Report-Final report GuyanaAIDSCompetenceDevelopment20Jan2011.pdf
Together with Usa, I facilitated the support to the UNAIDS Guyana partnership. It involved two missions and distant support to Blended Learning over a 12 month period. We learnt a lot. The key learnings and recommendations regarding Blended Learning.
Lessons learnt on the Blended Learning Program
This was the first process for the Constellation to use the Blended Learning Programme at the centre of the training process. We learned several things:
- The Blended Learning Programme is highly complementary to learning events. It promotes more learning/ understanding/ applying through combining concepts and practice, individual work and team work, action and reflection, face-to-face and virtual interaction;
- It is effective when introduced early in the process, as part of the overall roadmap, to help motivate participants from the beginning;
- It works better when teams read and reflect together on the content of the modules.
- The content, especially the quizzes and the stimulating questions, triggered reflection and discussion. Several facilitators also shared parts of the content with their colleagues.
- It needs to be accompanied regularly by distant technical and moral support. We cannot expect facilitators to use it properly without support.
- Coaches need to learn together with the facilitators as peers, not as teachers. Skype conversations need to be well prepared with questions that stimulate reflection on the way of working. Coaches must learn just as well as the facilitators.
- It needs to be accompanied by at least two local face-to-face meetings to learn and share among team members. The first face-to-face should be at least 6 days to set a foundation;
- It can take two to more than 12 months to complete, depending on availability and commitment of the participants;
- It requires regular reminders, energizers, motivators to keep participants focused and on track throughout the modules, and to prevent drop-outs;
- It needs local team leaders that need a variety of skills: planning, communication and leadership skills are crucial next to a good understanding of the approach.
Challenges on the Blended Learning Program
- Facilitators and coaches worked across several time zones. This made the planning of skype conferences difficult.
- Availability of the CD-Rom based version of BL was limited. Defect copies during the first learning event caused some delays in the availability for some facilitators.
- Limited internet availability and connectivity reduced full participation of the facilitators and in some cases the coaches.
- Planning of joint skype conversations. Availability of facilitators to go through the process as individuals and in teams was limited. Facilitators had to combine the process commitments with other work load.
- Personal disruptions prevented continuity among participants: having a baby, change of role/responsibilities in the organization, study, financial problems, increased family responsibilities or changed family priorities, etc. The result was that members have difficulties finding time to practice in the field together and then reflecting together.
- Technical problems with passwords and gaining access to BL. Facilitators also need specific coaching, explanations on the use of forums and blogs. This is also important to overcome obstacles to share stories online. This coaching should be done in an interactive way during the face-to-face events.
- Some facilitators lacked self-discipline to write on the field experience and post to share with the coaches and other members.
- Loss of momentum during several periods. A group of facilitators still haven’t fully completed all the six modules.
Recommendations for coaches and facilitators of Blended Learning
- An effective transfer of the approach requires ‘cycles of events’. Each cycle consists of a face-to-face learning event with practice, continued practice in teams, distant technical support (BL, skype, email) and regular and continued contact. The focus lies on informal/casual contact with moral support, encouragement and friendship building through email, Facebook, skype and Ning.
- A transparent plan of the various phases must be communicated in advance. A roadmap should be introduced including the possibility of certifying as facilitators and nomination as coaches at the beginning to motivate participants. Coaches should introduce BL early in the first learning event.
- Coaches must be flexible, responsive, and respectful to local realities, resources, strengths, IT-levels and vulnerabilities;
- Combine a variety of channels to communicate. Use both formal and informal/ casual types of communication.
- Balance the looking for strengths and expressing confidence in people’s capacity with the necessity of taking action and practice in the field;
- Promote not just local ownership but also local leadership, especially when Blended Learning is used;
- Develop a foundation of trust, friendship and respect. Go beyond the formal partnership and provide meaningful personal and professional accompaniment.
- Believe in the essence of the approach, but use different types of packaging and channels given the situation.