UNESCO organizes the first of a series of online trainings on distance learning solutions for Central Asian countries

10 July 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic around 1billion students and youth, including over 16 million learners in Central Asia, have been affected by school and university closures. While some of them could switch to emergency online learning, not all education institutions and teachers were prepared for this unprecedented educational disruption.

Ms Krista Pikkat, Director of UNESCO Almaty, emphasized that during a webinar series on education sector response to COVID-19 in the Central Asian countries education ministries identified three priority areas for improving distance education. They include improving the use of digital educational platforms, developing high-quality digital content, and developing teachers' competencies for effective use of distance and online learning methods.

To help countries improve the three mentioned above priority areas, UNESCO organizes a series of practical trainings. The trainings will help various education actors to better address the current situation and ensure the continuity of learning. The Global Education Coalition, launched by UNESCO in March 2020, also supports the initiative.

How to select and use digital education platforms

The first training on main functions and limitations of LMSs (Learning Management Systems) and CMSs (Content Management Systems) took place on 2 July 2020. It brought together nearly 100 participants from four Central Asian countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan - and other countries, such as Armenia and Moldova.

Mr Zhan Tao, Director of UNESCO Institution for Information Technologies in Moscow, in the opening of the webinar said that Learning Management Systems is an exciting part of online education, which requires involvement of both education and technology sectors, while also involving Artificial Intelligence and big data. He stressed that the use of LMS and CMS must be innovative, and this training could be an excellent opportunity to show where and how innovation can be created.

During his presentation, Dr Igor Belyanin, Lobachevsky State University (Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia), provided an overview of several LMSs and CMSs, among them Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, Moodle, OpenEDx and eLearning Server 4G. Dr Belyanin outlined key features and functions of the systems, as well as their advantages and disadvantages. He also explained how to select the most appropriate platform and maintain these platforms.

In the second part of the training, country representatives shared their experiences in dealing with learning management platforms. While some of them, like Kazakhstan, have already experimented with LMS for secondary and higher education, others are still discovering this online distance-learning tool. Some participants mentioned that they are interested in learning more about distance learning solutions, in particular, how to adapt learning materials to online format and use open educational resources.

Way forward

While the trainings focus on technological solutions, it is vital to develop teachers capacities to use these solutions. As underlined by Dr Fengchun Miao, Chief of Unit, UNESCO HQ, In these trainings we will adopt human-centered approach, as people are at the heart of any type of such initiative. And we hope that participants will share the acquired knowledge within their countries and will start using it in practice.

An evaluation survey distributed after the workshop helped to identify participants level of involvement and areas of interest, so that the next training sessions would be organized considering their needs.

A series of similar virtual trainings in Pacific countries was carried out in May 2020 with trainers from Lark, Khan Academy and Moodle, all of them are partners of the Global Education Coalition.

The recording of the first training is available here.

Related information:
The Vice Ministers of Education in the Central Asian countries agreed on common challenges in distance learning
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UNESCO, UNICEF and WHO support Central Asian countries in planning and managing the reopening of schools
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