Are online courses a learning opportunity?

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Like any other course, online courses indubitably offer a learning opportunity for those who decide to go for it; or those who are ‘lucky enough’ to experience it. However, some argue that the learning opportunity in online courses remains very limited as opposed to what offline ones can offer. This particularly because of the flexibility online trainees have in accommodating their participation to their own schedules, the length of online courses which may lead to some losing interest in the learning, as well as the absence of face to face interaction.

Joined HandsIn her post entitled “Online courses as a learning opportunity”, Clara Richards reflects on her experience with CIPPEC in conducting and facilitating online courses. She tells us her story and how the online course on research communications she co-facilitated provided a learning opportunity not only for her trainees, but also for herself. In fact, Clara argues that the richness of online courses lies in the opportunity they create to meet with “different kinds of people working in all sorts of development activities.” Although coming from different regional, cultural and professional backgrounds, trainees and trainers end up sharing their different experiences as they all are after one common objective “how to promote change in our contexts by communicating better what we do and the knowledge we produce.“; she argues.

Reading through Clara’s post on this online course we co-developed and co-facilitated last year, it was kind of an eye opener for me on a very interesting and insightful fact: the real added-value of online courses, in my opinion, lies in the freedom they provide both trainees and trainers with. Both end up having the space, time and courage to express their diverse opinions, share their respective experiences and comment on this simple and friendly forum the online course provide them with. Lots of barriers you face in offline courses are actually broken in the online ones. In this regard, I second what Clara says; “I found the course fruitful and it widened my knowledge not only on research communication, but also on other people’s actual realities, challenges and opportunities.

Under the “Spaces for engagement: using knowledge to improve public decisions” programme from GDNet and CIPPEC I recently co-facilitated an online course on Research Communications. The course lasted six weeks, with an additional week for introductions. Personally, the experience was really enriching, especially as I got to learn how communication works in other contexts. In this respect, I have to confirm and highlight what Vanesa Weyrauch posted in a recent blog on the advantages of online courses: i.e. the great benefits that they deliver in terms of reaching a wide scope of participants and sharing experiences across the globe easily. Furthermore, we can better empathise with those colleagues who, although located on the other side of the world, are having exactly the same difficulties that we are struggling with!

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Online training is THE thing!

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This post was written by Ravi Murugesan, INASP, as a response to Vanesa Weyrauch’s post titled “Is online training THE thing?” published in Politics & Ideas on April 2013. In her post, Weyrauch refers to online courses as CIPPEC‘s golden star, and lists its different advantages based on CIPPEC’s experience. Among what she considers as strengths of online courses are their cost effectiveness and broad scope, length of the process incorporating knowledge, flexibility for trainees to accommodate participation to their own agendas, and above all the horizontal and co-production driven approach of online courses.

learn-moreIn his post, Murugesan seconds Weyrauch’s argument based on his experience with INASP in developing and conducting online courses, training thus about 150 researchers from over 30 developing countries. He also argues that online courses allow one to reach out to more women, as the latter may lack the flexibility to travel and attend workshops at the expense of their family commitments. Looking at our own experience with online courses, in fact we have seen a gender balance that we could not achieve with our offline courses (in the latest research communications online course, 19 southern researchers and communication practitioners participated, with a gender balance of 50/50). But as Murugesan stated, this opinion is based on our observation and experience with online courses.

I work in the AuthorAID project at INASP, an international development charity in the UK that is dedicated to putting research knowledge at the heart of development. AuthorAID’s mission is to support developing country researchers in publishing their work. Since 2007, when we started out, we have conducted numerous workshops on research writing in our partner countries in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. In 2011, we initiated e-learning by installing Moodle and developing an online course in research writing. Following the success of the pilot course late that year, we have conducted 3 more courses.

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Is online training THE thing?

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Courtesy of renjith krishnan at freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of renjith krishnan at freedigitalphotos.net

In her post, Vanesa Weyrauch refers to online courses as CIPPEC‘s golden star. She takes us through, what she considers are, its various advantages.

For the past five years under the “Spaces for engagement: using knowledge to improve public decisions” programme from GDNet and CIPPEC we have carried out different capacity building (CB) activities using a wide range of mechanisms. We were fortunate enough as to be able try out diverse CB strategies. Thus we have worked as a live lab where we could test different ways of developing capacity, ranging from regional face to face conferences and workshops to peer assistance, technical assistance and online courses.

Thinking about what has been most effective from our experience online courses quickly show up as our golden star. Through 13 courses we have been able to “train” 212 researchers and policy makers from 44 countries, including Latin America, Asia and Africa. After trying out other mechanisms, we have decided to strengthen online training due to its diverse advantages:

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South-South cooperation efforts within “Spaces for engagement” program

By Leandro Echt, Coordinator of the Influence, Monitoring and Evaluation Program at CIPPEC

Every two years, the Colombian Confederation of NGOs (CCONG) holds the National Conference of NGOs in partnership with regional NGO Federations. This year, CCONG and the Caldas’ Federation of NGOs brought the “V National Meeting of Colombian NGOs: social innovation for development, an analysis from the NGO” to Manizales, Colombia.

Encuentro-Nacional-de-ONG-2012-090-e1380738795998The meeting aimed at creating a space for dialogue and reflection among leaders and representatives of social organizations, as well as other stakeholders in Colombia. The dialogue was targeted at the importance of having an innovative social sector to contribute to the peace process, governance and territorial development.

Established throughout the meeting, a South-South Cooperation Forum aimed at knowing the trends of South-South cooperation in Colombia, sharing experiences of South-South cooperation between NGOs and other stakeholders, analyzing South- South cooperation as a modality to be strengthened among NGOs, and identifying realities, challenges and opportunities for cooperation among NGOs.
CIPPEC was invited to participate in this Forum and share its experience within the program “Spaces for engagement: using knowledge to improve public decisions (SFE)”. A joint initiative between GDNet and CIPPEC, SFE encompass­es six years of intensive work (2008-2013) that aimed at creating diverse spaces of engagement with the participation of researchers from policy research institutions (PRIs) that conduct or use investigations to influence policy, policymakers, and/or decision making processes. For that purpose, it sought to work with a Community of Practice (CoP) gathering selected researchers from think tanks and research institutes, as well as policymakers who are strongly committed to improving the use of development research in policymaking in Latin America. The program also seeks to promote South-South cooperation on linking research and policy between Latin America, Asia and Africa.

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GDNet to develop a series of How-to-Guides on “Communicating Research Effectively”

I just came back from a two weeks mission in Buenos Aires and thought of writing this short story to share with you not only the purpose of my mission, but also the next steps that GDNet is planning to undertake to better build the capacity of its researchers in terms of research uptake in policy.

While being hosted by CIPPEC (Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth) – GDNet’s strategic partner in Latin America – I had the opportunity to work closely with the Civil Society Directorate staff on developing a GDNet resource pack on research communications to be launched online by mid 2012. The resource pack is intended to compile a series of toolkits addressing the required steps for effective communication of research findings, together with the material produced during the research communications capacity building workshops; it includes PowerPoint presentations, handouts, as well as recommended readings.

Following an introduction on research communications, the resource pack will include a guide on how to develop a communication strategy; communicating effectively with target audience; media and how to make research newsworthy; effective tools for communicating research, including how to write an effective policy brief and how to best use Web 2.0 tools; presentation skills; and monitoring and evaluation of the communication strategy.

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