Online Cross-Border Learning Contribution in Professional Development

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a series of changes in our lifestyles. Among these ways of learning has also been affected, in some way getting limited and in the other opening up new horizons. Online learning or often referred to as virtual or e-learning has been a lesser-known or explored process before the pandemic. But the pandemic has shown us the power, ease, effectiveness, and sense of urgency towards online education. All these make us think of online learning as an alternative to some extent and in the future complementing traditional education.

For students, academicians and professionals it is a must to continue the learning process for developing self. The various online platforms like Swayam, edX, Coursera, Acumen Academy and many others are offering numerous courses with either free or paid subscription options. These diverse courses are very significant in supporting knowledge, skill development, and gaining expertise. The period of lockdown has shown an immense rise in the participation of learners towards using their times for some meaningful purpose. In this blog, I will be sharing the worth of online learning through my experiences, and how it supported me in my fellowship.

With my interest in Social Development, and with support from the AIF Clinton Fellowship program, I enrolled myself in an online course by Acumen Academy and NavoEd. Here I made a team name “the Young Tale” and was able to connect 8 international members across the globe to co-create engagements during the course. As a team leader I got the opportunity to facilitate the following activities for myself and others in our team:

Team members across the borders coming together to participate in Social Entrepreneurship course by Acumen Academy.
Team members across the borders coming together to participate in the Social Entrepreneurship course by Acumen Academy. Photo Credits: Shashi Kumar.

Weekly Meetings

Just after the official start of the course, our team initiated to have interactions over the community page. A WhatsApp group was also created for the convenience of sharing. At the end of every week, we had a video meeting to discuss our understandings, presenting our assignments, and co-create activities. This helped a lot in knowing different perspectives on a single issue involving Social Entrepreneurship. One of our team members shared her start-up story of toy designing and craftsmanship works.

Snap from the first week team meeting to discuss the first module and plan the next workshops.
Snap from the first-week team meeting to discuss the first module and plan the next workshops. Photo Credits: Shashi Kumar; Courtesy- to the Young Tale team members.

Modules

Acumen Academy in association with NavoEd has designed some very interesting and informative social entrepreneurship theories and practices with examples from real-life experiences. Every module contains reading materials, workshop discussion points, and an assignment template with instructions & examples. Every week new module starts and lets us understand a concept in great depth. This demonstrates the structured way of the learning process with engaging in many activities.

Assignments: Self & Group

Towards the end of every module, one assignment follows for self in prototyping ideas into templates. This further is needed to be co-created to design group learnings in form of assignments. Once all the assignments are completed, it gets submitted in the global platform. Here we also have our sharing and can go through others learning as well.

Life Map activity of first module in the course. Here the significant life changes are traced to know self better.
Life Map activity of the first module in the course. Here the significant life changes are traced to know self better. Photo Credits: Shashi Kumar.

Getting Feedback

The option of getting instant feedback from the team and the larger community of the course is a privilege. This helps us to know various perspectives and possibilities to improve our ideas, designs, and understandings. While working on the last group assignment to design a launch plan of a social entrepreneur idea, I could get some instant feedback. This included how we should incorporate ideas of all team members, divide roles and facilitate the workshop. The feedbacks improved our workshop timings, availability, open sharing, and accomplishment of course for all in the group.

Certificate of Accomplishment for the Social Entrepreneurship course by Acumen Academy and NavoEd.
Certificate of Accomplishment for the Social Entrepreneurship course by Acumen Academy and NavoEd. Photo Credits: Acumen Academy.

Support of the Online Course into My Fellowship

I could see few changes in the way I was delivering to my host organization project. I was able to design a theory of change for my project on sustainable agriculture and livelihood models. This helped me to further design an infographic that was shared with interns to make them understand our works. I was able to use my understanding from the workshop templates to design questionnaires for organizing Focused Group Discussions with communities. Further, it developed my skills in drafting grant proposal writings. By all means, the online learning and sharing with the international team members was a great accomplishment in a short span of over six weeks.

Theory of Change was designed by me for my Host Organisation project.
Theory of Change was designed by me for my Host Organisation project. Photo Credits: Shashi Kumar & Acumen Academy.

Shashi is serving as an American India Foundation (AIF) Clinton Fellow with Srijan Foundation in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. For his fellowship project, he is developing strategic initiatives to inform women farmers about various models and organic farming to increase production and ensure household-level food and nutrition security through better income and livelihood opportunities. Shashi was born in Aurangabad, Bihar, and brought up in Jaduguda, in Jamshedpur, an uranium township of India. He completed his schooling in Computer Science from the Central School. He graduated in Mass Communication in order to connect with rural people. During his studies, he enjoyed learning about photography, documentary making, advertising, public relations, rural development and new media. With this, he started the Garib Samachar initiative with three peers to make social documentaries of communities on varied social issues. He served as a Gandhi Fellow in the Transformation of Aspirational District Programme of NITI Aayog in Begusarai, Bihar. This equipped him with proper professional skills, capacity building, and provided him with a platform to work on quality education. He supported 129 government schools in two block-level education departments through capacitive building of block officers, cluster coordinators, head masters, teachers and community on more than 6 school processes. Later he was selected for a special project to support the Jehanabad district administration in documentation and strategy creation for Jal Shakti Abhjiyan under the guidance of the District Magistrate. After the successful completion, Shashi released a self-made documentary about Jal Shakti Abhiyan Jehanabad by Shri Barun Mitra, Ad. Secretary, Defence Production with Jehanabad DM and district administration. He wants to serve communities in their development (physical, cognitive, social, and spiritual) process and public policy to witness the change. He wants to promote stories of change through the means of storytelling and social documentaries. He believes in the power of stories to transform lives in the context of India.

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