Innovating E-Learning for Capacity Development

  • 2017/06/29     Dresden, Germany

    Design: Claudia Matthias/UNU-FLORES

    Design: Claudia Matthias/UNU-FLORES

    Think piece by Kristin Meyer, Capacity Development and Governance Unit

    Individual champions are one of the most important drivers for the sustainable management of environmental resources. Yet, they often lack the capacity or institutional support necessary to design and implement strategies and apply methods that result in economic, social, and environmental benefits.

    Capacity building must be at the heart of moving from theory to practice. Increasingly, individuals need to understand different perspectives in their endeavour to manage the complexities of real-world problems. This is particularly true in the case of the Nexus Approach, which examines the challenges related to interconnected resources and sectors. It is clear that, for capacity building measures to be successful, innovative approaches are required .

    Online Courses are a powerful tool, not only to transfer knowledge and allow participants to acquire nexus competencies, but more broadly to engage with implementation challenges and to close critical capacity gaps, which in turn make the practical application of the Nexus Approach possible. But instead of relying on traditional modes of passing knowledge from an instructor to the instructed, a holistic approach should be applied.. Where capacity building efforts are designed in an integrated manner, providing a platform for dialogue, cooperation, best practice sharing, and facilitation of evidence-based decision-making (part of the science-policy interface). Only then can an e-learning programme truly speak to the multitude of needs and activities carried out by diverse stakeholders (see figure).

    Figure 1 from the Technical Report

    Figure 1 from the Technical Report

    The Technical Report on “Capacity Building for Nexus Implementation” presents an innovative approach to capacity building that embeds e-learning in the process of solving important environmental and societal challenges. To this end, at UNU-FLORES we designed an e-learning programme to contribute to scientific advancement and practical application. It also has a multidimensional character by allowing those involved – whether participant, tutor, or UNU-FLORES staff – to engage in dialogue and mutual learning. The resulting interface between actors from science and policy supports the formation of knowledge networks. These networks can facilitate cooperation to solve policy-relevant nexus problems and thus contribute to best practices on nexus implementation.

    Such an integrated programme, which links knowledge and skills acquisition with current policy challenges, relies on a number of elements. So should capacity building efforts respond to capacity needs of participants – here primarily decision makers and practitioners from developing countries and emerging economies. In other words, efforts should be demand-driven.  Online courses that are demand-driven ensure that research and training remain closely connected to the real-world challenges  implementers are facing and thus support problem-solving.

    Closing the gap between science and policy also means adjusting the methods applied for delivering the e-learning programme. For example, instead of testing participants’ knowledge using multiple choice questions, we opted for an assessment option that explores different perspectives and skills. The main aim is to allow participants of online courses to apply what they have learned to actual cases, so that nexus methods can quickly become operational. Case studies, scenarios taken from literature, and the participants’ own experiences, therefore, play a critical role for completing a set of assignments that cumulate in a final portfolio. This portfolio not only tests participants’ understanding of the learned material by employing a range of skills, methods, and approaches, but also serves as a reference document for the future. Additionally, in line with our holistic approach to capacity building, portfolios can be analysed and thus provide outputs for stakeholder groups as well as contribute to the identification of research gaps, policy challenges, or further capacity needs.

    It follows that the key to successfully building capacity for nexus implementation is an integrated view on capacity building measures, such as online courses, that links scientific research and subject matter expertise with implementation.

    Further Reading

    Related News:
    Nexus Observatory Online Courses Back in Its Second Round
    Rethinking Infrastructure Design for Multiple Resource Use
    Considering Costs of Environmental Management from ‘Cradle to Grave’
    Accountability and Autonomy in Environmental Management
    Implementing a Nexus Approach: Does Governance Matter?