Learning Against the Odds: LINGOs Member + Partner Donated Tool

Featured image above: GOAL SYRIA Humanitarian Communications trainee, Al-Baraa Haddad (Image: A.V. Crofts) from FlipTheMedia.com

Sometimes, supporting learning and development feels far from the front lines of humanitarian work. Yet, often, it is front and center – we were inspired by this story of how a LINGOs-supplied resource from one of our long-standing partners enabled a member to provide training and support to happen despite some extraordinary challenges. Earlier this month, Janet Humphreys from LINGOs Member GOAL shared an article written by a trainer who had recently traveled to Antakya, Turkey, to lead a workshop on communications for humanitarian workers on both sides of the Turkey-Syria Border.

Border closures kept staff who were intending to come on the training in Turkey from Syria from traveling to the training, and the GOAL office was also closed due to security. However, a number of staff were still able to participate using Blackboard Collaborate from their homes. We also recorded some of the sessions for others who couldn’t make it. The trainer was very complementary re the technology which we get through our LINGOs membership and it certainly meant the training reached staff despite the logistical challenges.

Read the story by AV Crofts on Flip the Media:

Stories That Showcase Resilience and Everyday Acts of Hope: Humanitarian Communications in a War Zone

And THANK YOU to our partner Blackboard for your generous support of LINGOs and our Members’ work.

LINGOs offfers quarterly online training courses that can help staff of member organizations to deliver online training.

The next LINGOs Moderator Training for Blackboard Collaborate is June 11:  Register - Moderator Training Button

LINGOs and Volunteer Extraordinaire Greg Davis offer a quarterly Virtual Training Mastery Series (VTMS) on how to design and deliver virtual classroom training. The next two-part VTMS is July 28 & 29.

Register VTMS button

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LINGOs Member Logs into Virtual Classrooms on the Go

Guest Post by Gus Curran, Ipas Senior Associate, IT Training

Recently, Ipas has seen an explosion of staff purchasing mobile devices for personal use. In fact, when global staff visit the Ipas office here in Chapel Hill, NC, one of the first questions they ask is usually, “can you take me to the Apple store?”  Of course, US staff have been using iPhones for some time, and the IT unit is always happy to help them set up their devices (Androids too) so that they can access their email and calendar with no problem.  While our IT unit does not officially support iPhones and iPads, our friendly IT staff is always willing to help if time permits.

Blackboard Collaborate’s new mobile feature

So you can imagine the response when I announced that we would offer internal training and workshops on iPhones and iPads thanks to a free app released recently by our friends at Blackboard Collaborate. People were ecstatic! I immediately started hearing stories of people lugging their laptops on short trips or home for the evening for the sole purpose of joining an eRoom session (as we call them at Ipas).

This mobile feature added high value for staff at little or no cost to Ipas, and we decided to promote the feature heavily and help staff make the most of it.

First, we had to upgrade our Blackboard Collaborate rooms to version 12. This free upgrade includes a couple of nice features not available in V 11, including the ability to quickly take away features from participants, such as video or whiteboard rights. This makes grabbing an open microphone much easier.  You may remember these features from Elluminate, and now they are back. More importantly, of course, Blackboard Collaborate 12 Enterprise Licenses are mobile ready.

The Blackboard Collaborate support site offers handouts on how to use the applications. You will find them here . (I absolutely love it when someone else does all the work for me!) I posted links to these handouts on our intranet, along with information that moderators will need to know, which you can find here.  Only participants can use the mobile apps to attend virtual classroom sessions. Moderators still need to use a PC or Mac.

Once the rooms were upgraded and the materials were ready, we held a Lunch and Learn Brown Bag session to officially launch Blackboard Collaborate Mobile. We invited staff to bring their iPhones and iPads over a lunch hour. IT helped staff download the application from the Apple Store and test it out in a live environment. We had everyone play with the interface and test making smileys, typing in chat, raising hands, all of the participant greatest hits.

So, how is the application?

I can share with you that the iPad version is getting great reviews. Feedback has been very positive. In fact, the interface is very simple to use and intuitive, and many people prefer it over the standard interface on their computer. I have personally participated in several sessions via iPad and the sound quality has been very good, there is very little lag time on audio and the participant tools were easy to find and use.  We have briefly tested application sharing on the iPad, and it worked well, but we haven’t done enough testing yet to offer a definitive review.

The iPhone version gets less spectacular reviews. Obviously the smaller screen can be an issue, but if you’re used to using your iPhone a lot you’re probably used to the small screen. The bigger problem is audio. People report that the sound delay can be significant. Participants do hear the audio and see the content, but due to the delay in audio, the content on slides seems off.  Already one update to the application has addressed the audio lag, so Blackboard is aware of the issue and working on it, but they aren’t quite there yet. However, when your attendance at a session is mandatory, and you are stuck in an airport or in the field, the iPhone works well enough to allow for participation with just a little frustration.

Overall, people are very happy with the Blackboard Collaborate Mobile Application. Promoting this feature has not added support time to the IT help desk and was relatively simple thanks to the tools provided by the Blackboard Collaborate support site.

Key info before you get started

Blackboard Collaborate Mobile Web Conferencing

iOS Operating System 4.3 and above
Apple iPad 2 Certified
Apple iPad 3 Certified
Apple iPod Touch (4th Generation) Certified
Apple iPhone 4 Certified
Apple iPhone 4s Certified

*Blackboard Collaborate Mobile Web Conferencing, available in version V12, is included in the license for enterprise and departmental-licensed customers and has already been enabled for these accounts. Mobile is not available for Moderator access, or single room vclass customers. To learn more about licensing, please visit -> http://www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Collaborate/Products/Blackboard-Collaborate/Licensing/Comparison-Chart.aspx

The Blackboard Collaborate licenses included in LINGOs membership have access to the mobile feature. Many LINGOs member agencies have also purchased additional Moderator Access licenses for which Mobile Web Conferencing is not available.

To create a Blackboard Collaborate session with access for mobile users:

  1. Log into the moderator interface at https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/myelluminate
  2. Click the Schedule a Meeting button.
  3. Click the Default Fields button.
  4. Fill out the meeting form being sure to change the Version field to 12.  (NOTE:  If you want all future meetings to automatically use Blackboard Collaborate 12, click the Save as Defaults button).
  5. Click the Create the Session button.

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 https://lingos.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/blended-approach/

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

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

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

 

What’s New in Blackboard Collaborate v11?

Posted by Joey Watkins, LINGOs LMS Administrator and IT Support

Hello LINGOs Members!

You may or may not have noticed, Elluminate Live is now Blackboard Collaborate, and with that is a whole new interface for conducting your online meetings.

  1. New audio/video panel – It now appears at the top of the interface, and includes features such as speaker photo display, easier access to the audio setup wizard, and easier access to your video.
  2. Drop-down menus on each interface panel – These give participants easier access to options for each panel.
  3. Whiteboard/application sharing/web tour toolbar – More easily launch the whiteboard, application sharing, and web tour features.
  4. Page explorer – This feature allows moderators to view thumbnails of the slide deck, rearrange the slides, and includes a private work area.
  5. Enhanced chat – Chat now includes new emoticons, as well as tabbed viewing of private messages, and separate moderator chat.

Your next question is probably, “When do we get this?”  The answer is, “You have it now!”  When scheduling your Collaborate sessions, click the “Default Fields” button on the left.  Then you’ll see the option to choose “v10” (Elluminate Live) or “v11” (Blackboard Collaborate).

To assist you in learning about the new version of Blackboard Collaborate, LINGOs has scheduled four training sessions so far to show you around the new interface.  The participant links to join the sessions can be found in the LINGOs Events below:

We encourage you to set up some test sessions on your own to play around and become familiar with the new version of Blackboard Collaborate.  We will continue to support Elluminate Live v10 through December 31, 2011.  Starting on January 1, 2012 Blackboard Collaborate v11 will become the default version for the LINGOs Collaborate licenses.

Now you may be asking, “Where can I find resources on using Blackboard Collaborate v11?”  We have information available on our LINGOs site at http://ngolearning.org/learningtools/collaborate.  Blackboard also has an extensive support site at http://support.blackboardcollaborate.com/.  There are lots of good resources including a knowledge base, product documentation, and recorded sessions to get you started using Collaborate v11.