Rising above circumstances to access learning

This is a guest post by Vanessa Lucius, American Refugee Committee

For some, education is their only hope towards a better future. Here’s an inspiring story about Abdalla, an office cleaner at ARC Khartoum, who’s using his passion, motivation and access to free learning via the American Refugee Committee’s “ARC Learning Education and Development System (ARC LEADS) to transform his life and the lives of others for the better. This story was originally shared by American Refugee Committee.

Continue reading “Rising above circumstances to access learning”

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

Today kicks off 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a campaign to educate citizens and lawmakers alike about gender-based violence, human rights, and “the intersections of political, economic, and social realities.”

The uncommon timespan is no accident. Beginning on November 25 (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women), and ending on December 10 (International Human Rights Day), the 16 Days campaign delivers gender equality to the doorstep of human rights – one inextricable from the other.

With thousands of organizations around the world participating in activities, sharing resources, and calling for change, the 16 Days campaign founds a sustained conversation about gender-based violence and human rights.

How are you joining in 16 Days?

Get the newly updated “Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action.” Explore the resources and community action supported by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and UN Women.

Take an online course from UNFPA on managing gender-based violence programs in emergencies. And LINGOs members, the following courses are available to you through the LINGOs Learning Platform:

Course Title LINGOs Learning Platform Course Code
Inter-Agency Standing Committee – Different Needs – Equal Opportunities (Gender Equality in Programming) IASC-IASC-GenderEquality
InterAction – Managing Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Investigations IA00-managing-SEA
InterAction – SEA101: Introduction to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse IA00-SEA101
InterAction – SEA201: Mainstreaming of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse IA00-SEA201
Headington Institute – Coping with Traumatic Stress (EN) HI00-traumaticstress-EN-HI
Headington Institute – Coping with Traumatic Stress (ES) HI00-traumaticstress-SP-HI
Headington Institute – Coping with Traumatic Stress (FR) HI00-traumaticstress-FR-HI
Headington Institute – Coping with Traumatic Stress (PT) HI00-traumaticstress-PT-HI

 

eLearning Guild Benefits

Ben K.

Learning Solutions conference experience and other eLearning Guild benefits
B
y Ben Kocarnik, Online Learning Coordinator, Mercy Corps

Being a member of the LINGOs community has a variety of benefits. One benefit that I find increasingly useful is our premium membership with the eLearning Guild. This premium membership includes a free entrance to one of their five major conferences each year. For the first time, I was able to take advantage of this benefit and I highly recommend it.

Last week, I attended the Learning Solutions and Ecosystem conference in Orlando, Florida, USA. This conference provided an opportunity to discover new technologies impacting the learning field, experience new ways to design and deliver content, and engage with peers in the learning field.

It was amazing how much knowledge could be packed into two and a half days! Some of my favorite sessions included tips and shortcuts for Articulate Storyline 2; ways to combine Agile, Lean, and User-Centered Design in selecting an LMS; a forum around developing communities; and how brain science can impact the learner’s retention of training (see attached handouts from some of these presentations).

I even leveraged our one free pre-conference certificate a year for premium members to learn more about “Building business skills to empower the training function.” This certificate provided useful insight on how to achieve internal buy-in for training, especially from your business leaders.

On top of these learning opportunities, the community at the conference proved to be quite vibrant. It was a great opportunity to meet and discuss online learning experiences with others. I found many of my conversations helped validate some of the work I am doing, while also providing me with other ideas to try.

The LINGOs community had a great showing as well, holding down a prominent booth in the main hall and attracting lots of attention with their bracelets from Guatemala. I must say grabbing dinner with several LINGOs members in Downtown Disney was definitely a good time and highly recommended!

Beyond the conference itself, having a premium membership also allows access to all the content on the eLearning Guild website. This includes articles, white papers, research, and forums on everything related to learning.  Their website makes it easy to filter by sources and/or topics to find what you need. I have found their white papers and eBooks particularly helpful in my work at Mercy Corps.

All in all, I am extremely grateful to be a premium member of the eLearning Guild and attend such an outstanding conference.  As a bit of a newcomer to the field of online learning, this membership has been valuable for me to quickly get up to speed, as well as see where the online learning field is heading. If you haven’t already, I definitely encourage you to start leveraging your premium eLearning Guild membership–both the online content and the in-person conferences. I believe it will truly help you in making a difference in where you work!

5 great resources to help your search for an LMS

Guest Post by Susan O’Connell, Learning and Organizational Development Manager at Habitat for Humanity International

 

With a large global staff working in over 70 countries joined by thousands of new volunteers each year, Habitat for Humanity International’s learning needs led us to join LINGOs as a founding member back in 2005 and begin leveraging the IntraLearn LMS that comes with our Level 2 membership. The system served our early needs well, but over time our motivated learners have been giving the LMS a bigger and bigger work out.  At times registering up to 200 new users each month, we realized that we were ready to leverage LINGOs’ SCORM Dispatch capabilities to implement a new LMS that would provide learners with differentiated access privileges for self-enrollment and immediate access to learning resources, along with additional automation for both our users and learning managers. Recognizing the need for a new LMS is the easy part. With around 500 LMS vendors out there, choosing one can feel like wandering through a forest searching for the perfect tree.

Here are five resources that I found very useful during this selection process and that I would recommend to anyone else facing the same challenge.

1.       Start with your organization’s needs and requirements

In three or four bullet points, describe the top issues that the organization is experiencing with the current system and restate those as a summary of your top needs. This short, high-level summary was very useful throughout the selection process to communicate with various stakeholders, to define the requirements, and to make the final selection. I’ll continue to use it as we move into implementation.

After you have summarized the needs, document the requirements. The requirements are the specific features and functionality that the new system should include. This will be more detailed than the needs summary and it will take longer to finalize. You’ll have to distinguish which requirements are absolute ‘must-haves’ and which are ‘wants.’ Use the needs summary along with input from key stakeholders to do this.

Send the requirements to the vendors you are interested in and ask them to use these to plan a demonstration of their systems. Then, make sure their demonstrations cover these requirements. Most vendors I worked with were happy to have the requirements but I was surprised that a couple ignored them completely until I pushed them! This said a lot to me about what those vendors would be like to work with.

2.       Talk to other LMS users and administrators

Choosing a new LMS for your organization can feel daunting if you’ve never done it before – or even if you have. You can gain a lot of confidence and knowledge by reaching out to others who have been there. Think about all of the contacts you have available to you through your LINGOs membership, other learning providers for your organization, and your own personal and professional contacts.  Everyone I contacted was more than willing to share their experiences with me.

Create a list of questions that you would ask each contact while listening for whatever additional information they might offer. Every organization has their own unique needs and resources, and it will be important to know what those differences are to frame their input in context. I found it helpful to learn how various organizations were staffed to support the LMS and if they had renewed the contract with their vendor yet. Through these contacts I learned that one vendor raised their price 25% after the original three-year contract was up.

3.       Attend conferences and webinars

Using our LINGO’s member benefit to the eLearning Guild, I was among one of the 1,800 attendees and 69 suppliers at the DevLearn conference in 2011. I did not talk to all 1800 attendees, but I certainly tried! In each conversation I mentioned Habitat’s search for an LMS and picked as many brains as I could for experiences and suggestions.

At the DevLearn conference, I attended a useful session titled “The ABCs of selecting an LMS” delivered by Mike Baker and Stacy Lindenberg of First Citizens Bank[1]. Among other great tips they shared, I picked up the idea to ask one of the LMS vendors to provide me with a well-known industry report on learning management systems, which normally costs about $1,500.

Throughout the selection process I attended any and all free webinars that touched on the topic of Learning Management Systems. These were offered by organizations like the eLearning Guild, Brandon Hall Group, and TrainingIndustry.com. It was through one of these webinars that I discovered the vendor that we ultimately chose.

4.       Partner with your Information Technology Department

Your IT department may not be familiar with Learning Management Systems, but they know how to work with software vendors and they know the ins and outs of implementing systems within your organization. At the beginning of our selection process, we were assigned a terrific IT resource who attended vendor demonstrations with me, asked technical questions related to systems integration, and guided us through the contract review. He also helped navigate some of the internal relationships with key stakeholders.

5.       Leverage the LMS vendors

Finally, don’t forget to leverage the vendors you are talking to for whatever resources they can provide! As I mentioned previously, this was how we were able to obtain an otherwise costly industry report. Three things that you should absolutely ask a vendor to provide are:

  • A demonstration of their system that shows how it will meet your requirements.
  • An informal and initial pricing estimate (you don’t need a formal price quote until you’ve narrowed down the top 1-3 vendors, but knowing how they structure their pricing and the range is useful in the early stages).
  • A ‘sandbox’ environment – basically an account that allows you to access their system to test your requirements, test the SCORM Dispatch packages, and try out your user scenarios.

If you find yourself lucky enough to be in the position to select a new LMS for your organization, I hope the five resources above are as useful to you as they were to me. For those of you wondering which vendor we ultimately selected, it was the Intellum Exceed system. Check them out as part of your search, but remember that your organization’s requirements will determine which system is best for you.  

[1] You can access many resources from conferences, even if you don’t attend! For example, you can access backchannel resources from DevLearn here.

 


 Interested in learning more about SCORM Dispatch and what it would mean for your organization? LINGOs Member Agency LMS Administrators have a chance at the July 17 LMS Administrator Question and Answer Session.

Eventbrite - LINGOs LMS Administrator Community Q & A - July 17, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. eastern time

What does YOUR learning data tell you?

Well, it can tell you a lot of things – besides reminding me of the importance of MS Excel® skills, the data from the first quarter of 2012 illustrates some key inputs that LINGOs member agencies are putting to use. Let me share with you the report on courses completed by staff of LINGOs member agencies in the first quarter of 2012.

Some highlights covering the usage by 75 member agencies:

 

  • Almost 10,000 courses completed
  • About 17,500 courses opened
  • 75% increase in eCornell course completion over previous quarter
  • Top source of completed courses – member agency developed courses

Courses Completed Q1-2012 by Developer

Check out the report, and think about what your data tells you about your agency usage… and what questions or concerns it raises. Please share your thoughts in the comments section here (or in the LINGOs group on LinkedIn) on what your learning data tells you!  

While you are at it… take a look at the previous post in the blog about some the new Health Logistics Courses – sure to be a data-changer for many LINGOs member agencies involved in health!

 

 

Maximize your agency’s ROE in Learning

Posted by Marian Abernathy, LINGOs Director of Member Services & Communications

You’ve set up your learning portal, selected the courses to include, enrolled your learners, identified learning champions, and even designed and published some e-courses… Congratulations! Your launch is under way. Here are four tips from fellow members to help you to increase your organization’s return on investment (ROI) and YOUR return on effort (ROE).

Engage with your learners: Think about web sites that visit frequently they interact with YOU! (Think Facebook, LinkedIn, Membership sites)… They send you updates and allow you to connect with others. Share some of your learners’ stories about how their learning is helping your agency achieve its mission. Check out the PSI University Voice, a regular e-newsletter that highlights fellow learners: ttps://gallery.mailchimp.com/ac2ff5a03c3fa8ac9e157d738/files/Sept_2011_PSI_U_Voice.pdf

Communicate individually with your learners: send a personalized message when you approve registration for a course, suggest a time-frame for completion, and follow up. IJM (International Justice Mission), a Level 1 member, uses the shared LINGOsLearning portal, and as such doesn’t have the Order Manager functionality in place. Thus, an LMS Registrar processes each request manually. In doing so, the registrar sends the staffer a personalized email (from a template) noting the course title, availability for a defined period of time, and promises to check back on progress.

Support your learning liaisons or champions: Most learning in an organization happens informally. Help your learners share resources with one another; make it easy for them to tell each other about useful resources. CARE is one of several agencies work strategically with learning liaisons or champions. Approximately 60 CARE field-based employees serve in a global network of CARE Academy Liaisons.  As such, the field-based Liaisons collaborate with the CARE Academy team to promote CARE Academy courses in their locations. CARE Academy provides the Liaisons with a series of resources to do this important work. Check out the Liaison Center here. CARE engages with Liaisons with a monthly newsletter, and has fun pop-quizzes. For an example, see the January edition.

Follow-up with your learners: Pull reports regularly and contact learners to remind them of the course they requested, ask about their experience with it, ask how they’ve applied what they learned. IJM’s learning registrar regularly sends messages to staffers a set number of weeks after enrollment to note the learner’s progress with the course (not opened, in progress, or completed) and to encourage utilization of the course and sharing info on application of learning.

LINGOs members shared additional ideas and approaches to build interest, excitement and utilization of learning resources globally in INGOs at December’s Virtual Coffee Break “Engaging your Staff: Marketing Learning to Global Colleagues.” Watch the recorded session, led by Barista Catriona Moriarty of Conservation International. 

What other ideas do you have to increase an international NGO’s ROE and ROI on learning? Please share here in comments or in the LINGOs group on Linked In

We hope to see you at the February Virtual Coffee Break “More than Uno, Dos, Tres: Launching Language Learning Resources at an international NGO” on Thursday, February 9 from 11am- noon eastern US time (for information on the session and login link click here). Check Events on our Member Site for upcoming in-person and virtual events!

LMS Administrators Community Shaping Up

Blog Post by Joey Watkins, LINGOs LMS Administrator and IT Support

Happy 2012! Many of us make resolutions… to get in shape or make changes to be better in the coming year. LINGOs is no exception. We are putting into action some of what we learned at our 2011 member meeting from Tom Kuhlmann’s super presentation on the power of growing a shared practice community.

If you haven’t had a chance to look yet, January 1 brought a few changes to LINGOs Support and the LMS Administrators Community area of our member site. While it’s still a sharepoint site, you’ll see that we’ve reorganized to make it easier for you to find the answers to your questions. We’d like for the LMS Administrator Community to become your first stop when you have questions or experience issues with your LMS portal.  Over time, we’ll expand and beautify the site as members identify and share new issues and questions with LINGOs Support.  You can access the new site at http://ngolearning.org/learningtools/intralearnlms/lmsadmin/default.aspx

But the website is only part of the community. We’re working hard to strengthen and build the community and enable all of us to learn from each other. We’ve initiated a series of Quarterly LMS Administrators Community Q&A virtual sessions.  The first one was January 10, 2012. With about a quarter of LINGOs member agencies participating in real time, it was a great success.  A few of the topics covered were:

  • Using discussion features in the LMS for self-paced courses
  • Using the Event Manager for staff to register for face to face and virtual classroom learning events
  • Branding/re-branding/editing an LMS portal
  • SCORM Dispatch

If you missed the first Q&A session, you can click here to view the recording or, as always, you can find links to past events by going to the Events section of http://ngolearning.org.  

We are confident that the enriched community will be a valuable resource to all of LINGOs’ 75+ international member organizations. By actively participating: seeking information from and contributing knowledge to the community, you’ll help LINGOs move its technology and tech support forward.  With the new year we also documented and put into effect our Member Service Level Agreement for Technical Support.  This document outlines the level of support for the LMS portal included in your LINGOs Membership, as well as the services that will incur additional fees.  You’ll find it on the LMS Administrators Community site.

We hope these changes make getting support for your LMS portal as worry-free as possible, and are looking forward to working with you throughout 2012.

The next LMS Administrator Q&A  is scheduled for April 24, 2012 at 11:00 AM Eastern Time. Member Agency LMS Administrators, please click on the button below to register.

Register for LINGOs LMS Administrator Community Q & A - April 24, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. eastern time on Eventbrite

Grameen Foundation’s LMS Launch Story

The Grameen Foundation joined LINGOs as a Level 2 Member at the beginning of October, 2011, just in time for its newly hired Talent Management and Engagement Manager, Astha Parmar, to attend the LINGOs member meeting. Astha leveraged the work that colleagues had done before she came on board, her own knowledge and skills, and the resources from the LINGOs membership incredibly well and fast.

Astha built on the knowledge shared in the community, and documents many of those ideas and tips (including many shared in last week’s superb virtual coffee break in which Conservation International’s Catriona Moriarty shared her agency’s experience in the first year of building engagement and marketing learning through Conservation International’s eCampus).

 In the spirit of community resource, LINGOs asked Astha to share her experience and approach, which she kindly does here.

 Guest post by Astha Parmar, Manager, Talent Management & Engagement, The Grameen Foundation

 

Hi Marian,

Thank you for (last week’s) thoughtful post– you really hit the key points here. As you pointed out, we did launch in two weeks (and actually in week 3 of me joining Grameen!)

Here are a couple of thoughts on our approach.

 

Pre-Launch

  • Talent Strategy: Our VP of Human Resources actually did a great job prepping us for the launch. We’ve done a lot of ground work in terms of having a talent strategy, seeking feedback from our employees and collecting data on key learning needs. So when I walked in, we had a couple of pieces in place: topic areas that would interest employees and leadership excitement/ commitment to pushing learning.
  • Community: My ability to attend the LINGOs Conference was just such a huge plus in getting me started. The connections I made and the understanding that LINGOs is not just a portal—but a community deeply committed to helping international development organization’s build capacity—was invaluable. Plus between you and Joey, I really walked out feeling like I knew what I had to do to get set-up.
  • Helpful skills: Finally I do want to add that I have launched LMS’s before and worked in the world of online course development. Which helped.

Launch

  • Branding: Folks can see the branding of our portal here (http://gflearning.org). Getting a URL that was super easy to remember and consistent with our brand was important. The look and feel is deeply aligned to our mission and overall org branding.
  • Usability: I used shadowbox to create the in-page pop-out effect. My goal here was to make the main page actionable and draw the learner in. You actually don’t need super technical skills to make this happen—but a working knowledge of html helps. Or unwitting friends who are software engineers and will trade help for food—that will work, too.
  • Selecting Courses: A couple of thoughts on picking the courses:
  • We aligned the launch with an organizational initiative. So we were just launching a new online project management tool, and we rolled out GFLearning with PM courses as a support for this initiative. A couple of advantages— the employees saw this as supporting their day-to-day work needs; and instead of me doing demos, the person heading the PM initiative stumped for the our portal (goes to credibility)
  • It’s daunting to review and pick the courses that are right for your organization. But I have found that between the course completion reports published by LINGOs and the feedback on the PSI University catalog—you can get to a good shortlist fairly quickly.

Keeping the momentum going

  • Bite sizing releases: Instead of launching too many courses from the get-go, we have chosen to launch courses in bite sized chunks. So we launched with the Project Management Courses. Next we did a mini release in which we responded very quickly to initial employee requests that came in after our portal launched. Folks loved this. Now we’re doing topically focused releases, our next one being on Management Skills.
  • Organization-Created Content: Almost all LINGOs members I have interacted with emphasize the importance of creating and hosting organization specific courses. Since we don’t have the bandwidth to do this upfront, we have used some short cuts to get there. We host a lot of online brownbags, and I have started importing these into Camtasia, editing these out and aggregating them on GFLearning. Encouraging departments who need to share process/program info with employees to use the platform has also worked for us.
    Also, most people think of online courses as an actual training. I have created some very quick resource aggregations with Articulate and published these on our portal as a quick fix to get some info out.
  • Impact stories: we have only been launched for about a month now and folks have busy schedules—so to incentivize people to share, I sent out a ‘share your feedback’ email with some targeted questions. The pay-off? Everyone who got responses in by a certain date was entered into a $15 book credit, for a book of their choice that would further their learning. Worked!
  • Email updates, leadership support and field calls: ..all the usual suspects!

Initiatives we’re working up to: a new employee orientation/learning plan and more sophisticated Grameen authored training courses. Last thing I would emphasize is that we follow the 70-20-10 principle of learning, so all my Lingos effort is in context of an on-the-job and people supported learning strategy that’s geared to further our mission.

 

 

Considering an LMS for your international NGO? Some food for thought and useful tips from LINGOs Member Agencies

Posted by Marian Abernathy, LINGOs Director of Member Services & Communications

Most of the 70+ international development, humanitarian relief, social justice, and conservation NGOs that are members of LINGOs are using a Learning Management System (LMS) to distribute courses to their global staff and track their progress, all in a secure environment!

LINGOs INGO memberships include the deployment of a secure LMS, which is available, and accessible by any staff member with a web connection and an Internet browser.  One of the main advantages an LMS offers over a traditional website is its reporting capability: agencies can record their learners’ participation in courses and events and share these reports in several useful formats.

The LMS provides capability for Instructor-led synchronous and asynchronous learning as well as providing scheduling and tracking of online and live events!

As you are considering putting an LMS in place for your organization, there are a number of issues to consider. Many of these have been asked in the LINGOs Discussion Group on LinkedIn, are posted on the LINGOs Member Site (http://ngolearning.org) or have been touched upon in earlier posts here. This blog post curates many of those responses.

How much effort should we expect to set up the Portal?

There are several aspects of setting up the LMS. The technical set-up is actually the easiest, and LINGOs will establish the portal, train several of your staff on how to get it to look the way you want, and show you how to manage it (plan for 1-2.5 hours for this on-line training).

Then comes the larger start-up process of planning, branding, selecting courses and preparing a communications plan. Few agencies have personnel dedicated 100% to this effort, so it can stretch out over weeks to several months.  However, with a tight time frame and a dedicated and experienced new staff person, The Grameen Foundation, which  joined LINGOs in early October 2011 as a Level 2 Member*, was able to set up, brand and launch their portal in less than two weeks. (Discussion of this in the LINGOs group on LinkedIn).

*Level 2 Membership benefits include a brandable LMS portal and the ability to select courses for it from among the LINGOs Catalog and ability to post custom-developed courses, or purchased seats to SCORM Conformant commercially supplied courseware.

FHI 360 documented its process of planning, piloting and launching its portal in a great post on the LINGOs Blog in January 2011 (click here for the post) and in the June 2011 Virtual Coffee Break (click here for recording)

What are the Steps to Getting Started? See the summer 2011 Series of Posts by Ruth Kustoff on the LINGOs Blog:

 

Getting started: Identify Top Learner Needs and Develop a Plan

 

Selecting Courses to Meet Learner Needs

 

If you build it, will they come? Develop Communications Plan 

Please also see info below, about upcoming December 8 Virtual Coffee Break on Building Engagement and Marketing Learning Resources to Global Employees 

How much time should we plan for ongoing management of portal? The answer to this varies tremendously, depending on size of organization, set-up of the portal, and whether there had recently been an activity that increased demand for courses. In a LinkedIn Group discussion on this, members reported the time ranged from  20 minutes to an hour a day on a heavy day for Habitat for Humanity, with 2600 registered users. Other agencies spend 2-20 minutes per day responding to registration requests and inquiries from present users. With the order manager functionality in place (Level 2 Portals), processing requests for existing student accounts should take 1-2 minutes.

Where can we find additional resources?  You can find manuals, tips, tricks, recorded webinars and a wealth of resources on planning, branding, Developing, Launching courses in the IntraLearn environment on the LINGOs LMS Administrator Community Site.

Participate in two upcoming live (virtual) events: 

Join the Dec 8, 2011 LINGOs Member Virtual Coffee Break in which “Barista” Catriona Moriarty of Conservation International in an informal virtual coffee around engagement and marketing of self-paced learning resources. Conservation International (CI) launched its eCampus just about a year ago. Learn a bit about CI’s experience, share your experiences and ideas. What ideas and approaches have you used to build interest, excitement and utilization of learning resources globally in your organization? What’s worked well? What would you like to try?

LINGOs’ LMS Administrator Joey Watkins will facilitate the first LMS Administrators Q&A Session on Tuesday January 10, 2012 from 11am- noon Eastern time (same as New York). LINGOs member agency LMS Administrators are encouraged to register to attend this session. To register, visit http://lingoslmsjan2012.eventbrite.com.

A Culture of Learning That Starts With Staff

ACDI/VOCA Provides Online Learning Opportunities to Staff Worldwide

by John Leary, Director of Training, ACDI/VOCA

Access to information is one of the key benefits ACDI/VOCA brings to our program beneficiaries—and to our staff around the world.

Through our programs, we teach farmers, entrepreneurs, parents, citizens and others new skills to improve their yields, profits and lives. But we also recognize that to do this well, we need strong support systems, careful stewardship of our funds, accurate monitoring and evaluation, and expert, up-to-date technical knowledge, all of which means maintaining a high level of skills among our own employees.

ACDI/VOCA provides its staff worldwide with access to learning resources through a learning management system called ASPIRE Online. ASPIRE has 700 e-learning courses on management, leadership and communication skills, Microsoft Office applications, and technical topics and best practices.

 Time and Space No Obstacles to Online Learning

 “Online courses are accessible on my schedule and I can access them anytime from any location, as long as I have an internet connection,” says ACDI/VOCA’s human resources manager in Afghanistan. “Sometimes I download course materials, print them, and read them while traveling in a car or on a plane. They are very accessible.”

There are many advantages to learning online, the most obvious being convenience.  Learners can take courses when and where it suits them, as long as they have access to the internet. They can hone in on the information they need by jumping to specific modules of an e-learning tutorial, instead of sitting through an entire class waiting for one particular piece of information. They can view a course repeatedly, if necessary.  Because staff can access information they need when they need it, e-learning has now become part of everyday working. 

 “ASPIRE Online’s e-learning tutorials have helped me to better understand the job description of an HR manager and how to relate with employees. With this, I have used new job skills and built better relationships with staff and volunteers,” says Adam Suale, who works for ACDI/VOCA in Ghana.

 “It’s like having your own trainer on hand any time,” says Mr. Suale, “You simply log in and start learning.”

 With internet capacity expanding around the world, geography, time and transportation costs no longer pose hurdles to designing or taking courses.  When a learning need is identified, ACDI/VOCA can create interactive tutorials and make them immediately available through ASPIRE Online. 

Online Courses Keep Skills Fresh

 “The most widely used courses are our ACDI/VOCA tutorials, which introduce staff to our administrative procedures as well as technical interventions, like our Farming as a Business or value chain approaches,” says Maura Bookter,  director of employee development. “They were created in-house by our small team of developers in collaboration with technical experts throughout the company.”

Online courses may be self-paced or facilitated by an instructor. They guide the learner through a topic and reinforce learning through quizzes, games, and clickable Flash, audio and video features. Each tutorial provides downloadable documents and handouts, and learners can revisit the tutorial at a later date if they need a refresher.

ACDI/VOCA is constantly adding new tutorials to ASPIRE. Many come through our membership in LINGOs – Learning In NGOs, a consortium of over 65 international humanitarian relief, development, conservation and health organizations. LINGOs provides the latest learning technologies and courses to its members so nonprofits like ACDI/VOCA can improve the skills of their employees, thereby increasing the impact of their programs.

In addition to the ACDI/VOCA courses available through ASPIRE, there are many  self-paced courses provided by LINGOs’ corporate partners,  e-learning companies like Harvard Manage Mentor, Ninth House and MindLeaders, and more than 60 courses in 12 languages were contributed by CEGOS, Europe’s leading e-learning training provider on topics such as management and leadership, sales and marketing, individual and collective effectiveness, finance and more.

Top-notch Educators are Within Reach

ACDI/VOCA employees also have access to online classes through Cornell University. “eCornell is becoming increasingly popular with our field staff” says Ms. Bookter, “These courses give professionals abroad the opportunity to earn professional certificates from a prestigious American university and interact online with other professionals around the world. We have staff working in countries where this is their only option to achieve this kind of high-level instruction.”

The practical subject matter, taught by Cornell University professors, ultimately provides ACDI/VOCA’s learners with critical skill development in the certificate subjects. The courses involve cohorts of individuals spread around the world who engage in interactive learning modules. They view videos and recordings, participate in interactive exercises, analyze scenarios and participate online with an instructor and fellow students.  Although learners are interacting with other individuals in these courses, participation can take place at any time, in any time zone.  Learners’ reactions and course work are gathered through the course discussion boards.

A Thirst for Knowledge

While over 700 ACDI/VOCA employees in 31 countries are using the learning system, field staff in Iraq leads the organization in usage: 78 employees in Iraq are currently enrolled in ASPIRE Online, with many earning certificates.

One Iraq staff member says her favorite aspect of ASPIRE are the e-Cornell classes. “It is a great opportunity,” she explains, “for me to be in Iraq and still get valuable information and experience from Cornell university lecturers and experts from all over the world.”

ACDI/VOCA is a member of LINGOs. The Aspire Learning site is powered by LINGOs IntraLearn LMS and loaded with many self-paced courses from the LINGOs catalog, in addition to those developed by and for ACDI/VOCA.