The Learning Series – Learning So Far

Project: Learning Project 28th September 2017

The first two webinars in the Learning Series, Building a Case Study and Writing Lessons Papers, started the series off with a flying start. A total of 184 people registered over the two sessions, and so far 160 have attended or watched one or both of the webinars. In short, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for these sessions – and the wider series – across the DEPP and beyond.

The webinars themselves were a roaring success: in the first session our speakers Tamar Gabay and Mariagni Ellina – both MEL specialists from Action Against Hunger – shared their knowledge around building case studies clearly and comprehensively. Robina Shaheen (Head of Global MEL at Action Against Hunger) and Paul Gunaratnam (MEAL Manager from HLA) led an interesting and lively, but also very practical, discussion around writing lessons papers yesterday. In both cases, feedback was unanimously positive and interaction was high, with participants not only asking questions but also answering them and contributing their own learning and knowledge to the conversation.

But as you can imagine, it wasn’t all perfect and I’ve already learned a lot. At first, there was some confusion around timings (my fault) and the list of technical difficulties was long (also partly my fault!), which combined meant that some people weren’t able to attend. So second time around I was much clearer on timings, giving the start time in multiple time zones, and made sure I had enough time and headspace to sort out technical problems – both my own and other people’s.

One of the most helpful things, for speakers and attendees alike, was to have an additional person – in this case, me – not leading webinar but just monitoring the chat and managing the technical side. (It might sound obvious, but in some cases this could definitely be overlooked – I’ve made a note, for instance, to find someone to do this for me when I’m leading the Localisation of Learning webinar at the beginning of November.) This worked perfectly until it came to also managing the powerpoint presentation in yesterday’s webinar – in all the hubbub of setting up I’d failed to read through or print the presentation so that I’d know when to move onto the next point! In the end I got it up on my phone – not the most elegant solution, but it did for the moment and I’ll be sure to print it next time.

The best thing about the Learning Series so far has been the high level of interaction and engagement from participants. We’ve had some very insightful comments and thought-provoking questions (some of which have led to discussions in the Learning Platform forum). It can be hard to get people to engage during webinars, and in this respect I’ve found the chat function to be invaluable. People are understandably hesitant to speak up out loud, but allowing them to share their learning and opinions in writing elicits a lot of new perspectives from all types of humanitarian actors, taking the conversation in all sorts of interesting directions. It’s vital to make it clear from the start that all comments and questions are welcome any time via the chat – without it, the Learning Series wouldn’t be nearly as rich and learning-filled as it has been so far.

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