Humanizing e-learning as a response to crises in the MENA

Kaya is an e-learning platform offering free MOOC courses to those working in the humanitarian field (Image via Kaya).

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The need for humanitarian aid in the MENA region has been on the rise since the breakout of the Arab revolts and more specifically the unfolding of the Syrian crisis. The fact that the budget appealed for in the 2016 Regional Refugee and Resilience plan  reached almost $5.8 billion, a 10 percent increase from the previous year, is enough proof of the high demand for humanitarian assistance.  

This increase has automatically led to a higher demand for professionals in the humanitarian field. This is where Kaya decided to step in. This e-learning platform offers free MOOC courses to those working in the humanitarian field. It was launched in 2015, part of the World Humanitarian Summit which took place during that year in Istanbul, and falls under the umbrella of the Humanitarian Leadership Academy.

Kaya aims at empowering and training humanitarians so that they can better respond to the crises taking place in their local communities. So far, the number of users has reached 30,000.

E-learning is the best method that can be used to achieve this mission said Ruba Afani, the communications specialist at the Humanitarian Leadership Academy during an interview with Wamda. This is more valid, “especially that the targeted group is present in dangerous zones where traditional learning methods are less attractive due to the transportation and high commitment required,” she continued.  

During a workshop organized by Kaya in Amman (Image via Kaya).

How it works

The courses offered on the platform could be categorized in three different tracks: first those specified for volunteers, second those specified for humanitarian workers, and third those targeting managers and directors. Other courses are more general and focus on soft skills that can be beneficial to all target groups. Examples of courses include: risk management, project management, and gender issues in humanitarian action.

As for the teaching model, it can either be self-taught, which means that learners organize their reading schedules independently, or blended in which learners are expected to commit to previously assigned webinars and online discussions. The maximum duration of any course ranges between two to three weeks.

The content is provided by institutions and NGOs specialized in the topics given. Courses are either borrowed from those providers as ready made material, or codeveloped with Kaya. Examples of providers include the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, and Save the Children.

According to Ann Vaessen, the senior communication officer at the CHS Alliance which provided Kaya with a course that was translated into Arabic, the e-learning platform is a key partner in  reaching people and communities vulnerable to risk and affected by disaster, conflict, or poverty.

Producing Arabic content

Although most of the courses on Kaya are provided in English and French, the Arabic language is on the priority list of the Academy which has already Arabized more than 35 courses. This number will soon be doubled elaborated Afani, especially after the Academy has conducted a study to trace down the topics needed to be studied by humanitarians in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. The result of the study showed that project management, monitoring, evaluation, and stress management are weak areas that need to be strengthened.

The Academy is currently working on developing content that correspond to the results of the study in partnership with the American University of Beirut and the Global Health Institute.

“It is very important that we incorporate Arabic as a key language if we want to improve the humanitarian response to crises that have affected the Arab region during the last couple of years,” explained Afani who did not deny the difficulty of this mission. The various dialects in the Arab world and the fact that the humanitarian terminology has been coined in foreign languages present challenges that we need to overcome she said.

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