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How online learning is changing the way World Vision trains staff in the field

World Vision
2 July 2015 by Mark Harwood
How online learning is changing the way World Vision trains staff in the field

Juliet from Uganda learned the skills to help farmers increase their income through a new online learning course created by World Vision and Dynamind eLearning.

World Vision’s development work is highly complex. One approach that may have worked beautifully in one context may fail spectacularly in another. There are few solutions that are simply right or wrong. Each program has an element of ongoing discovery, reflection, innovation and learning that cannot be explicitly planned beforehand, despite how many times a particular approach may have been implemented beforehand. We are constantly learning on the job!

That is why it’s so exciting to see how technology is improving our ability to train staff in a way that reflects the ever changing nature of their job. The SEED (Social Entrepreneurship & Economic Development) unit from World Vision  partnered with Dynamind eLearning to design our award-winning Project Model Accredited Learning and Support (PALS) approach. The PALS approach uses Moodle’s online learning management system as its platform and supports staff who are based in the field, working directly alongside the communities we support.

Recently, the PALS platform supported staff around the world who are implementing our Local Value Chain Development programming approach – helping smallholder farmers sustainably increase their incomes. 75 staff from 15 countries have completed the course already. These staff work alongside approximately 35,000 smallholder farmers and their families to enable them to increase their incomes. The participants worked through facilitated problem-based eWorkshops sharing their individual experiences, reflections, photos and videos from their respective projects to develop their skills and support one another.

One of the participants in the course was Juliet from Uganda. When she joined World Vision’s Uganda office she was told her role was to help poor farmers in the Nakasongola district increase their incomes so they could better care for their children – a daunting task, particularly for someone new to the organisation!

Juliet delivers training to smallholder farmers in Uganda.

Juliet delivers training to smallholder farmers in Uganda.

Traditionally at World Vision, Juliet would have travelled to the nearby major town or even to a nearby country to attend a training event such as a once-off workshop to learn about the entire Local Value Chain Development approach in one week. Through the PALS platform however, Juliet and the other participants were able to take part in the course alongside their normal role, based among the communities that they support.

From any device, Juliet had access to her online community of peers and mentors on a daily basis for a period of 8 months as she worked her way through the course and tackled on-the-job challenges.  In addition to more effective learning outcomes and providing ongoing support, another benefit of PALS is that the 8-month online course is cheaper than a one-week face to face workshop. This means we can reach and support a greater number of staff just like Juliet, thereby impacting more communities around the world.

“The PALS eLVCD course notes are like a bible to me. The facilitators tried to give as many challenging scenarios as possible and this has been helpful for me especially in times of difficult situations. Through the training, I have been able to acquire and utilize the knowledge and skills required to help train farmers in my community about how they can work together in groups to produce and sell products to get higher prices,” says Juliet.

Globally, World Vision is committed to hiring local staff wherever possible, so we can help to build local and national skills and expertise. The PALS platform is a valuable asset to that end, ensuring that local people who are passionate about their community and culture are also well trained for their job.

What’s exciting is that the PALS approach, using the World Vision eCampus, is a learning framework that can be applied across all World Vision’s programming areas to develop and support our staff working alongside the communities we serve and therefore increase the impact of World Vision programs. Other PALS courses are currently under development for staff supporting small business owners to increase their incomes as well as those helping communities to reforest their land using the World Vision Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration approach.

Upon hearing of the PALS approach and how World Vision was using Moodle to help poor farmers around the world, Moodle CEO Martin Dougiamas has invited Mark Harwood and Gini Gough, who developed and facilitate the PALS courses, to the National Moodle Conference in Melbourne next week to share their story.

Mark Harwood Mark Harwood

Mark is the Project Model Learning and Support Manager in World Vision Australia's Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (SEED) unit.

 

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