MOOCs4Dev – Beyond the Hype to Best Practice

Guest post by CEO Chris Proulx, about the expert panel he’ll be moderating at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum!

LINGOs logoOverhyped? Or a misunderstood innovation in learning?

Since their launch in 2012, massive open online courses (MOOCs) have generated lots of buzz, controversy, and investment. Much of the attention around MOOCs has been focused on their disruptive qualities – enormous scale, big data – against the landscape of higher education and other traditional educational models. I lived through that frothy discussion during my last couple of years as CEO at eCornell and have a few bruises to show for it.

As the debate around their role in learning continues, MOOCs and other higher-volume, higher-engagement online learning models have quietly been making inroads into private and social sector organizations. There, they’re being used to explore innovative solutions to complex problems, build broad-based skills for next generation workforces, develop leadership teams, and more.

At the LINGOs Global Learning Forum in October, we will be exploring MOOCs’ implications for learning and capacity building in the global development and humanitarian sectors. We’ve invited four experts who are leading the way in terms of innovation and application of MOOCs. Together, we’ll unpack several of the more vexing questions regarding what works and what doesn’t.

Probably the biggest knock on MOOCs has been low completion rates and mixed levels of learner engagement. But you will be surprised what you’ll hear from some of our panelists about what they are seeing in their metrics. Chris Pirie will talk about a MOOC at Microsoft that had an over 80% completion rate. Clint Korver from NovoEd and Nick Martin from Tech Change will share innovative approaches to technology and pedagogy that are driving social learner engagement in a range of courses:  How does the design of successful MOOCs differ from that of traditional courses?  Do we need high-charisma experts to lead them?  What role can facilitated post-course networking play?

Taking advantage of the theory of cognitive surplus, MOOCs are potentially powerful tools for developing the wisdom of crowds into truly co-created new solutions. Sheila Jagannathan from the World Bank has been leading the Bank’s effort to develop open MOOCs on complex challenges related to climate change, citizen engagement, and the evolving role of public-private partnerships.  How can we bring new ideas to our organizations for scaling up learning options for beneficiaries, donors, partners, and the engaged public?

The scale opportunities may be different between large and open public courses like the World Bank’s and smaller cohorts for internally-focused courses (aka the SPOC). So, what have we learned about the production and business models to make each model viable depending on the use case? There is a range of options available today for content development formats and delivery platforms, as the field has been expanded well beyond the better-known Coursera and EdX platforms. Microsoft, the World Bank, Stanford and others are leveraging different partners and platforms to deliver more courses and reach diverse audiences. Which will be the right choice for your organization?

In the Forum panel, you’ll get the information you’ll need to begin implementing your own MOOC at your organization: The panelists are prepared to share the inside story on their lessons learned as well as their aspirations for the future of this course format and how it can be applied in our sector.  Through LINGOs alone, we can reach over 200,000 employees of international NGOs and hundreds of thousands more at local partnering organizations. Let’s brainstorm on how we can build increased engagement and highly scalable courses from our collective expertise that will benefit our broadest base of stakeholders.

Advertisements

Does Your Organization’s Online Learning Strategy Make the Grade?

On October 13, Dr. Sarah Steinberg (of Frogstone Strategies LLC) and Ariela Rosenstein (of Rare) are leading a Pre-Conference Workshop at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum. Entitled “A Blueprint for an Online Learning Strategy,” this one-day workshop is designed to provide expert guidance as you develop or revamp your organization’s custom online learning strategy.

Blueprint-e1434637111415Accessible and highly adaptable, online learning can play a key role in engaging staff, driving innovation, and forging links between organizations, partners and stakeholders. The road leading to these positive outcomes, however, can be a confusing navigation of buzzwords (MOOC, social, or gamified, anyone?) –and a pyramid of decisions about technology and content sourcing.

So, you need a map. And if you’re already underway but know that your strategy isn’t maximizing reach or ROI, then it’s time to recalibrate the path that you’re on.

In October, Dr. Sarah Steinberg and Ariela Rosenstein are leading a Pre-Conference Workshop at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum on developing a blueprint for an online learning strategy. We caught up with them earlier this month to discuss online organizational learning, and two “foundational” questions that serve as helpful starting points for Workshop participants – and for anyone charting a path for online learning in their own organization. Take a peek!

  1. Why Online?

Here’s the secret that’s too important to keep: As you consider online learning options, your answer to the question “Why are you going online?” will be your driving force, framing all of your other critical decision points – and your discussions with stakeholders. In a landscape as wide and intangible as the field of online learning, your reasons for steering your organization there in the first place can quickly get buried in conversations about how you’ll get there – and if you’re still gathering your thoughts, it’s probably too early to be talking technology, languages, and content.

So ask yourself: “Why should my organization take its learning online?” In doing so, you’ll start to analyze some of the tradeoffs, a critical move given the variety of options available. For example: Are you willing to forgo a certain amount of impact for the cost? Is your focus on low-bandwidth field solutions, or a high-resolution classroom environment? Who in your organization would benefit most from online learning? Chances are you’ll spark some ideas about your organization’s specific goals and potential blended solutions, which leads us into the next question:

  1. What are your best-case scenarios?

This runs close to the simpler question of “What are your organization’s needs online?” but it varies in one critical, theoretical sense. Framing your new strategy purely as a solution to your organization’s needs can ground you in the logistical everyday – and start you plodding forward based on the building blocks of your identified essentials, a slow process at best.

No, better here to wonder, “What are the ideal outcomes of online learning for my organization?” This can help you envision your strategy as a line of best fit between your current position and your ideal outcomes. Your answers to this question (there might be a few) provide goals from which you can trace direct lines back – as the crow flies – to your current drawing board.

In the Pre-Conference Workshop, your answers to these questions will become part of a larger toolkit designed to help achieve your organization’s ideal outcomes, not just its needs. Under Sarah and Ariela’s expert guidance, you’ll assess your baseline resources, identify key activities and decision gates in your strategic planning process, and discuss implementation with colleagues who share similar goals and contexts – before leaving the workshop with your own blueprint for an online learning strategy.

Register for the Workshop and find additional details on the Global Learning Forum here.

Questions? Contact Sarah and Ariela – we’re all looking forward to seeing you on October 13!

“When Can I Do PMDPro 2?”

By John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

JohnCropper“When can I do PMDPro 2?” This is pretty much always the first question that I get asked as soon as people have passed PMDPro 1! I always suggest that people spend a few months putting the tools into action in their projects before they think about level 2. However, as more than seven thousand people have been through the level one certification, the question – and providing an answer – has become more pressing.

What is PMD Pro?

The Project Management in Development (PMD Pro) is a certification which has been developed with experts from several of the world’s best-known and highly regarded non-governmental organizations. These organizations are committed to improving the use of the resources entrusted to them for development, relief and conservation projects. The PMD Pro certification is seen as an important benchmark for continuous improvement.


There are currently two examination levels within the qualification scheme, PMD Pro Level 1 and PMD Pro Level 2. Certification is offered through APMG-International.

Pilot of Blended Online Course

Through September and October, LINGOs piloted our first blended PMDPro 2 course. We had organised face to face courses before but we really wanted a blended option that would allow people the flexibility to work and learn together. At the same time, many iNGOs may not have enough staff in a given country to make a face to face course cost effective – another reason for wanting a blended option.

So, how did it go? Overall, I believe it was a great success. The group filled up very quickly and we had people from fifteen different organisations and countries. Completing PMDPro 1 is a pre-requisite, so the level of project management knowledge in the group was high – as we anticipated – and from an instructor’s point of view, it was very rewarding to be able to ‘go deep’ and really focus on participants’ project management challenges and issues.

PMDPro 2 Course Structure

The course follows the same format as the level one blended courses: 4 weeks, online facilitated classes, structured reading, assignments, participation in a community and asynchronous learning via PMTV- a rather grand name for a series of project management videos we have developed that focus on how to apply the tools to projects. We seek to help participants get ready for the PMDPro 2 certification – but also cover more advanced material and really focus on application and how to get the tools to work in practice. To help with this, we provide bonus readings to help participants explore areas of interest in more depth.

What difference does this make?

Well, the pilot has just finished but one participant said she hoped there would be: “a consistent process of project management on the organisation level; more cooperation/engagement between different departments; more effective and successful projects, increased reputation of the organisation”. I couldn’t put it better myself!

Interested?

LINGOs is running the next PMDPro 2 blended course in January. For information on dates, times, and fees and to register: 

Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro2) Course / January 7th - 30th, 2014

Read more about LINGOs Member Experience with PMD Pro

5 Reasons Blended Learning is Going Viral at Rainforest Alliance

Blended approach gets learning to where learners are

What’s Project Management Training Got to do with International Women’s Day?

5 reasons blended learning on project management is going viral at Rainforest Alliance

What would it take to get your organization abuzz about learning?

RA-logoThe Rainforest Alliance’s Patti Lukas found that blended learning was a key to scoring a low-cost, quick win in learning new skills and bringing in a new approach to project management. Rainforest Alliance (RA) worked with LINGOs to introduce a new approach to project management. Shortly after starting with RA in November, Patti got in touch with LINGOs and learned about the blended courses on project management, which appeared to meet an immediate need at RA. She and LINGOs Director of Project Services John Cropper used a capacity assessment tool to as a way to understand organizational strengths and weaknesses in project management and explored options to bring capacity building in project management to RA on a global scale.

In addition to providing training resources in project management, the LINGOs Project Services work is an active learning laboratory, testing innovative learning approaches with NGOs working in international development and humanitarian relief.  As we’ve noted in past posts, blended gets learning to where the learners are and provides some quick wins for an international NGO with a diverse globally dispersed workforce and limited resources.

Having identified an organizational need to strengthen skills and build a unified approach to project management, Rainforest Alliance  contracted with LINGOs to run four-week blended learning courses (one in English and one in Spanish) for 79 of their project managers around the world. Similar to the Open Course starting this week, participants in the dedicated Rainforest Alliance 4-week blended learning courses spent about six to eight hours per week on learning: two 90 minute virtual classroom events per week and about 3 hours in self-paced eLearning and individual assignments, as well as participating in asynchronous discussions in the course’s community platform.

As more RA staff heard about the blended learning that had gotten underway, another 18 signed up for open courses that LINGOs was running in English and Spanish in March and more registered for the May course getting underway this week (For more info, see: http://may2013-4weekpmdpro.eventbrite.com)   RA is preparing to offer another round of dedicated RA blended learning course in July.

Five reasons that blended learning goes viral

1. Knowledge gain is equal or greater than face to face

Because the project management training is linked to a standardized exam of knowledge, the PMD Pro 1 exam, it’s relatively easy to evaluate knowledge gain from different learning approaches and to determine differences in the pass-rate across different learning modalities. Our learning laboratory results show that blended results are comparable to or better than face to face training with regards to PMDPro results. Among the 79 Rainforest Alliance staff from the two blended courses, only 2 did not pass the PMD Pro exam on first attempt. When LINGOs ran a pilot with Oxfam in East Africa last year, blended pass rates were 100% as opposed to 75% in F2F trainings (See this post for more information). Blended approaches give people more time to absorb and internalize content and they can do the exam when they are ready. This finding is consistent with a recent New York Times article on MOOCs.

2. Lower costs allows learning to scale

 RA-blog discussion1In these days of budget cuts and “doing more with less,” Rainforest Alliance contracted with LINGOs for two, month-long blended courses, one in English and one in Spanish, for the approximate cost of three week-long work trips from New York to Africa.   Had the trips been face to face, there would likely have been several international trips by some of the 79 RA participants and trainers. In addition, RA avoided the “hidden” opportunity costs of face-to-face training (when participants attend an all-day or all-week event, other works slows significantly if does not come to a complete stop). In addition, as the blended learning course took place over a month, RA staff could work as they learned, and had the opportunity to apply their new learning and come back to the facilitator and group with questions and comments. The discussion forum was so successful that RA is creating a similar one internally to continue and grow such cross-cutting conversations.

3. Learning where the Learner Is means greater diversity among participants

For learners, the ability to participate in a course from where you are, rather than traveling to it, enables greater diversity of participation. In the case of the RA English-language course, similar to what we found with Oxfam in Africa [https://lingos.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/pm-training-_women/], 63% of the 40 participants were women. Staff from seven countries participated: Mexico, Guatemala, Ghana, Canada, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom and the US; and those from the US were from multiple locations in six states. Given the travel costs, would this group ever have been able to learn together in traditional face to face training?

4.  Expanded participation leads to greater adoption of learning

Through the blended learning platform, participants were actually sharing examples of their own project management work and making connections with colleagues in other locations. The strongly positive responses from project management course participants on three continents have caught the attention of senior management.  The relatively large group from so many locations now able to “speak the same language” in terms of project management, has led RA’s executive team to plan a Project Management Office (PMO). RA is eager to have global teams using common tools and approaches for project management and the ability to roll out this new initiative both quickly and cost-efficiently are huge wins for the organization.  Initial plans include appointing a lead for the PMO, building an internal governing committee that will ensure the right tools are used for the specific project types. RA is also determining how to include reporting as part of the practice so that the organization can better understand how money is spent and improve and streamline internal processes.

5. Blended learning is greener…

For an NGO dedicated to conservation and sustainable livelihoods, adopting learning and training approaches that don’t require carbon generating travel (not to mention the costs and time associated with travel), blended learning is a no brainer!

Quick win!

Effective learning for a diverse global audience with lower costs than standard approaches, leading to rapid and expanded adoption AND an approach aligned with a green mission… blended learning on project management was a very quick win for Rainforest Alliance and for Patti, who started with the organization less than six months ago!  Stay tuned for an update in about a year to learn about the impact on project management that has come about from this first round of blended learning at Rainforest Alliance!

 Want to get involved?

An English language 4-week blended learning course on PMD Pro is starting this week:
Eventbrite - LINGOs 4-week Project Management for Development (PMD Pro1) Course / May 7 – 30, 2013

A Spanish Language 4-week course starts June 3
Eventbrite - LINGOs – Curso de 4 Semanas en  Gestión de Proyectos (PMD Pro1) – Del 3 al 28 de junio de 2013

Stay tuned for Portuguese!

International development NGOs – don’t miss Global Giveback 2013!

100+ eLearning courses created for international NGOs at no cost… Global Giveback 2013 is now open, get involved

gg_generic_small.jpgThrough the Global Giveback, highly skilled learning professionals volunteer their highest talent, creativity and experience to support global development non-profit organizations. In the first four Global Giveback events, volunteer instructional designers and eLearning developers have created over 100 eLearning courses for LINGOs and its 75 international NGO member agencies.

All international NGOs provide training

“International NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that provide training for their global staff or to an audience with access to the internet should get involved,” said LINGOs Executive Director, Eric Berg. The Global Giveback allows NGOs to leverage their existing content, dramatically expanding the audience to their global staff and implementing partners.  Last year alone, LINGOs worked with over 60 volunteers to create courses available not only the global staff of our 75+ international member agencies, but they will also be available free to anyone working to improve people’s lives in the developing world.

3 Reasons to get involved

  1. Expand your agency’s training reach: Many learners have access to the internet, and you can reach more via technology-enabled learning than by face-to-face training.
  2. Use limited resources wisely: save on scarce travel, trainer, and time resources associated with each and every face-to-face training event, by working with a volunteer to develop eLearning that can be used by many learners around the world.
  3. Learn new skills: Agencies participating in past Global Givebacks have learned about eLearning design and project management through working with volunteer learning professionals.

2013 Global Giveback marks the fifth time LINGOs and the eLearning Guild have organized a vehicle through which learning professionals have donated their expertise and time to create eLearning resources for the global community. In years’ past, the resource was limited to agencies that are already members of LINGOs (Learning in NGOs), a not-for-profit consortium of humanitarian relief and international development agencies. This year marks the first time that Global Giveback is open to all non-profits working in the international development sector.

NEW in the 2013 Global Giveback

  • Open to any not-for-profit organization working to improve people’s lives in the developing world
  • Includes all learning formats: eLearning, Face-to-Face, Blended Learning modalities
  • Optional eLearning competition: Non-profit agencies may enter eLearning developed by pro-bono volunteers in 2013.

Learning professionals want to make a difference in the world

Volunteering in the Global Giveback provides a unique opportunity for learning professionals to make a difference in the world. Many volunteers have already signed up in the Global Giveback group on LinkedIn and are eager to get started.

eLearning developer Amanda Warner, who participated in the first three Global Givebacks, winning twice with courses created for the public for Acción and FHI 360, notes “It’s so motivating to see the course in action,” said Warner, who estimates she spent between 180 and 210 hours developing Acción’s winning course “Build, Manage and Improve Credit” which is publically available.

“It was great to play with different ideas, and work on a totally different type of content from my day job,” she said. Warner took reams of ACCION’s existing face-to-face course materials, spread sheets, word documents, published guides and other resources and developed a proposal for an engaging, interactive simulation.

 

Your agency can get involved

It’s easy! You can get involved through the Global Giveback Group on LinkedIn or through your own network. Connect and interview those with interests, skills, timing, and approach to the work that best match your needs.

Projects can include: design and/or development of learning and training resources to be deployed in a variety of ways, including face to face, blended, and self-paced eLearning.

How to get started:

  1. Identify the course material you want to adapt into a new format of learning
  2. Join the Global Giveback Group on LinkedIn
  3. Post your request for a volunteer Be sure to include 
    • Your agency name
    • Course Topic
    • Scope of Work (describe what the volunteer will develop, for what audience, with whom the volunteer will work, the resources s/he will have to work with, ie pre-approved content, subject matter experts whom s/he can consult during the project, etc)
    • Timeline(when you will be ready to start, your target date for completion and launch of your resource)
    • That there is an Identified staff-member who will work with the volunteer
  4. Respond to all volunteers who indicate interest. Interview those whose skills match your needs, and keep others apprised of your plans so they can work with another project if your needs and timing don’t match their skills and time-frame.

Global Giveback organizers do not review or manage relationships between agencies and volunteers. Each party should research each other and interact in professionally, clearly defining success for the interaction before agreeing to collaborate.

eLearning Competition

An optional part of the Global Giveback is a competition among eLearning courses. Participation is not required, but may be motivating to some volunteers.

Not-for-profit development agencies may enter any eLearning course created on a volunteer (pro-bono) basis for any non-profit working globally to improve people’s lives in the developing world in 2013 can be entered in the eLearning Global Giveback competition.

Judges will evaluate courses submitted by non-profit global development agencies in two categories based on whether they were developed by individual developers or corporate teams, on ten criteria:

  1. Meets stated learning objectives
  2. Appearance
  3. Creativity
  4. Ease of use for the learner
  5. Interactivity
  6. Graphical content
  7. Ease of update (for the non-profit sponsor)
  8. Holds the learner’s interest
  9. Ease of working with the developer (rated by the non-profit agency)
  10. Potential impact of the course (assessed by the non-profit agency based on topic and potential audience)

Volunteer Developers and International Non Profit agencies may use the Global Giveback Group on LinkedIn as a means of finding each other. However, any international non-profit working with a non-staff volunteer on a pro-bono basis may submit courses created in 2013 for competition. Submissions must be received by 5:00PM EST on Jan 10, 2014.  Submission instructions will be posted in the second half of 2013.

Recognition & awards will be announced at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions 2014 conference in Orlando, FL.

Learn More: http://bit.ly/LINGOsGG

Read about past Global Giveback events

LINGOs Offers 5-Week PMD Pro1 Certification Prep Course

International development agencies do great work. As John Cropper, Director of Project Services for LINGOs, pointed out in a blog post last year, the product of NGOs is projects!  Non-governmental organizations plan and implement projects to help transform communities and improve people’s lives in the developing world in fields ranging from agriculture to water and sanitation – with key topics like child nutrition, education, emergency response, health, housing, human trafficking, microfinance, natural resource conservation and peace building, to name just a few, in between.

LINGOs is pleased to announce that on September 18, we will open registration for a blended learning course in project management. The five-week course, open to all, is designed to meet the needs of any NGO project manager, program quality manager or supporting staff responsible for the creation and implementation of a development project, and who has access to a reliable internet connection. Participants who successfully complete the course will be prepared to take the PMD Pro1 exam.

At LINGOs, we’ve done a lot of work, especially in Africa and Latin America, helping NGOs build their capacity to better manage projects.  

Over the past few years:

  • The PMD Pro  (Project Management in Development Professional) Certifications were created, came online and were recognized. More than 3,000 people have taken the exams for the PMD Pro1 and PMD Pro2, with more than 2,200 becoming certified. 
  • Many agencies are working internally to build capacity, contracting with international training organizations such as InsideNGO and RedR, local training companies in Brasil, Guatemala, Haiti, Panama and Paraguay and LINGOs directly in countries from Albania to Zimbabwe, with most work being done in Africa and Latin America.
  • We’ve learned that blended and distance learning approaches not only allow a more diverse group of learners to participate, but also can be a highly effective means to lead to change and transfer of training into practice.

Participants in LINGOs’ 5-week blended learning program will spend approximately six hours per week in self-paced eLearning resources and in a virtual community of practice. Three hours will be spent in virtual classroom training and coaching, offered between 9:00 and 10:30am eastern US time on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Oct 16 through Nov 15, and three hours will be spent reading offline.

Several of LINGOs’ most experienced project management instructors,  John Cropper, Eric Berg and Roger Steele will facilitate the course. The course will be taught in English and the content is based on the PMD Pro1 Guide (free download available from www.pm4ngos.org).

Those interested may find more information and register for the course online. The course fee is $180 for staff from LINGOs member agencies and $225 for non-members. The fee includes all classes, access to all materials including self-paced modules and community site and private instructor coaching. Please note the course fee does not include the certification exam fee.

Upon completion of this course, all participants will be prepared to complete and pass the PMD Pro1 certification examination. The last session of the 5-week course will focus on applying the tools and techniques learned during the course in individual organizations. Throughout the course, time will be provided for coaching from instructors to clarify material and to review application of concepts.

Course Schedule

Week One     Tuesday, October 16- Introduction to Course and Technology

                    Thursday, October 18 – Overview of Project Management and Competencies

Week Two    Tuesday, October 23 – Project Identification and Design

                    Thursday, October 25 – Project Start-Up

Week Three  Tues, Oct 30 – Project Planning

                    Thurs, Nov 1 – Project Implementation

Week Four    Tues, Nov 6 – Monitoring and Evaluation

                    Thurs, Nov 8 – Project Transition

Week Five    Tues, Nov 13 – Certification Exam Preparation

Thurs, Nov 15 – Action Planning for Application in Individual Organizations Preparation

About PM4NGOs

PM4NGOs (Project Management for Non-Governmental Organisations) aims to optimize international NGO project investments by enabling project managers to be reflective, professional practitioners who learn, operate and adapt effectively in complex project environments. As a group of international relief, development and conservation organisations, PM4NGOs works together and collaborates with private sector companies, professional organizations and universities to achieve this goal. Visit www.pm4ngos.org/ to learn more.

About LINGOs

LINGOs is a not-for-profit consortium that focuses on enabling international humanitarian relief and development organizations to share their learning resources and experiences. LINGOs also engages Partner Organizations – companies and associations working in the field of technology assisted learning – to provide expert help and other support aimed at alleviating poverty around the world and effectively responding to emergencies. LINGOs Member and Partner Organizations include some of the biggest names in the non-profit and technology sectors, including Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, Care, Articulate, Blackboard Collaborate, Cegos, MindLeaders, eCornell, The eLearning Guild, TELL ME MORE and many more. Visit www.LINGOs.org to learn more.

Blended approach gets learning to where learners are

Posted by John Cropper, LINGOs Director of Project Services

Training and facilitating used to be so simple. The trainer would travel to a a pre-selected venue, participants would arrive, training was delivered and after a couple of happy sheets and usually a rather nice group meal and photo, everyone departed. Easy!

 

Old School Training…

The costs of this approach are huge. Apart from the travel costs, everyone would be in the training – not actually doing their normal work. So if you had a group of twenty five participants doing a five day course, you used one hundred and twenty five person days. Run two trainings like this in a year and factor in holidays and you would have used up the best part of a person year – and we all think we are understaffed!

LINGOs is all about learning where it really matters. So, to find a way round this, LINGOs has conducted a number of what we call blended trainings on Project Management  (the PMDPro certification)  We’ve tried several approaches and I’ll describe two of them here: First with World Vision International in Southern Africa and second with Oxfam GB in East Africa. The approaches have been different but in both cases, noone had to travel and participants were able to fit the learning around their other work commitments.

In the case of World Vision, we used a “hotspot” approach to ease connectivity challenges. A number of offices were chosen and World Vision made sure that each office had a USB speaker phone and a projector. One computer would be connected and participants would either look at a shared monitor or the screen would be projected onto a wall. Participants were given a clear timetable and instructions about what was expected of them. They had a program of reading through the PMDPro Guide, using the practice exam, webinars using Blackboard Collaborate, a ning social network where they could ask/answer questions and where we could post all the documents and finally there was an ‘instructor’s hour,’ when a facilitator would be online and participants could ask any questions on a one-to-one basis. Each course was scheduled over a two week period.

With Oxfam, we adopted a similar approach but it was much more extensive. The course had the same components but was designed to be taken over a 10 to 12 week period. Participants were advised that they would need to spend 3 to 4 hours each week. No one component was mandatory and they could spend their time on any of the different components. If the facilitator or the Oxfam sponsor thought that a participant was not engaging in any element, then s/he was not allowed to sit the PMDPro exam at the end of the course.

So what?

Well clearly, the blended approach is much more flexible and obviously more cost effective. One additional immediate benefit was a higher percentage of women participants – as described in an earlier post for International Woman’s Day. Interestingly results from the extended, Oxfam approach have been the best with an exam pass rate of 50%. Best of all was to see this post from the Tanzania Country Director, in which he noted his experience of “a case where training has created learning that has turned into change. There is improved quality of work and increased commitment to share one’s learning.”

Clearly this kind of approach can lead to skill transfer and application.

What learning is there from these pilots?

  1. Setting up a hotspot is a considerable investment in time and equipment – but once it is there, it can be used again and again. We have seen staff use the equipment for virtual meetings rather than travel – another great benefit.
  2.  In both cases, it is helpful to have champions and clear leadership – without buy in from the top, any training is more difficult. Participants need to have a clear structure and they need to understand what they are expected to do, when and why.
  3. Participant selection is as important as  managing expectations – participants need to commit to putting in the time over a two/three month period.
  4. The biggest learning I have taken from all this is simple. Blended learning can work and work well. One participant from Tanzania said in one of the webinars, “I need to leave now. I am in a village with no electricity using a 3G connection and the laptop battery is going.”

 I wish I had had a photo! When we think about virtual/remote learning – or whatever we want to call it, perhaps we should stop ask asking “why?” and start asking “why not!”