Young man at a vocational education and training center, Marrakesh, Morocco. © Dana Smillie / World Bank

Making humanitarians

Reda SadkiLearning strategy, Thinking aloud

The industry to tackle growing humanitarian and development challenges has expanded rapidly since the mid 1990s, but not nearly as fast as the scope and scale of the problems have spiraled. Professionalization was therefore correctly identified as a major challenge of its own, with over a decade of research led by Catherine Russ and others clearing the rubble to allow the sector to make sense of what needs to be done. The bottom line diagnosis is a now-familiar litany: a shortage of people and skills, lack of quality standards, inability to scale. Despite the growth of traditional university programs to credential specialized knowledge of these challenges and how to tackle them, young people armed with multiple masters find that they really start learning upon entering their first NGO. They face a dearth of entry-level positions (sometimes spending years as “interns” or other forms of under-recognized labor) and discover professional networks closed to them …

Online learning 101: Costs vs. efficacy

Reda SadkiLearning strategy

Having presented three online learning approaches, here are three aspects to consider together: What is the cost of developing an online course based on each approach? What is the cost of delivering the course, per learner or per hour? What is the learning efficacy (outcome) that can be expected? Development costs for modules are comparatively expensive, as they are media-intensive and require complex production and technical skills. Often this leads to under-spending on the instructional design. The main attraction of this approach is its low delivery cost. It scales really well. Once you have a self-guided module online, the delivery cost is marginal. All of a sudden, you can abandon the elaborate schemes in place mostly to restrict access to limited numbers of seats. Unfortunately, the death knell for this approach is its limited efficacy. It doesn’t work very well and, probably, only marginally better than giving a motivated learner the …

Online learning 101: Approaches

Reda SadkiLearning strategy

There are myriad approaches to online learning. I’ve selected three. One of them should no longer be recommended. This is the production of information modules that test information recall. In some cases, aware of the limited outcomes using this approach, attempts have been made to encourage reflection or analysis, but then the limitation of the approach leaves the learner with limited or no formative feedback and reductive forms of assessment. We need to stop producing these “click-click” modules, as they are teaching all of the wrong things, even if the subject matter content is spot on. They are purely transmissive, leaving the learner to passively consume information. They substitute multimedia bells and whistle for substance. Their only real usefulness, in the past, was to introduce people in the sector to “e-learning” as a digital version of transmissive trainings in which the slide deck is the pedagogy. The other two approaches, fortunately, …

Online learning 101 mindmap excerpt

Online learning 101: learning objectives and mind map

Reda SadkiLearning strategy

My presentation on the foundational knowledge about online learning in the humanitarian context could provide fodder for… an online course. And here are some of the learning objectives that would be included in such a course, together with a mind map showing some of the items addressed by the presentation. Summarize the challenges of adapting to constant technological change in learning design List humanitarian learning problems that can be addressed by online and distance learning Distinguish between three evidence-based learning approaches relevant to the humanitarian context Explain the main criteria used to distinguish these approaches Distinguish development costs from delivery costs Compare cost vs. efficacy for three learning approaches Explain the relevance of blended learning for humanitarian learning Distinguish between self-guided and cohort-based learning Scope the complexity of an online learning project Identify possible sources of funding for online humanitarian education Identify factors to consider when developing a learning system Evaluate when scaling up …

Learning Strategies International

Online learning 101: Criteria to distinguish approaches

Reda SadkiLearning strategy

The table below summarizes criteria that you should consider to identify the appropriate approach for your online learning needs. At the top is the pedagogy and specific learning architecture. The key question is to ask: What does the learner get to do? Key decisions include the choice between self-guided learning (which scales up easily as it does not require synchronous interaction with other learners) and cohorts (which enable synchronous peer-to-peer relationships between learners). For a long time, a ferocious debate was waged between advocates of face-to-face learning who fetichized the value of IRL (“in the real world” interaction and advocates of online or distance learning. The evidence fairly definitively demonstrates that distance learning delivers slightly better learning outcomes, and that there is no learning efficacy benefit when you blend. However, your professional network is how you find your next job. It is also how you learn from others. Face-to-face contact is necessary for …