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Like all learning institutions, the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) responded to the challenges and the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic by adapting its courses and programmes for virtual delivery. When the strict preventative restrictions became prolonged, the College successfully explored a technological approach to delivering a face-to-face course in a virtual classroom environment.
Post pandemic a new learning and training delivery methodology emerged, “Hybrid learning and training.” The Staff College’s clients now request participants have the option of virtual attendance through Teams or Zoom, or that they attend the training physically. UNSSC sees this as an emerging need and has started acquiring technology that can help bring together online and in-person participants’ worlds for better engagement and learning.
Our team had the opportunity to test these technologies and methods in March 2023. The Staff College facilitated two face-to-face courses in Bangui, Central African Republic:
For this new approach two things were important.
Our Effective Speech Writing and Presentation Skills had sixteen participants. Unfortunately, the instructor for the course, Charles Crawford, could not travel to the Central African Republic due to the United Kingdom’s travel restriction policy.
The team made adequate advanced preparation for the hybrid sessions. Charles would make his presentations via Microsoft Teams, and I (Moyomola Bolarain) would facilitate the practical exercises and activities with participants in the training room. At the time we thought it best to prepare for the challenge of a poor internet connection, so we produced pre-recorded videos of Charles’ presentations to be shown if internet connectivity failed. Fortunately, the internet connection at the training room was very good. Charles was able to present virtually while I facilitated the practical exercises and discussions.
For our Leadership Skills for Programme Support and Administrative Functions Training, one of the participants was unable to attend physically. The team made preparations for them to join remotely and still engage fully with other participants with the following equipment:
During the leadership matters/value game session, each group was provided with a board game and dice, while the online participant accessed the online version of the game. When playing the game, the participants took turns throwing the dice and moving their leader card on the board game. Thanks to technology, both in-person and online participants were able to synchronize their movements and perform the exercises together smoothly.
Our experiences have helped us rethink the cost of travel for resource persons. We now know that, where possible, they can still facilitate and add value virtually. Lastly, in-classroom and remote learners can be co-trained in an active, engaging, and participatory learning experience.
The team can now confidently prepare and implement hybrid learning programmes with the tools available. As the world proceeds with recovering and building back better, the Staff College will continue to adapt and respond to the learning needs of its clients and target audience.