Five ways we are transitioning online
The winding paths on the United Nations campus in Turin, Italy have never been this quiet for so many days.
Until March, life at the Centre had been business as usual: hundreds of Master students had just arrived for the face-to-face portion of their programmes, staff and participants were inspired after trying out new virtual and augmented reality experiences during Innovation Day, and programme managers were busy organizing training activities including hackathons, massively open online courses, and educational games.
Then, it hit. COVID-19 has reshaped our world into slices of silence and stories of resilience.
But, in the midst of this crisis, life hasn’t stopped. Neither has learning. We are living in extraordinary times and they call for extraordinary measures.
For the past 55 years, the ITCILO has been an innovator in the field of training technology. In fact, in the 1980s, the Centre was already making its first forays into distance learning. The Turin method is known for blending a traditional learning journey with self-guided online modules, tutored sections, webinars, assessments, and more.
Fast forward to 2020: This pandemic caught us all off guard. The Centre is currently reacting in record time, with the help of our everyday tool: innovation. It’s our go-to resource for solving all kinds of problems. Including this crisis.
Everything needs to go digital. It helps immensely that we already have all the elements, templates, and tools we need to provide online learning opportunities. Now, we need to start the hard work of putting them to use, and translating hundreds of face-to-face and blended courses into online ones.
We’ve been forced into new routines. We’re working from home, creating community despite distance, and accelerating on what was always relevant but never essential: distance learning.
Here are five things the ITCILO is doing to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic:
In the wake of the countrywide lockdown, the Centre immediately assembled an internal digital taskforce to ensure the continuation of services, especially courses.
This brainstorming phase involves an exploration of our past, present, and future. We are using our own training methods—agile project management, design thinking, foresight, and crisis planning—to solve this unprecedented challenge.
The ITCILO community is now ensuring that all upcoming face-to-face and blended courses are quickly adapted for transition to the e-campus, our online learning platform.
Mere hours after the lockdown was announced, programme managers had already created a list of the first round of face-to-face and blended courses to be moved online.
Now, using a virtual reality-powered video conferencing tool, staff members are discussing how to repackage courses in terms of tools and technologies.
All ITCILO trainers will attend virtual training-of-trainer sessions. On the agenda: how to translate face-to-face learning methods to an online space, all about leveraging online conferencing tools, and tips on fostering active engagement with students.
These sessions will help trainers prepare to work their classroom magic in a digital space. We aim to preserve the essence of our training, whether it’s online or offline: a participatory and interactive learning environment.
Although this upgrade was (and still is) a part of our long-term plan, we are accelerating toward a short-term solution to be rolled out over the next few weeks.
This solution aims to expand capacity, enhance content, and add new features to make the experience feel seamless. Beyond a simple upgrade, we are thinking deeply about what an online learning experience should look like.
Does it involve videos with a storytelling approach? Tailor-made educational games? Self-guided topics? Are there new methods of teaching we haven’t yet considered?
What is normally enjoyable work can become stressful, especially during a crisis. This mandatory, month-long work-from-home experience is new for all of us, and presents unique challenges.
We value hard work, but we also recognize the importance of taking a break, reflecting, and adjusting. Resilience is a work-in-progress.
"Agility, flexibility, and resiliency aren’t just crucial skills for 21st century students. They’re also vital skills for 21st century institutions—especially in an era when disruptive superbugs and superstorms are predicted to become all the more common."
– Goldie Blumenstyk, Chronicle of Higher Education
We can’t predict the future. A week from now, we may look back at this story and reconsider many of our choices.
And, unfortunately, the sense of unease and uncertainty that has taken root in Italy is already showing up in countries across the globe.
We are confronting these feelings with solidarity and knowledge. Countries, communities, and campuses can’t do it alone.
Boosted by our agility, resilience, and innovative spirit, our community will make it through this pandemic—and learn how to prepare for the next one. Our post-crisis world won’t be the same, but the experience will make us stronger.
Here's what our programme managers have to say about the experience:
While we plan, we’re also considering the lessons learned from our existing e-learning solutions.
Here are three ITCILO online learning projects that may inspire you:
25 free, self-guided e-learning courses, at the time of writing
How we’re using virtual and augmented reality on campus
Insights on online learning from the Chief Learning Innovation
We may have given up the classroom, but we haven't given up on learning. The Centre is taking all its face-to-face courses online. Find a course that fits your needs.