You Asked For Accessible, Interactive, and Collaborative – Meet Philanthropy University!

Philanthropy University logo


On July 16, NovoEd and LINGOs hosted a preview for LINGOs members of a nonprofit e-learning initiative, Philanthropy University. Missed the webinar? Read on for more information!

Social, accessible, workshop-style – there are no shortage of attributes to describe the future of NGO learning. Across the sector, however, one thing is certain: to truly leverage our resources and common goals, the future must be collaborative.

Enter Philanthropy University: a new initiative powered by NovoEd that offers online organizational learning geared specifically towards the learning needs of nonprofits. Philanthropy University is partnering with LINGOs to offer community learning opportunities through expert-taught courses. Fall 2015 courses include:

Each 5- to 8-week Philanthropy University course is free to attend, and participants have the option to receive a Statement of Accomplishment upon course completion. Discussion forums & workspaces allow learners to share content, team up on projects via video or message, and get feedback on ideas and assignments. Participants from LINGOs member organizations can easily find and team up with other LINGOs learners in their courses, and use the Philanthropy University platform as a springboard for ideas to improve the entire community.

Philanthropy University for LINGOs Learners

Here’s why these collaboration-oriented courses are a great opportunity for LINGOs learners:

  • LINGOs and Philanthropy University share a common mission: to provide world-class learning and tools to help nonprofit organizations make the most of their resources.
  • Shared knowledge is a powerful stepping stone for innovation: joint participation in Philanthropy University courses will enhance cooperation and learning among LINGOs members – and across the sector. These free courses also provide a great way for staff, volunteers, and stakeholders within an NGO to learn together, and leverage their learning for greater impact at an organizational level.
  • Accessible learning builds a better sector: Philanthropy University uses Amazon Web Services to adjust video resolution based on available bandwidth, providing accessible learning wherever users are. Built-in course reporting tools also help organizations gain insights into the interests and needs of their learners – and help the LINGOs community as a whole focus resource development where it’s needed most. To this end, for the pilot year Philanthropy University will provide LINGOs with aggregate member data, and organizations with high participation (to ensure data relevance) will be eligible for individual data reports.

Check out the website, share with your organization, and enroll now! Questions? Please contact Jen Hu at

We’re also excited to be partnering with Philanthropy University on other collaborative learning opportunities in the future, including a panel discussion on MOOCs and social learning at LINGOs’ Global Learning Forum in October. Stay tuned!

MOOC-tip-plication: Application of a tip from a MOOC for Global Staff

Marian Abernathy, LINGOs Director of Membership & Communications

WiFi Cow gives a MOOC Tip From the 2012 Cow Parade in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh, NC, USA

I recently took part in my second Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC).  And, while a few of my candid colleagues and family may have thought it too basic for me… I got a lot out of “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrationality,” offered by Duke University Professor Dan Ariely. This Coursera MOOC put a lot of the behavioral economic theory it covered into practice, and I’ll share couple of  relevant tips here.

Among the approaches with potential for those of us managing organizational learning programs, corporate universities or LMSes can use is the introductory quiz. As part of the initial set-up (after registering for the free course), there was an introductory “quiz” or survey. The teaching team noted that in all likelihood, the cohort of learners would be similar to most MOOC participants and not complete the full course (see “Not Staying the Course” about low completion rates). They asked participants a few questions to help learners take responsibility for our own learning and to encourage us to be realistic:

“What do you plan to for this course (check all that apply):

[ ] Watch/attend the lectures

[ ] Engage in discussion board forums

[ ] Read all the reading material

[ ] Take quizzes on lectures/reading

[ ] Peruse extra material

[ ]  Complete the written assignment(s)

[ ]  Grade/comment on other people’s submissions

[ ] Take the final learning assessment (exam/certification)

[ ] Other_________

This list gave learners an idea of what was coming and a grounding in what it would take to earn a statement of completion. And the next question prepared us for how to be successful learners, even if we didn’t complete the course. I liken this to how to continue to keep myself on track toward a new year’s resolution when I miss an early milestone.

“If you don’t have time to do all the things you checked above, which item will you sacrifice first?

  • Watch/attend the lectures
  • Engage in discussion board forums
  • Read all the reading material
  • Take quizzes on lectures/reading
  • Peruse extra material
  • Complete the written assignment(s)
  • Grade/comment on other people’s submissions
  • Take the final learning assessment (exam/certification)
  • Other

As this was a course on behavioral theory, the instructors applied some of their own content and offered some ideas that could help learners who chose to be helped!

What best describes how you plan to encourage your own participation in this course
  do not plan to do plan to do already done not sure
Block of time for this course in your calendar
Tell others you are taking the course
Take the course with others (ie study groups)
Reward yourself for staying on track
Set consequences for not staying on track

This chart contains many tips for adult learners, particularly those of us who are not professional learners to put in place. Offering your learners something as simple as this type of chart may help them build the supportive scaffolding they need to complete the course work.

More importantly, what does the learner hope to achieve, accomplish or apply (do better/differently as a result of the learning)?  One very simple approach is used by LINGOs member organization Islamic Relief Worldwide.    The Islamic Relief Learning & Development team provides their learners with a very simple Learning Log through which staff identify what they did, why, what they learned from it and how they will apply it.

Defining the what and the why at the start of a formal learning venture can support the application of learning.  At LINGOs, we believe that development professionals with better skills deliver better quality services and produce better results for beneficiary communities. We continue to explore various approaches to support the application of learning.

Is your agency ready for the revolution? (in education/learning?)

Post by Marian Abernathy, LINGOs Director of Membership & Communications

Thomas Friedman’s Sunday Jan 27 column in the New York Times “Revolution Hits the Universities” is right on. Friedman writes about the transformational potential of the “massive open online course” or MOOC. These courses are online, open to all, and for the most part available free of cost to learners around the world. International NGOs that provide learning services to their staff should be paying attention!

LINGOs Executive Director Eric Berg and I experimented with a MOOC last fall offered by Stanford University and VentureLab entitled “Designing a New Learning Environment.” Just as with face to face training, virtual classrooms and eLearning, a MOOC can be designed and delivered from abysmally to beyond superbly.

LINGOs’ vision is for anyone working to reduce poverty and alleviate suffering in the developing world to have access to world-class learning opportunities at little or no cost.  We believe that the more effective they are, the more people will have food, shelter and be healthy, the more people will be educated and the more people will live in a clean and safe environment.

MOOCs, open to anyone, presently at no cost, have the potential to create massive leverage for people who otherwise do not have access to university education. There’s enormous potential for the motivated staff of NGOs to learn along with others from around the world.

Lectures are pre-recorded so that students can attend at their convenience. This is great for students in multiple time zones, or international development professionals and humanitarian relief workers who have meetings pop up, long trips and disasters that may spring up and keep them from attending a set-time event. However, the flexibility has a cost, as it can require more self-discipline than many of us have. I did find taking a course with my boss to be a significant motivator!

A central feature of MOOC is crowd sourcing, which allows the course content to go beyond simple quizzes and interactions that are assessed as correct/incorrect and permit fellow students to review each other’s assignments and give feedback.  This means that individual students, as well as teams of students can submit thoughtful and complex assignments and receive comments and advice from fellow students around the world.

Talk about leverage! The faculty don’t have to respond to the individual assignments of each student (some MOOCs start with over 100,000 students!), but they can learn together and gain from the wisdom of the crowd.

We’ve been experimenting with some of the elements of a MOOC with our blended learning courses on Project Management. We learned from our 5-week PMDPro course last fall and are adapting our lessons and experiences in two four-week courses, one in Spanish in February, and the other in English in March.  These courses include self-paced eLearning, discussion boards, assignments and three hours of virtual classroom training and coaching per week. Given the live instruction, coaching and feedback from instructors and that we don’t have backing from venture capitalists, we aren’t yet able to offer this type of learning free, but can do it at a significantly lower cost than face to face training. We are looking at ways to leverage our learning from the MOOC to learn how to offer this type of learning at lower costs to reach greater numbers of those working to improve lives of people in the developing world.

Our Project Services Team is in the process of designing a “mini-MOOC” on Project Management in Development. This will be an asynchronous blended approach with no direct instructor feedback but with opportunities for interaction and feedback from other course participants. It will probably have a small fee – so not quite free – but will also include the opportunity for a certificate for participants who successfully complete assignments and the final exam. Look for more information on this later this quarter.