GFA NEWSLETTER 01/2022: LEARNING RELOADED: GOING DIGITAL BY PURPOSE
Within days the world we used to know has changed dramatically. The atrocious Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point openly ignoring a rule-based world order and attacking a democratic country. Our thoughts go out to our Ukrainian colleagues. Now, in the midst of war, they have no other option than to redirect their efforts to emergency needs or to defending their country.
Our project activities in Ukraine up to 24 February, 2022 are part of the experiences presented in this newsletter, namely the "new normal" of blended and virtual capacity development. Back in 2019, a survey across all GFA projects showed that more than one third of our work focuses on education, training and capacity development, and that this is true across different kinds of projects and strategic business areas. “What happens if all of this goes digital?” we asked ourselves back then, not knowing that we would experience the answer very soon.
The vision of GFA is to lead digital transformation for the benefit of the people. We want to use digital technologies in a safe, fair and inclusive manner to create sustainable change. Did we manage to do so in the last two years? The answer is yes, partly. We were successful in rapidly transforming most of our learning programs to digital delivery formats and thereby living up to our capacity development goals. This was made possible by joint efforts across different business units: training and education, digital innovation, and thematic departments. However, we also realized that we need extra efforts to create digital learning courses of high quality. This is only possible if we can build on the ideas, products, and processes of previous projects. In addition, we have to find ways and means to reach those intended beneficiaries, who are impeded by a lack of digital devices or basic digital literacy, and the cost of connectivity. It is our intention not to aggravate an increasing exclusion of marginalized groups such as adolescent girls. Going forward, we will not simply choose "digital by default" but rather close the digital divide by applying the most appropriate mix of digital and analog tools. We are convinced that education and life-long-learning, at their core, are about human interactions and connections. With that in mind, our vision of future learning will need to include digital learning as a means to foster accessibility to education - for everyone, at all times, and everywhere.
Celebrating GFA´s 40th anniversary this year, the future of learning will be one of the key issues. Between 18 May and 6 July, we will organize a series of events on current topics in international cooperation at six different locations in Germany and abroad. You will find more information in this newsletter.
Anja Desai, Managing Director
What do webinars on new tools in the work space, home office meetings to discuss recent project developments, language courses on Babbel, a YouTube do-it-yourself tutorial on how to install new appliances, or school children connected to classmates and teachers on their laptops have in common? It’s learning with a digital device instead of in a classroom or training setting, behind a book or in-person instruction by a teacher or coach. Digital learning has become a common phenomenon, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
This newsletter sheds some light on a GFA corporate culture of "digital by purpose” instead of “digital by default”. What do digital learning projects actually look like? How did various GFA departments and projects create instructive digital learning opportunities for medical professionals in Libya or Ukraine, young job seekers in Nigeria or Albania, entrepreneurs across the African continent, teachers and TVET practitioners, and other beneficiaries worldwide?
GFA is committed to the nine principles of digital development that include but are not limited to a user-centred approach, a thorough understanding of the existing ecosystem, and developing digital solutions for sustainability. In this context, GFA by default conducts digital feasibility studies at the beginning of a project. During the inception phase, localized solutions together with and for the target groups are identified. Digital tools are chosen to generate added value. During the Covid-19 pandemic, GFA and its partners went through a steep learning curve and leapfrogged into a new area. Due to the crucial and irreplaceable experiences during this "digital by default" period, GFA is now at the forefront of closing the digital divide by applying the most appropriate mix of digital and analog methods. As a result, this digital by purpose approach inspires GFA teams plan and to run their projects, some of which are highlighted in this newsletter.
Which lessons from digital learning in Serbia will last after two years of pandemic, and what elements will be discontinued? Where will the digital learning journey lead GFA? Lena Wrobel and Lukas Brück - both digital learning consultants at the GFA Education, Skills and Employment (ESE) department - discussed these questions with Ferdinand Ayen of the Klett EDU training center in Serbia that is co-financed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Science and provides dual education in Eastern Europe. Play the video in this newsletter or play it from vimeo.
The growing global demand for digital learning models imposed a challenge for top-level course providers such as the C³ Unit for Better Learning. The Unit embarked on the e-learning world using Moodle, one of the most powerful and widespread learning management systems (LMS), as its main pillar. In its two years of operation, the GFA Moodle platform has reached over 1,600 course participants from 45 countries and continues to establish itself as the learning platform of choice for in-house and project-based courses.
WHAT IS IN FOR YOUR PROJECT? Moodle is an open source learning environment that enables enhanced user experience, catering to a wide range of needs. In order to showcase the benefits and advantages Moodle has to offer, we addressed the main concerns project managers may have.
YOUR AUDIENCE SPEAKS WOLOF, HINDI, KINYARWANDA OR MAGALASY? No, problem! Moodle is translated to 119 languages. GFA currently offers courses in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French and can expand to other languages on demand.
ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR PARTICIPANTS IN AN ASYNCHRONOUS FORMAT? Courses on Moodle do not need to be 100% asynchronous. C³ experts are experienced in running blended formats that combine live sessions with self-study. This is, for example, what GFA did in the EU-funded PRIDA e-trainer course, related to internet governance.
DO YOU WONDER HOW TO DESIGN INTERACTIVE COURSES ON MOODLE? Moodle is extremely adaptive. Courses can be designed with a variety of interactive elements such as videos, podcasts, documents, quizzes, forums, links and external applications to make the learning experience more fun. In the Successful Proposals for Energy Efficiency Initiatives course in Mexico, GFA has been using Padlet, Mentimeter and videos as learning enhancement tools. And C³ is constantly digging for the most innovative resources to add to its portfolio.
YOUR PROJECT IS OPERATING IN AREAS CHALLENGED BY LOW BANDWIDTH OR CONNECTIVITY? C³ experts can design courses that demand low bitrates without compromising students’ experience. This promotes digital learning accessibility and inclusion in all GFA project countries. In the Better Gold Initiative project in Peru, for instance, courses on social and environmental standards in mining were designed to run on mobile phones. Moreover, Moodle allows participants to study online and offline, on desktops, tablets and smartphones.
YOUR EXPERTS HAVE LIMITED EXPERIENCE IN DESIGNING COURSES ON MOODLE? GFA provides reliable C³ back-office Moodle support as showcased in a video prepared to guide students through Moodle.
YOU NEED DETAILED STATISTICS ON THE TRAININGS CONDUCTED FOR PROJECT MONITORING? Moodle allows C³ Unit experts to provide precise information in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The project APRODE on decentralized education management in Honduras worked together with a national certification institute. Based on Moodle statistics of participants’ performance, the institute was able to assess who was entitled to certification.
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT GDPR COMPLIANCE? GFA’s Moodle provider is located in Germany and complies with international data protection standards including the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
YOUR PROJECT PLANS TO RUN COURSES ON AN LMS OWNED BY BENEFICIARIES OR DONORS? Courses on Moodle are transferable to other LMSs. Due to Moodle’s interoperability, an e-learning course in Malawi on hospital management was first offered on GFA Moodle and later transferred to the GIZ Atingi platform. As Moodle has recently announced a new and more modern version of the LMS for 2022, C³ is ready to upgrade its platform to benefit from improved navigation and to enhance user experience. So, stay tuned for updates!
Contact: Claudia Mussi and Judith Bierbaum
The Green TVET School is a unique six-week e-learning experience designed and implemented by TVET Hamburg in cooperation with the Renewables Academy (RENAC). The course is designed for TVET managers, policy makers, researchers, teachers and trainers worldwide interested in the application of dual training features for the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors.
TVET Hamburg is a joint initiative of three Hamburg-based institutions: the Hamburg Institute of Vocational Education and Training (HIBB), the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce and GFA Consulting Group GmbH. The specific expertise brought to the consortium by each partner makes TVET Hamburg an ideal platform for passing experience and best practice in dual vocational training to partner countries. More information about the platform’s activities and latest offers can be found on LinkedIn, Facebook or the TVET Hamburg website.
In an image film on TVET Hamburg, different players involved describe their role and experience in the vocational training system implemented in Hamburg.
WHAT IS THE GREEN TVET SCHOOL?
The objective of the Green TVET School program is to create a comprehensive e-learning experience about essential features of the German dual TVET system while focusing on current trends and skills needs in the sectors of renewable energies and energy efficiency. Due consideration is given to crosscutting technical and vocational education and training topics such as quality management, public-private partnership, workforce demand analysis, curriculum development and digitization. Moreover, the program highlights the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the context of fostering the role of greening TVET.
GFA delivers the course in a modular format via Moodle, the company’s choice for in-house and project-based learning management that allows for synchronous and asynchronous learning. The program covers a weekly workload of about four hours, including expert webinars, live discussions and virtual cafés for the exchange of expertise. Asynchronous learning sequences with interactive reading exercises, quizzes, videos and podcasts facilitate further understanding and self-reflection related to the contents. Participants progress from one week’s module to the next by submitting required assignments and contributing to an online discussion forum.
In the final week of the program, participants are to collaborate in groups to develop their country-specific roadmap towards greening TVET: an action plan for a more sustainable, demand-driven TVET in their respective sphere of influence. These roadmaps cover the objectives, challenges, risks, international best practices, preconditions for success and the participants’ own potential contributions to guiding questions of greening TVET. The presentation of the roadmaps in front of an expert panel makes for the concluding highlight of the course and is intended to provide the participants with inspiration for the next steps in their professional contexts. Upon successful completion of all tasks, participants receive a certificate and a learning diary with tangible course outcomes in order to capitalize on their learning experience.
HOW DID THE PROGRAM COME INTO EXISTENCE?
TVET Hamburg originally conceived the e-learning program Green TVET School as a study tour to Hamburg, which was a response to travel restrictions in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon enough, however, it became clear that re-shaping the program to an online format could offer much more than just a temporary solution. Instead of a location- and time-bound program over several days in Hamburg, the e-learning program allows for flexible scheduling and completion alongside a full-time job of participants. Since there are no travel and accommodation costs involved, e-learning offers can also be provided at a significantly lower price in comparison to study tours in a face-to-face format. These aspects allow TVET Hamburg to welcome a broad range of participants, who otherwise may not take part in an actual visit to Hamburg.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE GFA EXPERIENCE SO FAR?
So far, TVET Hamburg looks back on two successfully completed six-week rounds of the Green TVET School in February-March and September-October 2021. The program brought together more than 70 TVET professionals, ranging from policy makers in ministries to TVET teachers, practitioners and consultants in international cooperation projects from Azerbaijan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Georgia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Zambia and other countries. They were committed to learn, brainstorm and share best practices in different country contexts on the way towards greening TVET and applying dual training features. Based on a weekly workload of around four hours over six weeks, participants could flexibly follow the course at their own pace and convenience.
WHEN WILL THE NEXT ROUND TAKE PLACE?
In light of participants’ high demand and positive feedback, the Green TVET School will be offered again from 9 May to 17 June, 2022. Interested parties may register at www.tvet-hamburg.de and contact in case of questions.
Contact: Lena Wrobel
Technical skills and specific competences are no longer enough to hope for access to employment and to perform well at work in Senegal. Instead, companies and recruiters are increasingly looking for soft skills in young job seekers. Soft skills also help to shape what young people and people remote from the labor market expect from the world of work. They smoothen the transition from school to work, encourage the search for new vocations and help increase job retention. The question remains, how to obtain them – especially when formal soft skills curricula are scarce?
This is where the digitization of learning opportunities come into play. E-learning makes the access to knowledge and transversal skills so much easier for young Senegalese trying to navigate the labor market. To this end, GFA experts have developed the e-learning training Defaru on soft skills on behalf of the GIZ project "Successful in Senegal". The training was launched in November 2020 on a fully functional learning management platform developed by a Senegalese partner, Volkeno that was customized for the project.
The training focuses on three soft skills, namely communication, work ethics, and career management. Its format and instructional design offer interactive and modern content suitable for young people in order to foster their employability and to facilitate their integration in the labor market.
ONLINE TRAINING TO FORSTER EMPLOYABILITY
The format of the training is asynchronous and self-paced, with users managing their training path independently within a period of eight weeks. Users have access to the training portal free of charge through a desktop or a mobile application available on Android and IOS. They are able to start, stop and continue their training any time, and are able to monitor progress. After completing all requirements, users can obtain an automatically generated training certificate. More information about the Defaru platform is available from videos in English and French.
SUCCESS SO FAR
As of January 2022, nearly 2,700 young Senegalese job seekers between 15-35 years of age have registered on the Defaru training platform. Almost 700 of them have completed the full online course and received certificates, making for a completion rate of almost 26%. This is well above the average retention rate of massive open online courses. The training has been very well received by the participants. In a survey taken in November 2021, almost 97% of participants who completed the full course declared that the training had provided them with opportunities for professional integration or the creation of an income-generating activity. The training has also gained attention beyond Senegal. Other projects are currently preparing its implementation in other countries, where it will be adapted to the respective local context.
Contact: Lena Wrobel
Soft skills are among the most widely sought-after skills by recruiters and empirical evidence shows positive employment effects when job seekers benefit from soft skills training. The question in Nigeria was how best to provide young job seekers with access to employment opportunities. GFA has been well poised to set-up an e-learning platform that offers a solution.
In recent years, it has become more and more evident that in addition to job-specific technical skills, soft skills contribute to a successful transition into a first job or remain in employment. Soft skills such as team or communication competence, empathy, or analytical thinking are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. They are hardly measurable but make a difference.
Nigeria’s labor market is difficult to navigate, particularly for young job seekers. Learning opportunities that offer localized, easily accessible content on soft skills independent of time are rare. GFA, on behalf of the GIZ Skills Development for Youth Employment (SKYE) project, has been responsible for the creation of respective e-learning courses. Preceded by a feasibility study investigating the best approach, GFA’s Digital Learning experts organized a series of design thinking workshop to define learning outcomes and co-create corresponding content. Together with content experts from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment (FLME), the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSTEF) and the Edo State Skills Development Agency (Edojobs), GFA identified solutions to prevalent soft skill gaps and is developing a digital learning platform and corresponding digital courses to address these gaps.
DESIGNING INTERACTIVE LEARNING EXPERIENCES FROM CO-CREATED CONTENT
The results from the workshops provide localized and context-specific content on soft skills. Based on this content, instructional designers are currently creating interactive learning experiences, enriched with engaging knowledge checks, testimonial videos of job seekers who found a job, and best practices from employment officers. In addition, a communication expert from an Abuja-based non-profit organization specialized in promoting communication, public speaking and leadership highlights Nigerian success stories to motivate young learners. GFA in-house digital learning experts coordinate the whole process and ensure quality.
The project plans the roll-out of newly set-up digital learning platforms and corresponding courses in April 2022. GFA, together with the instructional designers and a Nigerian animated video producer, are currently busy finalizing the engaging co-created e-learning content. Ultimately, this will enable young job seekers easy access to improving their social skills as well as to local employment opportunities.
Contact: Lukas Brück
In light of general digitization trends, strongly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and GIZ have emphasized the importance of digitalizing a multifaceted analogue training approach called Gender makes Business Sense (GmBS). In the analogue training, participants – both women and men – acquire practical business management skills, financial knowhow and understanding of the socio-economic impact of gender dynamics in their business.
As GFA was part of the team developing and disseminating the analogue version of the course, AUDA-NEPAD requested the company to develop an online version of the GmBS course that aims at a broader target group. In a first step, a feasibility study reviewed options for digitalizing content and developing concrete recommendations. Subsequently, GFA experts have developed an asynchronous, self-paced GmBS e-learning training with five modules at a total of 24 hours of learning content.
While the face-to-face training targets the agricultural sector specifically, the e-learning course addresses a wide range of entrepreneurs. Therefore, the assumption was that the target group is large and heterogeneous, encompassing entrepreneurs with limited resources and digital skills as well as more established MSME owners with higher digital literacy rates and access to modern technologies. In addition to an introduction to business models, finance and financial literacy, the course strives for change in gender-related and social perceptions. GmBS is about gender transformative change that systematically tackles the root causes of power relations by demanding behavior change at various levels and stages, not only from entrepreneurs but also from policy actors and communities.
GMBS PROJECT RESULTS
The GFA team in cooperation with instructional designers, an African multimedia-production company, and thorough in-house quality management have digitalized the GmBS training content in an asynchronous, self-paced e-learning course. Each of the five module incorporates various interactive learning formats including text, videos, audios, illustrations, and exercises such as simple true-false, multi-choice questions and quizzes. Only core elements from existing conventional manuals were selected for digitization in order to provide a general understanding of the gender-transformative approach in business. The modules were designed with a clear learner pathway that allows participants to work through the course content independently, regardless of time and place, accompanied by instructional guidance, formative assessment elements, reflection exercises, sample answers, entrepreneurial examples of gender transformative business ideas, and interactive testimonial videos of entrepreneurs sharing their own experiences.
In the end, this project has been about more than crafting an emergency response to the Covid-19 crisis. There is no doubt that stalled training programs for students and teachers grappling with isolation-related restrictions need to be revived as soon as possible. However, planning and implementing a teaching and learning strategy that employs digital strategies in the context of the pandemic crisis has an additional effect. It lays the practical and tangible foundation for a broader, post-crisis adoption of digital learning strategies across Africa.
Contact: Lukas Brück
A growing number of projects of the Private Sector Development (PSD) department at GFA contain digital learning solutions. Accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the proven effectiveness of digital learning tools, the PSD department decided to invest in the adoption of blended and virtual learning solutions in projects to better serve its beneficiaries. These solutions have proven their value by minimizing disruptions in the delivery of capacity building activities during the pandemic, and by delivering such activities to a wider audience. The case study from Namibia below is a case in point.
DIGITAL INCUBATION SERVICES FOR ENTREPRENEURS AND STARTUPS IN NAMIBIA
The Start-Up Namibia project on behalf of GIZ aims at strengthening the entrepreneurial mindset and business skills of young people as well as at supporting the incubation and growth of startups in Namibia through a startup and innovation center (BASECAMP). In December 2020, the project additionally launched the Namibian Digital Transformation Center (DTC) that intends to strengthen the digital skills (e-literacy) and digital ecosystem in Namibia at large. GFA is responsible for the establishment and sustainable management of BASECAMP and supports the implementation of the DTC.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Namibia, the main challenge was not only how to minimize disruptions in the delivery of training and support services to entrepreneurs and startups, but also how to deliver these services to those with limited digital skills or those residing in areas far away from BASECAMP or the DTC. The GFA team developed and delivered digital learning solutions in close collaboration with the DTC and digital technology and software providers from the region such as Digemy and Pebl. The synergy of digital learning solutions enable the implementing partners to boost the digital skills of entrepreneurs and startups. They also support Namibians on their entrepreneurial journey from ideation to acceleration via trainings, boot camps, hackathons, pitch and networking events in online and blended formats. These formats effectively safeguard the inclusion of Namibians from remote or hard-to-reach areas.
Contact: Hedzer Roodenburg Veraat
The capacity to provide basic health services in primary health care facilities is severely constrained in Libya, especially in conflict-ridden areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the stress on health care workers along with a high burden of chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. As general practitioners require continuous medical education while striving to provide good health services, service providers substituted face-to-face training for doctors by e-learning courses.
IMPROVED DIAGNOSIS AND CARE FOR PEOPLE WITH NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASES
It was against this background that GFA, on behalf of GIZ, developed an e-learning course for health personnel on how to manage NCDs in terms of prevention, early detection and treatment. The course is based on the care pathways concept that establishes guidelines and quality standards to deal with NCD cases at the level of primary health centers in Libya. A lack of staff with up‐to‐date training and a lack of treatment guidelines constitute urgent and current challenges. The e-learning training follows a cascade approach – when the first 50 general practitioners had been trained, they were supported to pass on their knowledge and skills to more colleagues. The course is easily accessible on the Moodle e-learning platform and the BMZ-supported platform Atingi. The Moodle app enables participants to synchronize the course to an offline working environment.
The main output of the project are 50 well-trained and certified trainers on NCD Care Pathways at the level of primary health care centers ready to pass on their knowledge to their medical colleagues at health facility level. Each trainer has been equipped with a tablet integrating all training materials and references. Trainees can easily use the material during the training and as a reference after the end of the training. Twenty health centers provide NCD care according to endorsed, evidence-based and updated care pathways, and they are equipped with posters demonstrating the NCD Care Pathways.
Contact: Nehle Frerick
GFA used an online educational platform to deliver conferences, courses and webinars to improve the quality and accessibility of mental health services in a project (MH4U) in Ukraine. While the number of subscribers was growing, reports showed disappointing completion rates as low as 23% for a 14-hour course. As other courses showed similarly low completion rates, one assumption was that the learning methods were the reason for dropouts, not the content of the courses. Hence, GFA experts introduced advanced instructional design to increase the completion rates.
To increase the completion rate of online courses, GFA investigated the improvement of learning methods according to modern principles of instructional design. This required expertise in aligning content and design to provide highly appealing learning formats. Therefore, the project’s challenge was to find related specialists in Ukraine. There is a rich network of companies and freelance instructional designers, who have been developing online courses for commercial companies all around the world. Yet, it was a challenge to find out how to use these resources for development projects.
GFA acted on this challenge by revamping the whole production and design process of online courses. For example, a webinar on instructional design for subject matter experts now constitutes the kick-off by default. This saves course authors and instructional designers a lot of time in later stages of course development. Moreover, the instructional designers better understand a course’s subject matter, for which they will select suitable interactivity elements.
This way, a new generation of courses was developed. Based on the principles of instructional design, these are interactive and user-friendly, and include assessment and feedback to enrich the learning experience. As a result, learners expressed positive feedback and completion rates increased. On average 35% of learners complete the new courses.
During two years of project implementation, the MH4U project created around 20 online courses, two big online conferences, and numerous webinars on its website. The platform is popular among psychologist, psychiatrists, social workers, family doctors, and other people with an interest in mental health. It has around 7,200 subscribers and is still growing.
From a long-term perspective, the new approach safeguards the quality of future online course development. Today, the project is less dependent on external expertise in instructional design because internal capacities were built. One member of the project team passed an intensive online course on learning science and was trained and coached by an experienced expert in using online course development software. At the same time, GFA can use these internal resources to cover needs in future projects on digital capacity development. The experience gained and the Ukrainian contacts will be shared with other GFA departments.
Screenshot:The online courses teach mentors how to support young people with mental health disorders. The picture shows a challenging social situation in public and asks how the mentor should react. The boy with a mental health disorder suddenly starts screaming in a tram with for no obvious reason. The mentor of the boy is asked how to solve this situation.
Contact: Heiko Königstein
2022 is a special year for GFA. Fourty years ago, Hans Jahnke and Johannes Lagemann founded GFA in Hamburg, originally called Gesellschaft für Agrarprojekte in Übersee. The company that started from small beginnings today employs more than 1,500 people worldwide. Have a glimpse at our 2012 anniversary publication "think!" that provides you with a vivid insight into the development and work of GFA in the 30 years from 1982 to 2012.
This year, between 18 May and 6 July, we will celebrate the GFA anniversary with a series of events on current topics in international cooperation at six different locations in Germany and abroad. Our kick-off in Hamburg will start with a panel on how the role of consulting in development cooperation has changed over time and how GFA has changed accordingly: 40 years of GFA - looking back into the future.
More events with exciting experts and subsequent parties will follow in Königstein at our subsidiary HEAT, in Bonn at GFA B.I.S., in Tirana/Albania, in Berlin, and in Dakar/Senegal. The first event in Hamburg will be streamed live online - open to the public. The other events will be on invitation only but video material will be posted online one day after the event. Have a look at our anniversary website.
International cooperation has always had to find and implement solutions to complex global challenges. In the anniversary panels, we would like to contribute to these solutions by presenting promising pathways and food for thought related to current challenges such as digitization, climate change, and how consulting work will change its face in the future. Don't miss any event and register for our anniversary news.
Anja Desai, Managing Director