has served as the CEO for the past nine years and where he has achieved remarkable growth, created awarding winning products and earned the respect and admiration of colleagues in academia, the development sector and the learning industry. We are excited that Chris has chosen LINGOs as the next chapter in his distinguished career. He will succeed Eric Berg, LINGOs co-founder, by the end of this year.

Since Eric’s announcement of his intention to retire, the LINGOs Board has been working to secure the next generation of leadership that will build on the foundation he created and ultimately achieve the founding vision of providing world class learning to anyone who is working to improve lives in the developing world. The search has included leaders in the international development sector, the learning industry, academia and technology and has led us to Chris who has experience and success in all four areas. As a current LINGOs partner at eCornell, Chris brings familiarity and demonstrated commitment to the mission of LINGOs. He has served as a consultant, learning professional, entrepreneur and corporate leader and has demonstrated energy, skill, passion and results in each capacity.

Over the next several weeks we will be introducing you to Chris through blogs, webinars and other activities where you will get a chance to learn more about his experience, ideas and vision. On a personal level, Chris is married and lives with his wife, Varya, and daughter, Aliza, in Ithaca, New York where he was elected to the Common Council and where he has been seen seriously running the trails in the hills outside town.

Eric remains LINGOs CEO until Chris comes on board later this year. Please join me in congratulating and welcoming Chris Proulx.

 Alison

Alison N. Smith

Chairperson, LINGOs Board of Directors

CEO, InsideNGO (a Supporting Member of LINGOs)

LINGOs deploys Last Mile Learning with NetDimensions

NetDimensions and LINGOs innovate with next generation learning technology for international humanitarian relief and development organizations

Hong Kong and Seattle, WA; February 12, 2014NetDimensions (AIM: NETD; OTCQX: NETDY), a global provider of performance, knowledge, and learning management systems, and LINGOs, a global non-profit consortium of leading humanitarian relief and development organizations, announced today that NetDimensions has donated NetDimensions Learning to LINGOs to deliver a wide range of professional development experiences to the staff of its member organizations and others working to improve lives in the developing world.

NetDimensions and LINGOs have built an innovative learning offering that is based on NetDimensions Learning, the award-winning Learning Management System available as Secure SaaS, that can serve multiple LINGOs member organizations via highly personalized and distributed learning portals. The portals are developed on the popular WordPress blogging and content management system and utilize BuddyPress, a WordPress plugin that provides social networking functionality.

With the WordPress front-end, LINGOs can cost-effectively provide learning portals to each member organization that meet the unique requirements of their headquarters and country offices wherever they are in the world. These portals integrate with NetDimensions Learning via the NetDimensions SDK that provides single sign-on authentication and specific APIs and widgets for WordPress.

“We view this new offering as the next generation learning technology for our members,” said Eric Berg, President and CEO of LINGOs. “It allows us to move beyond simply providing traditional learning management functionality so we can now bring community and social aspects to the online learning experience. NetDimensions has been the only company that was able to provide the right product to enable us to build this distributed offering that delivers capacity to staff in the field as they need it.”

LINGOs’ Last Mile Learning provides free, contextualized learning resources to professionals working in the development and relief sectors. The learning resources are accessible in multiple formats and are designed to serve the needs of individual learners, trainers and organizations.

“We are proud to become a LINGOs partner and to contribute with our technology in helping to address many of the fundamental challenges faced by society today,” explained Alex Poulos, Chief Marketing Officer of NetDimensions. “There is no question that learning can be transformational to communities all over the world and can help better people’s lives with technology playing a key part in that.”

LINGOs will begin making this new learning offering available in the next month and will be able to highlight the technology together with NetDimensions at ASTD 2014 International Conference and Exhibition in Washington, DC on May 4-7. LINGOs members include Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) such as Save The Children, World Relief, Action Aid, CARE, Habitat for Humanity, The Nature Conservancy, Samaritan’s Purse, WWF, and others.

“This is an extremely elegant and powerful architecture to address some unique requirements faced by NGOs and to deliver personalized and collaborative learning at the point of need,” added Poulos.

“NetDimensions has always been true to its mission to make learning, performance support and knowledge sharing more accessible to global organizations,” said Jay Shaw, CEO and founder of NetDimensions. “We are honored to be able to try to do the same for non-profit organizations that have to serve their efforts under very difficult conditions. As a company looking for ways to give back to society, NetDimensions is fully committed to building our relationship with LINGOs and to helping provide a learning technology that has an impact on the world.”

 

About LINGOs

Created in 2005 as a means and community for organizations to share learning resources, LINGOs is continuously expanding as more organizations become aware of the value of membership.

LINGOs also serves as a central contact point for private sector organizations and individuals interested in assisting the sector who want to see their contributions of software, courseware, systems and services be leveraged across many organizations. LINGOs’ Partners, learning leaders in the private sector, donate or subsidize access to their Learning Management Systems, eLearning development tools, synchronous, virtual classroom software, and industry-leading course catalogs through LINGOs to member agencies.

By providing a community for sharing learning resources and experiences, and the latest learning technologies and courses from our partners, LINGOs helps international NGOs increase the skill levels of their employees and therefore increase the impact of their programs. For more information, visit http://www.lingos.org.

 

About NetDimensions

Established in 1999, NetDimensions (AIM: NETD; OTCQX: NETDY) is a global provider of performance, knowledge, and learning solutions.

NetDimensions provides companies, government agencies and other organizations with talent management solutions to personalize learning, share knowledge, enhance performance, foster collaboration, and manage compliance programs for employees, customers, partners and suppliers.

Recognized as one of the talent management industry’s top-rated technology suppliers in overall customer satisfaction, NetDimensions has been chosen by leading organizations worldwide including ING, Cathay Pacific, Hunter Douglas, Chicago Police Department, Geely Automotive, Fugro Group, and Fresenius Medical Care.

NetDimensions is ISO 9001 certified and NetDimensions hosted services are ISO 27001 certified.

For more information, visit www.NetDimensions.com or follow @netdimensions on Twitter.

Media Contact

Robert Torio
Senior Marketing Manager
+852 2122 4500 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +852 2122 4500 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting
media@netdimensions.com

LINGOs:

We haven’t re-blogged other posts on the LINGOs Blog before, but Brian Washburn’s post “The Rise and Fall of an Online Training Program” is a worthy read for the LINGOs Community – not just because it’s by one of our members (Brian is with SightLife) ; nor because one of the real life training experts who weighed in on it is our Virtual Coffee Barista extraordinaire, Shannon Cavallari of PATH; nor because blogging is a GREAT way to learn and to share within the community; nor because his blog “Train Like a Champion” is a superb resource for all trainers and learning professionals; but also because this post illustrates a reality that many face when starting an eLearning program. Please take a look and share your thoughts and advice for a learning professional such as Darryl in the case study.
Thanks to Brian for this gem, and allowing us to reblog to the LINGOs community,
Marian

Originally posted on Train Like A Champion:

I’ve spoken with a slew of training colleagues over the past year.  Many of them have online training programs with learning management systems.  And many of them struggle to attract consistent traffic to their LMS.  Part 1 of what follows is a fictionalized case study based upon a number of these conversations. In Part 2, I’m joined by another training colleague to offer our thoughts and insights about the situation.

Part 1: If You Build It, They Will Come… for a Little While

Darryl shut down his computer and stopped by Starbucks for a treat before heading home.  He deserved it.  He had been working non-stop for the past two years on the development, implementation and roll-out of his organization’s new Online Training Academy (OTA).  With great fanfare, it launched today.  His boss was pleased.  Considerable buzz had been generated over the past month and a half.  Managers from…

View original 1,159 more words

On the road from training to application: virtual coaching

Have you ever gone to a great course or workshop, been inspired by what you learned, and have every intention of putting your new knowledge into practice as soon as you got back to work?

Have you also experienced finding a mountain of work awaiting you after the inspiring course — and as you dive into catching up on that week away, you find yourself going back to your usual practices, and that you were unable to put what you learned into practice?

Have you been to the inspiring course, been able to summit the mountain of waiting work and had trouble explaining the new concepts to your colleagues and supervisors so that you can put the new practices in place?

Over the past two and a half years, LINGOs has deployed virtual coaching as an effective and cost-efficient performance support and learning transfer mechanism for global participants of the LINGOs Project Services learning programs.  We saw the need for performance support after the first very successful training courses in our work with World Vision’s Southern Africa Regional Program to build capacity in project management.

Knowledge & skills alone don’t lead to behavior change

We all know that knowledge and skills alone are insufficient to lead to a change in behavior –think of all the anti-smoking and “just say no” campaigns!  While the vast majority of participants successfully passed the PMD Pro 1 online exam, the leaders of the program initially saw relatively low application of the newly learned tools and approaches in the participants’ daily work.

While first piloted in Africa, we’ve done more virtual coaching in Latin America. “Coaching is a necessary complement to any training process,” said LINGOs Senior Facilitator Juan Manuel Palacios. “Without it, you can’t expect change — you can’t ensure transfer of knowledge, change in behavior or achievement of intended organizational outcomes.”

Coaching for performance support & learning transfer

Coaching is a widely-used performance support and learning transfer tool. It is a particularly good approach when participants are asked to develop an action plan at the end of their course work.

Traditional, in-person coaching involving high costs and time for both trainers and participants to travel to a central location was not an option, especially as much of the Project Management Training was offered through a blend of virtual classrooms and other on-line platforms. LINGOs began to offer virtual coaching as a strategy to give learners a chance to apply new skills and receive additional instruction and guidance when they came up against real-world challenges.

We built coaching into the Latin America work that we’re now completing with the GEPAL Project (Gestión en Administración de Proyectos en América Latina) with the Interamerican Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and in additional project management capacity work we’re doing with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), ChildFund-Americas, Islamic Relief,  Mercy Corps,  Oxfam GB, PATH, as well as with World Vision.

Technology improving, but still a limiting factor in parts of Africa

“Technology is improving monthly in African cities,” said Roger Steele, LINGOs Senior Project Manager, who has led training efforts with World Vision, CRS and PATH in Africa.  “Virtual coaching is becoming a very viable option.”

Based on the circumstances of each training cohort, LINGOs has used various technological options for virtual coaching including,

  • Groups that trained in a face-to-face environment participating via World Vision’s HoTSpots in Southern Africa,
  •  Individuals in disparate locations logging into the same virtual classroom platform in which they received training online,
  • Participants connecting via Skype when their internet connections were unable to support connections to a virtual classroom.

Roger noted that “participants are often eager to join online sessions but technology access and literacy is still limited in places. Some participants got their first email account to be able to participate in virtual coaching after a face-to-face workshop.”

“At PATH sometimes our people gathered informally around one person with a computer with a good connection and speakers,” noted Julie Baker, Trainer and eLearning Developer, who has overseen the PATH effort to strengthen staff skills among 54 participants in Kenya and Tanzania.

In Latin America, internet access has not been a limiting factor. Through the GEPAL project, LINGOs and partner organizations trained to facilitate training and coaching sessions have found no significant barriers in Brazil, Panamá or Guatemala. However, participants in Paraguay on some occasions did have some connectivity difficulties accessing the sessions offered on the Blackboard Collaborate virtual classroom platform.

Multiple modalities same objective

In the African context, the coaching approach has been more formal. Starting about a month after training, taking the PMD Pro1 online exam and developing an action plan, participants have had the opportunity to engage in virtual coaching sessions. The sessions, held in the Blackboard Collaborate Virtual Classroom, have provided structured review of different tools and an opportunity to share concerns and questions, and to problem-solve ways to remove obstacles to using the tools.

“In one session, a participant shared her concern specifics of where to keep the project’s issues log,” said Julie Baker. “The group and coaches explored advantages and disadvantages of whether to keep it on a Sharepoint® site versus a local network; who puts the data in the document, and how to make it work day-to-day in that particular situation.”

In the Latin American experience in GEPAL, however, after the training, certification exam and action plans are complete, the groups that trained together start looking at project management tools in which the participants are interested in implementing in their organizations.  They’ve generally started with design, monitoring and evaluation tools. “One participant provides the coaches with a real project to use as case study for coaching,” said Juan Manuel.

Brazil coaching group develops proposal
Participants from AVAPE (The Association for Valuing Persons with Disabilities), had already identified stakeholders and needed to work specifically on the design of a project and develop a proposal (including a logical framework). During ten hours of coaching, the entire group built the logical framework with results, objectives, M&E indicators and assumptions to prepare a proposal for donor. In this case, the group of coaching participants included the project’s donor as well as a consulting group brought in to develop the proposal. Fun follow up fact, this proposal has been presented and will be funded for AVAPE to implement.
Panama plans project transitions
In the coaching we did with the Panamanian group, a participant provided a case where she was working on the project transition and sought coaching on how to build transition planning into the finished project.

Coaching on adapting to local reality

The follow-up coaching allows participants to gain insights into the adaptation of tools. “It provides an opportunity to reinforce learning and adapt tools to specific situations, gaining ideas and inputs from other participants who don’t know an organization as well,” according to Juan Manuel.

“Our Country Leader reports a big uptick in use of the RACI matrix,” said PATH’s Julie Baker. “There was lots of conversation in the coaching session on how to customize it, including additional columns to make it work even better for our reality.” She noted that the coach was able to share an example from another organization where they’d added a new column.

The final product of this learning process (from training to coaching) is to facilitate participants’ ability to apply tools in different contexts, for different projects. “After all,” said Juan Manuel, “you don’t need to have the tools in place when you start the project.  You can adapt the tools at any phase of during the life of the project.”

Coaching makes the difference

Perhaps the clearest case of the benefits of virtual coaching happened in Mozambique. LINGOs provided face to face training but between connectivity challenges and a lack of familiarity with standardized testing, none of the participants were able to successfully complete the online exam.

However, after a process of self-directed learning, Bento Guilovica sought personal coaching from Juan Manuel. “The coachee MUST be interested and motivated to learn,” pointed out Juan Manuel who provided 8-10 hours of virtual coaching via skype.  Bento went on to become a trainer of PMD Pro, who each day after delivering face to face training, was coached through his specific questions on tools and approaches. At the end of his first course, 70% of Bento’s students passed the PMD Pro exam.

Communities of practice

The virtual coaching sessions are creating networks of people using and adapting tools in the real world.  “The community of practice can be used for advice and, guidance on how individuals and organizations have adapted or used different tools,” said Juan Manuel.

PATH is preparing to explore additional ways to foster ongoing communities of practice around project management. Roger Steele noted that “a culture of online interaction will evolve and is improving.” There’s more learning to do in the area of strengthening virtual communities and exploring additional ways of coaching and performance support.

Readers are welcome to join the large and growing international community of practice, with over 2800 individuals interested in project management for development, via the open PM4NGOs group on LinkedIn.

Coaching process encourages participants to apply and share learning

When we went to the Training of Trainers course in PMDPro in Panama, I thought it would be just one more course…,” said José Salvador Aquino Manzo, Mercy Corps- Guatemala M&E Officer. However, the reality of a more comprehensive approach that included coaching is much more.

José Salvador was so inspired by the learning process that in record time, he recruited 40 fellow Mercy Corps staffers and program partners in Guatemala to go forward to strengthen Project management skills in PMD Pro.

 

For more on LINGOs Innovations in project management capacity building, please see

1.      Blended learning blog http://lingos.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/blended-approach/

2.      What’s project management got to do with international women’s day http://lingos.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/pm-training-_women/

3.      What’s your product  http://lingos.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/what%e2%80%99s-your-product/

4.      Are NGOs in Southern Africa ready for eLearning  http://lingos.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/are-ngos-in-southern-africa-region-ready-for-elearning/

 

Announcing Global Giveback 2012

Posted by Mike Culligan

Over the past three years, the volunteers from the eLearning community have generously shared their skills, creativity and time with the member agencies of LINGOs through the Global Giveback program. Together, teams of learning professionals and NGO staff have developed approximately 90 courses in topics as diverse as Tuberculosis therapy, microfinance, risk management, leadership and much more.

As Global Giveback enters its fourth year, LINGOs is excited to introduce important changes intended to increase the participation and impact of the program.  These changes fall into four categories:  theme, audience, format and process.

Theme:  “People Management.”  For the first time, all GG2012 developed courses will focus on a single theme:  People Management. This is a topic that has been consistently prioritized by our member agencies and which is in high demand among development practitioners around the world.

Global Giveback 2012 aims to develop 18 courses related to people management that include topics like leading teams, performance managements, new managers skills, and more.  The courses will be contextualized to the development/relief sector and will be designed so that learners can follow a learning path that leads to a certificate in people management.

Format:  “e-Learning …   … and more!”  Each course developed for GG2012 will include materials in four format

  • Self-led format:  e-learning content that can be accessed via the internet (or shared via CD-ROM) that allows people to learn, practice, apply and assess new skills.
  • Face-to-Face format:  curricular guides that allow facilitators to lead workshops.
  • Facilitated On-line Synchronous format:  curricular guides and slide decks that allow facilitators to lead classes in an on-line virtual classroom.
  • Facilitated On-line Asynchronous format:  curricular guides and support materials that allow facilitators to instruct groups via on-line communities and discussion rooms.  This format is most useful in situations where individuals want to learn in a group but only have intermittent access to the internet or are unable to attend regularly scheduled meetings.

Audience:  “Benefiting the Global NGO Community.” All Global Giveback 2012 content will be developed with the intent of sharing it widely and freely with the Global NGO community.    Courses will be developed with the intent of ensuring that the learning content benefits not just for one agency (or a collection of LINGOs member agencies), but for all the people and organizations working to reduce poverty and alleviate suffering.

If any LINGOs member agency wants to customize Global Giveback 2012 content to its organization, source files for the content will be made available.  These files can be updated with organization specific logos, colors, scenarios or new content.

Process:  More “Giveback”; less “Competition”: During the first three years of the Global Giveback program, the event was run as a competition. Courses were assessed by a judge’s panel and evaluated according to criteria of effectiveness, inventiveness and creativity.  In the end, however, the biggest winners of the Global Giveback program have always been the staff of the organizations who have been able to access world class learning resources that would have otherwise been out of their reach.  This year, the global giveback wants to acknowledge all of the great organizations that are giving back to GG2012.  Rather than submit each course for review in the context of a formal “competition,” all the courses will be acknowledged through their inclusion in the LINGOs Global Giveback Showcase.

How to participate

The development of each GG2012 course will be led by a LINGOs member organization that will coordinate the work of volunteers.  Together the organization and the volunteers will form a team that develops content in each of the four GG2012 formats.

-       LINGOs’ member organizations who are interested in coordinating the development of a GG2012 course should contact Mike(at) LINGOs.org.

-       Individuals interested in volunteering to develop GG2012 content should visit the Global Giveback 2012 Linked In Group and post their interest, skills and availability to the site.  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=3131298&trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

And the Winner is…

Posted by Mike Culligan, LINGOs Director of Content and Impact

LINGOs congratulates this year’s Global Giveback Competition winner, Amanda Warner.  She developed “Isoniazid Preventive Therapy (IPT) for the Prevention of Tuberculosis in People Living with HIV” for LINGOs member agency FHI 360. This course was selected by the judges’ panel for its innovative use of scenario-based interactions – tracking learner responses and providing on-going feedback to measure the effectiveness of learner interactions, in addition to the high potential impact of the course. IPT has been shown to have tremendous impact in preventing TB, a leading cause of mortality among people living with HIV.

Screenshot from “Isoniazid Preventive Therapy (IPT) for the Prevention of Tuberculosis in People Living with HIV”

For the first time, this year’s Global Giveback finalist courses were developed by teams on three continents, with volunteers in the United States, Canada, England, and South Africa working with Population Services International, Save the Children, FHI 360, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and more.  The complete list of  finalist courses, volunteers and agencies is found below, and are available for viewing at http://lingosglobalgiveback.org,

Volunteer Finalist Course Title Agency
Skill-Pill Travel Safety and Security Tips Save the Children
Amanda Warner IPT for the Prevention of TB in People Living with HIV FHI 360
Claude Abbott and Bonnie Solivan Becoming One Save the Children
Anjanay Panetti LINGOs New Member Onboarding LINGOs
Yewande Daniel-Ayoade Performance Management IAVI
Bram Piot and Lucia Salters From Maps to Decision Making:  Mapping the PSI Way Population Services International (PSI)
Ian Minderman Welcome to PSI Population Services International (PSI)

In presenting the Global Giveback Award The eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida, LINGOs’ Executive Director Eric Berg thanked the competition co-sponsors, The eLearning Guild and Open Sesame, and all of the instructional designers and developers who volunteered their talents to the program. “Together these volunteers have developed over 90 courses in the past 3 years, resulting in invaluable improvements in the impact of their programs in humanitarian relief, development, conservation, and social justice.”

The Global Giveback Competition entries were reviewed by a panel of six judges who selected the overall winner.  This year the judge panel included:

Martin Baker, CharityLearningConsortium;
Anouk Janssens-Bevernage, DynaMind, Ltd.;
Neil Lasher, TheLearningCoach;
Kelly Meeker, OpenSesame;
Jean Marrapodi, ApplestarProductions; and
Clark Quinn, InternetTimeAlliance.

LINGOs Partners with OpenSesame

Guest Post by Kelly Meeker, OpenSesame

 

You all are fortunate and engaged members of a global network – LINGOs – that takes advantage of emerging technologies to connect global resources to a global community.  No longer are the far-flung employees of international nongovernmental organizations disconnected from the latest trends in their industry! LINGOs is doing incredible work to  leverage elearning technology to build global capacity.

And OpenSesame is proud to jump in. As a new startup in the elearning sector, we’re thrilled to partner with LINGOs to connect our technology platform and community of talented elearning developers to you, the learning leaders in international organizations.

The OpenSesame eLearning Marketplace Connects the Buyers and Sellers of Elearning Courses

OpenSesame is an online marketplace that makes it as easy to buy elearning courses as it is to download a song off the internet. eLearning sellers from all over the world upload their courses to the OpenSesame marketplace, set prices and bulk discounts and sell their courses to new customers.

 eLearning buyers browse our catalog by course subject, author, length, difficulty and special features and discover new courses and new authors. Before making a purchase, buyers can preview courses, read user reviews and research the seller’s credentials – ensuring that they’re finding the best courses to meet their organization’s learning and development goals.

In addition to connecting buyers and sellers through OpenSesame, we remove one major headache for learning managers like you by connecting any SCORM course to any LMS. Our platform technology removes obstacles to implementation and enables you to focus on the important stuff, like building connections with colleagues, developing new resources and getting to the core business of what you do – solving problems.

Opening a Larger Conversation

We are also facilitating a larger conversation on the evolving elearning sector on our blog and on Twitter. We’re blogging about everything from technical stuff (Creating a Multi SCO Package to Include Support Materials) to investigating new growth areas in the elearning sector (How to Create a Social Learning Environment). Our mission is to unlock elearning by making elearning accessible and easy to implement, while enabling you to choose the most effective and appropriate courses for your needs. 

Partnership with LINGOs

We’re proud to work with LINGOs to bring more learning and development resources to nongovernmental organizations because we believe elearning is the key to unlocking the potential of every learner, no matter how far away they may be.

We are partnering with LINGOs to engage the OpenSesame community in generating more resources for LINGOs members. First, we’re adding a check box to our course upload process to enable OpenSesame sellers to choose to donate use of their courses to LINGOs members. We’ll work with LINGOs to add those courses to the LINGOs LMS and make them available to members directly through a LINGOs area on our website.

OpenSesame will also join LINGOs and the eLearning Guild  as a co-sponsor to the 3rd Annual Global Giveback competition. This competition brings out the best in the elearning community by connecting willing volunteers with some of the organizations making real change happen on the ground, and we’re proud to invite our sellers to participate.

We hope this is just the beginning of a fruitful partnership that will continue to generate more resources for LINGOs members. Thanks for everything you do. We look forward to working with you, and we invite you to connect with us through our blog, Twitter or email.

Are NGOs in Southern Africa Region ready for eLearning?

Guest Post by Roger Steele, LINGOs

I answered with a resounding ‘yes’ when I was asked that question about six months ago — perhaps a bit too enthusiastically.  At the time, I had just started managing the LINGOs project to ‘Strengthen Project Management Capacities’ in collaboration with World Vision International’s (WVI) Southern Africa Region. (For background on LINGOs work in cross-cutting area that affects every member NGO, please see the blog post on Field staff capacity building models)

With almost a dozen week-long PMD Pro1 introductory courses under my belt, I still say ‘yes’ – but – you might sense some hesitation in my voice (check out http://pm4ngos.org if you don’t know what PMD Pro is).  Not totally unexpectedly, we have encountered challenges on our eLearning journey.

As I shared here back in September of last year,   the World Vision/LINGOs project has embraced a blended learning approach.  We decided to lead with a combination of face to face and virtual instructor-led courses.  The future blend will incorporate more self-paced learning, small group (hubs of training) and coaching (performance support).  I’ve written about the face to face (F2F) courses in this blog.

Our face to face instructor-led courses have been conducted over a period of 5 days. Each course is delivered in a fairly typical NGO format for the first four days. The facilitators combine techniques to engage participants in active learning to complement lectures that introduce fundamentals of Project Management for International Development.  On the fifth day, Friday, facilitators proctor an internet-based examination that presents 75 multiple-choice questions to each participant. The set of questions has been carefully validated and normed to measure knowledge and comprehension contained in the PMD Pro1 Guide.  A unique feature is that each exam is automatically computer-scored.  Each test-taker is given his/her score and pass-fail result immediately upon exiting the exam.  I was a little surprised that this feature proved so popular with participants.  They love  getting immediate results.

 So far, our team has facilitated the face to face PMD Pro1 courses in five WVI Southern Africa countries: Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, DR Congo, and Malawi.  Without fail, we have encountered significant eLearning challenges during the examination on the fifth day, of the each and every course.

PMD Pro1 Course participant with Roger in Zambia

These Friday problems have always happened in spite of the fact that our team works hand-in-hand with the WVI National Offices to secure reliable Internet connectivity.  In Zambia, our first pilot country, one hotel in Lusaka has hosted all three PMD Pro1 courses over the past nine months.  At the first course, the hotel proved incapable of providing sufficient Internet bandwidth, so the IT office from WVI-Zambia arranged for a dedicated connection from an internet service provider (ISP).  The ISP ran their wires down from the hotel roof and through hallways to our classroom.  Even with that dedicated line, the internet connection dropped numerous times during the exam period causing several test-takers to time-out prior to exam completion.  During the second and third Zambia courses, the host hotel’s internet provider agreed to increase bandwidth on the morning of the exam – but we still experienced connectivity problems and exam delays.  We recently secured approval from the testing authority to increase the total block time from 1.5 to 3 hours as a mitigation strategy for future exams.

 The venue of the one course we completed in Malawi was a relatively isolated hotel on the shores of Lake Malawi.  While the hotel had assured WV-Malawi that a strong and reliable Internet connection would be available all week, the reality was another story.   The hotel’s internet signal was very weak and did not even reach the training room.  Fortunately, the WV Malawi IT department came to the rescue by mid-week.  They were able to set-up a portable satellite Internet system (VSAT) next to the PMD Pro1 classroom – allowing all 23 program managers to successfully complete the examination on Friday.

two participants taking practice exam

I suppose some will say that what I’ve describe sounds quite expensive – and the special Internet arrangements that I’ve described will be beyond the budgets of many NGOs.  I acknowledge this concern, but encourage readers to keep in mind that WVI and LINGOs are operating learning pilots and expect to cultivate efficiencies moving forward. 

In Harare, the WVI-Zimbabwe office hired an Internet Service Provider to set up a fiber-optic connection at a hotel for an estimated US$1400 (5 days).  I had sticker-shock when I first heard this quote – but upon reflection realized that those costs must be put into perspective.  It is significant to keep in mind that 33 WVI program managers were trained and certified during that week.   The cost of Internet could be incrementally assigned to each participant at the rate of US$42 – an amount that was considerably less than what some participants paid for a single night of lodging during the course.  I wish I could report that the fiber optic line we used in Zimbabwe worked trouble-free.  However, after enjoying blazing internet speeds from Monday through Thursday, a scheduled power grid shutdown brought the internet to a total halt for the whole of Friday morning.  Fortunately, the national power grid was restored and the Internet-based exam was completed by late Friday afternoon.

I’m sure some are asking; wouldn’t it be quicker and cheaper to administer a paper-and-pencil examination?  Perhaps it would be in the short-run — but once PMD Pro gets past its pilot phase, LINGOs is expecting scale-up to create efficiencies for both internet instruction and testing.   I recently discovered that a group of researchers have been actively investigating online versus paper exams, with some interesting findings that extend well beyond time and cost considerations.   Check out:  http://research.csc.ncsu.edu/efg/teaching/papers/2010-1150_Online.pdf  

 I’ll write about my experience facilitating the PMD Pro1 course with WVI participants in the Southern Africa Region using the Elluminate platform in a future blog. 

 You might also be interested in these 2010 posts about LINGOs Project Management Work

 Sept 2010: Participation and accountability in face to face training: Lessons from Southern Africa   

October 2010:  Field Staff Capacity Building Models for National and International NGOs” the 4As

 October 2010: PM4NGOs Launched as Independent Organization to Promote Project Management in the Development Sector  

Field Staff Capacity Building Models for National and International NGOs: the 4 As

Presented at the Interaction meeting in June 2010 and  adapted from an article by Eric Berg and Beth Birmingham in “Monday Developments” (Aug 2010, p 37)

For years international NGOs have struggled to develop the skills and competencies of their staff around the world. This challenge has been complex and daunting: broad geographic dispersion of the target audience, a wide range of experience and competence levels, high levels of staff turnover, challenges identifying content, multiple language requirements, and very limited resources. Fortunately, there is good news.

Over the past decade, development organizations have been able to reach thousands of hew learners with quality learning content at very low incremental cost. What has changed? The introduction of learning innovations that help organizations address the ‘Four A’s’ of capacity building:

Audience – Can the learning content be scaled to reach staff across the world?
Appropriate – Is the content contextualized to the environments where it will be applied?
Accessible – Are the learning resources there for staff to use when they need it and where they need it?
Affordable – Can the resources be deployed given the resource constraints of development organizations?

There is no single simple solution that an address the ‘four A’s of capacity building. However a creative combination of innovation in learning design and content distribution, have enabled a number of organizations to successfully address the challenge.

Blended Learning Design
Enhancements in learning technologies are providing the opportunities for international NGOs to blend the best of their traditional approaches to face to face training with an array of new learning media (skype, webinars, etc.). One example of these “blended learning” environments is a 10-year collaboration between World Vision International and Eastern University. This leadership development program brings NGO leaders together once a year in their region (5 continents) for a workshop atmosphere. Faculty are a combination of both professors and practitioners from the region, serving as facilitators and coaches both in the residency environment as well as the on-line environment (using an on-line learning platform) that continues throughout the year. This on-going interaction beyond the residency or workshop ensures on-the-job coaching and greater implementation of the training content.

New Distribution Models
A second innovation in the world of staff development training is the introduction of new models for distributing learning content. Traditionally, learning has been ‘pushed’ through organizations from a central office without much regional contextualization. Increasingly new distribution models allow learners in the field to PULL the learning they need to their locations – when they need it, where they need it and in the form they need it. The new models are more flexible and available through self-service approach, whether that be through on-line courses, communities of practice, RSS feeds, webinars, or recorded content that is accessible through the internet.

One example, of this shift toward social learning is the work of the Project Management Capacity Building Initiative sponsored by LINGOs and PM4NGOs*. While the program can include face to face training approaches that are more formal where facilitators are ‘sent’ to lead trainings around the world; the same content that is conveyed through formal workshops is also made available through webinars, recorded sessions, and e-learning modules. Now, if an employee in Ghana wants to enhance her skills, she no longer needs to wait for a workshop to be conducted in Accra. Instead, she can begin working on her learning immediately. As a result of these new distribution models, she has a variety of choices from which to choose and can decide what best fits her professional needs, her personal constraints and/or her learning preferences.

Social Learning
While much attention has been placed on the use of new technologies, some of the most important recent innovations have been in the area of social learning. The Project Management Capacity Building Initiative, for example, invites all its learners (regardless of the distribution platform they use) to join open community of project management practitioners. In less than one year, over 750 project managers have joined an on-line community where practitioners from the development sector are available to discuss new approaches and provide guidance for any learner seeking assistance from the community. Similarly, the learning collaboration between World Vision International and Eastern University enhances its instruction through the use of a cohort model where groups of students move through the program together, employing peer support groups intended to support the application of the learning to their job situations.

Conclusion
For international NGOs, the introduction of these innovations couldn’t be more timely. Today, the need to build the capacity of local partners and national staff is more urgent than ever. With these new tools, there are now practical and proven approaches that can help ensure that appropriate, accessible and affordable training is available to a global audience.

*The case study of the project management capacity building work was presented at a LINGOs webinar in September 2010. To access the recording, click here