With a picturesque location, clean mountain air and intense learning program, ARGO successfully launched the Web Academy Summer School. Over the course of four days, approximately 30 representatives of civil society organizations studied the fundamentals of online courses creation for the civil sector.
“We have been preparing for this school for months. A visit to Sweden this May helped us a lot in that preparation. The Uppsala University teachers shared pedagogical principles of creating online courses with us. Our IT consultant from Sweden, Dag Lanerfeldt, helped us to choose a platform. In the future, he will also help us to ensure the quality of our training programs and will provide us with technical support,” said Web Academy coordinator Nelli Asmatullayeva.
According to Ms. Asmatullayeva, before choosing this platform, three distance learning systems were tested. Eventually, Talent LMS was chosen because it has a number of advantages compared with others.
“First, it is interface simplicity and intuitivism. Students don’t need much time to understand how it works. Second, the platform provides ample opportunities such as placement of video content, and testing tasks with different types of questions, which is very important. It has the capability to embed other web pages into the course body and it also has many synchronous and asynchronous communication tools (Note: Asynchronous message communication is when participants log into a system at different times, availability of forums and messaging design patterns; synchronous message communication is when many participants log in concurrently, for example for webinars.) The third feature is high security and data protection”, noted Ms. Asmatullayeva.
Experienced video editor, sound editor and designer Yevgeniy Bovsunovskiy was invited to the Summer School as a trainer. He helped the participants learn the basic principles of creating and editing video content.
“A lot of video processing programs exist, for both professional and amateur videos. The course authors don’t need to spend much time to create visual content. For this we have chosen a Movie Studio application standard for Windows. It is the successor of Movie Maker video editor familiar to many people. It allows transforming images, music and short videos into a true video”, commented Mr. Bovsunovskiy.
Over just several hours the Summer School participants were able to record a video, edit it, overlay photos and music, and make an authentic video.
“The whole training is very interesting. Apart from the theoretical part, I liked the practical part very much too, in terms of creating my own movie. We were recording videos, and adding images and music to them. For me it’s very important and interesting because I have never done something like this”, commented Khimiya Suerkulova, a Summer School participant from Kyrgyzstan.
All of the Summer School participants are pioneers. As noted by many of them, the current experience is very important for civil society development on the whole, because all of them are experienced coaches who will develop new online training courses.
“In essence, we have elaborated a course on how to create courses. For convenience, we have recorded video instruction for authors so that they feel themselves what it means – to study online, and at the same time can get acquainted with the system. We hope that the knowledge acquired will help them develop and launch their own distance learning courses”, said Ms. Asmatullayeva.
Twenty six people took the training on online course creation for CSOs in the first in Central Asia Summer School. The participants worked in several thematic groups, including: advocacy, volunteerism, fundraising, CSO management, project management, organizational development, community mobilization, and program and project development. In October, the Web Academy plans to launch pilot draft courses that will be approved by a quality assessment commission. Further on, training will take place in small groups – five to six people in each, in different streams.
“In the coming 2-3 months, training participants will continue working on creation of courses, and our experts will help them in the process. Courses that will pass the commission will be placed on the Web Academy platform. Of course, we will meet our participants again in order to finalize, improve the courses and make adjustments if needed. A thorough analysis will be conducted, students’ wishes and assessments will be taken into consideration, as well as organization of distance education itself,” added Web Academy coordinator Nelli Asmatullayeva.
ARGO plans to organize similar schools every six months. The next student stream will be tentatively arranged within the framework of the Winter School.
“This experience is very helpful and I intend to implement these ideas already in the near future. I am confident that it will produce amazing results. Undoubtedly, ARGO should continue providing such courses, and they need to create even more advanced Web Academy courses,” stated Babek Mamedov, a participant from Azerbaijan.
“Not all organizations have an opportunity for strengthening their capacity. I hope that after we create online courses, our partner CSOs will have access to them, and thus they will be able to increase their knowledge and skills level. It’s wonderful, and thank you to ARGO for such an opportunity,” stated Zaro Kurbanbekova, a trainer from Tajikistan.
This first summer school training on creation of online courses for CSO employees in Central Asia has finished. The organizers received positive feedback, and the participants left possessing a wealth of new knowledge and ideas. As participants noted, the Summer School helped them gain insight into distance learning in a new fashion. By the way, all the participants are experienced trainers, and most of them did not have experience in working online before the Summer School.
Distance education has a number of advantages: it is not location and time bound, it has a relatively low cost, and it provides an opportunity for ongoing improvement that allows courses to be topical at any time. Teachers have a flexible working schedule and a variety of tools. For many civil society organizations’ employees who are working in the most remote areas of Central Asia and Azerbaijan, distance learning often represents the only possibility of acquiring knowledge required for them relevant to their fields.