Embracing blended learning as our new normal
E-learning is by no means a new concept. In fact, computer-based learning programmes have been around for over 60 years. But it was the introduction of the internet in the late 20th century, that really enabled e-learning to thrive. In the AFROSAI-E region, e-learning programmes have been around for almost a decade, although for much of that time, learners could only access these programmes on CD-ROM.
This all changed late last year when we launched the AFROSAI-E Learning Platform, or ALP. Through a process of trial and error, we found the perfect fit in a Moodle-based platform that offers a flexible environment that can adapt to our unique needs. At the time, we of course had no idea, how pivotal ALP would become in the coming months, as the global Covid-19 pandemic brought face-to-face training to a grinding halt.
As many countries around the world started taking steps to ensure social distancing, we were concerned about the implications of connectivity for SAI staff working from home. However, it’s been extremely encouraging to note the continuous increase of new learners registering on the system and accessing the available courses. We now have over 800 registered learners on ALP, of which 310 are new registrations since April 2020. Most of our courses are available to staff from all INTOSAI member countries.
But in my view, having a steady increase of registered learners is just the first step. The real goal is to see learners complete the training and benefiting from enhanced knowledge and skills. To get learners truly engaged with the content, and motivated to complete the courses in full, the material must be interactive, interesting, and varied. Despite the great technologies we have access to, there is unfortunately no magic button that does this automatically. While the online learning environment provides tremendous opportunities for quick wins such as micro-learning and knowledge assessments, the reality is, that developing great e-learning, requires a great deal of time, effort and a strong foundation in pedagogical training principles.
At AFROSAI-E, we’ve had an accelerated learning curve in e-learning, with traditional training methods currently on hold. We’ve developed several self-paced e-learning courses, graded quizzes, and assignments, to supplement the existing range of courses, resources, and toolkits. We also continue to experiment with new features and tools to continuously improve our programme portfolio. A limited number of training workshops are also ongoing during this period using virtual meeting platforms, in combination with courses and resources on ALP.
Right now, it is still difficult to predict what the immediate and long-term implications will be for traditional methods of capacity building and training. But perhaps the more important question is not, when we can return to ‘normal’, but rather how can we learn from this crisis and create a new ‘normal’ when it comes to training and development work. Right now, we have an opportunity to lay the foundations for a strong culture of blended learning.
Complementary e-learning courses, pre- and post- workshop assessments, online resources, and collaboration tools can significantly enhance in-person training and enrich the learning experience, for both learners and facilitators. I am hopeful and excited about the prospect of a continued rise in the enthusiasm for blended learning as part of a new normal in capacity building efforts.