Catholic Relief Services Builds Humanitarian E-Learning To Expedite Disaster Relief

Written by Jeanette — Posted in Case Studies, Community, Customers

This blog post is by Articulate Community Manager Jeanette Brooks.

Imagine for a moment: You’re a rural farmer living in a small community in Africa. Your region has just endured a devastating flood. Although you and your family are safe, most of your crops have been tragically wiped out. Relief workers are on the way to help rebuild damaged dwellings and provide emergency supplies — but what about your future? Will your farm survive? Will you be able to rebuild your business? Will your agricultural community ever be able to recover?

Questions like these are what inspired Catholic Relief Services to develop an important e-learning course called Seed Systems in Natural Disaster Risk Management. Leslie Blanton, a Learning Advisor with CRS, used Articulate Studio ‘09 to create the five-module course for agriculture and emergency staff. The goal:  to help relief workers more effectively assist disaster-affected communities through agricultural development.

Leslie is based in West Africa and develops online tutorials, communication pieces, and e-learning courses for CRS staff worldwide. The Seed Systems course is relevant for any region, but it draws on CRS’s extensive experience with assisting farmers in Africa, Central America, and Asia. You can take a look at one of the four modules that Leslie built by clicking below.

View a sample of the Seed Systems Course

Leslie traveled to the U.S. for the Learning Solutions 2011 conference in March, and I had a chance to catch up with her when she stopped by the Articulate booth. Here’s what she shared:

Leslie, tell us a little about your Seed Systems course.

It was a collaborative project between the World Bank’s Agricultural and Rural Development Department, CRS’s Learning Unit, and CRS’s Principal Technical Advisor for Agroenterprise. The course is about how to use agricultural development to respond to disasters. We want to help affected communities to strengthen their seed supply chains, so that the right varieties of high-quality seed are available to farmers at the right time.

Why the focus on seeds?

Well, we’ve seen a rise in the impact of droughts and floods in developing countries. And along with that is an increased need for seed-based responses. Communities need to be able to efficiently rebuild their food supply and agribusiness as part of their recovery process. You never know when a disaster will happen, and if  the right seed isn’t available to farmers when they need it, they could miss an entire planting season. That obviously can have a huge impact on how quickly (or if) a community is able to recover. It also determines whether a community ends up needing prolonged food aid in addition to other forms of relief.

The challenge is, often disaster response efforts are led by people with no experience in agriculture or seed. So sometimes there’s a misdiagnosis of the disaster’s impact, or the relief measures don’t quite match the need — which of course can delay recovery and result in inefficient use of resources. The Seed Systems course is designed to help alleviate these kinds of problems by helping workers learn how to approach seed-based responses more strategically.

Why’d you choose the Articulate suite to build this course?

It’s my favorite authoring tool! It’s easy to use and intuitive. And it has a good mix of pre-fab interactions (such as the options available in Articulate Engage) along with plenty of ways to customize the content for our particular needs. I like how the tools allow me to get very specific with the visual design if I want or need to.

What are some of the Articulate features you leveraged most?

Each of the five modules ends with a knowledge check, which I built in Articulate Quizmaker. I made extensive use of Quizmaker’s Slide View to design the quiz slides, so that they look consistent with the rest of the course.

I also used Engage to build several interactions (a Tabs Interaction, a Circle Diagram, Flashcards, and a Process Interaction). I like how easy it is to apply a transparent background to an interaction and allow the PowerPoint slide master to show through. That really helps unify the content visually, so that the whole course feels seamless.

Having quick and easy tools to do all this was especially important in the Seeds course. The aggressive project timeline didn’t allow a lot of time for designing and sketching and storyboarding! Instead, I prototyped and authored the content directly in PowerPoint and Articulate, and was able to develop all five modules in only about three months.

Did you use any particular resources in the Articulate community when you were building your course?

Yes! I used many of the things I’ve learned from Tom Kuhlmann’s blog, such as leveraging slide masters. I also used community resources such as the tabbed index cards and multicolor tabs notebook.

Who’s using the course now?

The course has been distributed by the World Bank on flash drives. CRS has also made it available through our learning management system. And, because CRS is a member of LINGOs, (a consortium of over 60 international organizations involved in humanitarian relief, development, conservation, and health), we’re able to provide this content for free to other international NGOs and their field staff. So the reach is certainly quite wide!

What’s next on your e-learning to-do list?

I’m currently using Articulate Studio to build an agro-enterprise course for our staff and partners to help local farmers find better ways to market their output. Our field workers use a course management system called GoCourse to download and view resources out in the field, and Articulate works great with that! So, rather than having to learn a whole new set of authoring tools within the course management system, I’ve been able to do all my work in Articulate Studio and place the output right within the field workers’ system. That has made a big difference in the project timeline!

Great job, Leslie! It’s awesome to see how Articulate Studio is being used to make a powerful difference in helping disaster-affected communities to respond, recover, and rebuild.

1 response to “Catholic Relief Services Builds Humanitarian E-Learning To Expedite Disaster Relief”


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