Forging development through e-learning
E-learning has been revitalized thanks to the advent of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), with scores of top level business and scientific schools and universities joining hands under brands such as Coursera, edX or Udacity. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed up for MOOCs.
Despite being an old concept by web standards, IT-facilitated learning has been able to reinvent itself. The International Trade Centre has been able to set up its SME Trade Academy in just a couple of years and reach 1,000 participants hailing from 120 countries just six month after launching its first course online. Four months later, we have reached another thousand participants and we expect this acceleration to continue.
At ITC, we found that the key advantages of e-learning are numerous. First, it increases our outreach, including to parts of the world which may not be benefitting from specific ITC projects. Secondly, it enhances technical-assistance quality by effectively complementing face-to-face workshops, enabling pre and post-workshop participants’ coaching and evaluation online. Third, it enriches training content thanks to peer discussions among participants from several countries at close to zero marginal cost (courses involve participants from an average of 15 countries). Last but not least, it reduces our carbon footprint through an overall reduction of field missions.
But there is much more. After almost a year of operation of our learning management system, we are discovering a wealth of additional advantages that can be grouped under the domain of knowledge management.
With all the data that the academy captures – whether it relates to course popularity, performance of participants, location of origin of participants or participants’ profiles – we see a new area of work taking shape which can help ITC improve its offerings.
The fact that our institutional memory can be increased through capturing course participant performance over time opens the possibility of measuring the impact of its work in a manner which had never been possible. For instance, the way is open for close and patient follow-up of past capacity building efforts of trade support institutions, tracking which ones were effective by measuring how it translated into better support of the private sector.
With a target of 20,000 course participants by the end on 2017, ITC will have the opportunity to study how to best adapt its online and offline courses based on feedback from participants. More than ever before, ITC beneficiaries can shape and improve our technical assistance capacities through their behaviour and activities.
The SME Trade Academy, ITC’s e-learning platform, is a one-stop training portal for trade support institutions and small and medium-sized enterprises, offering practical, vocational training online, with courses ranging from export marketing to supply chain management and access to finance for SMEs.