Meeting New Learning Challenges: How IDI and OLACEFS Delivered the First Regional E-Learning Workshop
IDI’s Strategic Plan Commitment to E-Learning
IDI is nearing the end of its strategic plan for 2001-2006. The plan commits IDI to five goals that members of the INTOSAI community identified as priorities in the late 1990s. The fifth goal sought to “explore the potential of distance learning programs,” and IDI embarked on its first e-learning project to meet this commitment.
IDI has a long and distinguished history of engaging INTOSAI’s regions in capacity-building programs to meet developmental needs. From 2001-2003, the first 3 years of the IDI’s strategic planning cycle, substantial progress was made on goals 1-4 of the strategic plan. At the end of 2003, IDI began work on goal 5. Since e-learning had never before been used as a methodology for meeting regional needs, IDI looked for a region, a demand, and a partner to deliver a project that would explore the potential of e-learning.
Partnership with the OAS and OLACEFS
In October 2003, IDI began a cycle of meetings with international development organizations to find one or more partners for its e-learning program. This was an essential ingredient of the e-learning program, as neither time nor resources were available to build the tools or expertise necessary to create this new stream of work.
Through this partnership approach, IDI was introduced to the e-learning program of the Organization of American States (OAS), a membership organization for countries in the Americas that aims to strengthen cooperation and advance common interests through dialogue and action. The OAS has a large program of e-learning courses that are delivered through its virtual classroom (VC), an internally developed e-learning platform that provides facilitated learning through the Educational Portal of the Americas (www.educoea.org) in Spanish, English, French, and Portuguese. The VC enables the OAS and its partners to deliver vocational education and training to people throughout the Americas, and it has a respected certification program that is important to both governments and employers. The OAS offered to host IDI-funded e-learning courses that met OAS development aims on a cost-recovery basis.
OLACEFS had previously expressed an interest in e-learning as a means of training larger numbers of auditors. Following discussions with the OLACEFS training administrator (the SAI of Venezuela) and an agreement of the OLACEFS General Assembly, IDI and OLACEFS decided to develop an e-learning program based on a 2-week performance auditing classroom course that had been successfully delivered several times.
The Course Was a Year in the Making
IDI and the OAS signed a cooperation agreement in August 2004. IDI and OLACEFS would provide the subject matter expertise, course materials, tutors, and funding, and the OAS would deliver a working course that met its high pedagogical standards and provide advice on delivering the course.
Using the OAS” experience, IDI worked with the SAI of Venezuela to set a project goal of training 60 auditors in approximately 11 weeks through a part-time course. Marcelo Cartaya, of the SAI of Venezuela, was chosen to be the academic coordinator, the central person for developing and delivering the course. In addition to being an IDI training specialist and a performance auditing expert, he was also a key player in developing the OLACEFS regional training approach. During the development phase, Marcelo monitored the redesign and redevelopment of course materials created for the classroom, made sure that they were appropriate to the virtual classroom, and revised strategies suggested by the OAS.
The project also benefited from the work of Tania García, also from the SAI of Venezuela, who served as the subject matter expert. Tania and Marcelo revised the classroom course materials and advised the OAS designers on the interactive elements of the pilot course.
IDI and OLACEFS also had to find and train a group of online tutors. While the academic coordinator ensures that the course delivery is even and appropriate, online tutors interact with students on a daily basis, answer their questions, lead activities, and evaluate coursework. Because the online tutors need to have the same empathetic characteristics as classroom trainers, a decision was made to use OLACEFS training specialists who were about to go through a Course Design and Instructional Techniques Workshop in Quito, Ecuador. The OAS sent a staff member to Quito to train all participants in the virtual classroom methodology.
The OAS, OLACEFS, and IDI decided that seven of these trainers should become online tutors. Six would be allocated 10 students each, while the seventh would act as a “floating” tutor to cover any absences. In most OAS courses, each tutor is allocated up to 30 students; the decision to limit each tutor to 10 students in the OLACEFS program recognized that the role was being filled on a part-time basis and that the duration of the course made it important not to overburden the tutors.
In June 2004 the academic coordinator, subject matter expert, online tutors, and IDI program managers met for the first and only time in Venezuela to define responsibilities, agree on the timetable, and build a network of support. Following this meeting, a 7-week trial of the course took place, with the tutors acting as students. The trial enabled tutors to define and prepare for their roles and to finalize the course materials and exercises.
The Full Pilot Course Was Successfully Concluded In December 2005
IDI facilitated communication with the SAIs and OLACEFS for the project and used a marketing strategy that recognized the need to communicate as much as possible. IDI staff made presentations to the OLACEFS General Assembly and the OLACEFS Regional Training Committee. IDI staff also wrote to the heads of all participating SAIs about the support they were expected to give to participants and tutors. In hindsight, we believe that this support was a major factor in making the course a sucess.
SAIs needed to be aware that their staff (students, tutors, and academic coordinator) needed time and an appropriate IT infrastructure to complete the course requirements. This was one of the major challenges faced by everyone involved since, in an 11-week period, all auditors had important work assignments that could not be postponed. As Silvina Negro, a participant from Argentina, explained, “I didn’t reach the ideal balance between the course and my daily work because I wasn’t in the office but out auditing.”
The same challenges were faced by tutors and the academic coordinator. Marcelo Cartaya stated, “It is a big challenge to make sure that SAIs set aside enough time for the tutors and participants to work on this [project]. It is important that they realize that a virtual course requires just as much time as a classroom course.”
Some facts about the course follow:
* The course was delivered 100 percent online-students and tutors never metfrom September-December 2005.
* Sixty-two participants began the course.
* Fifty-nine participants from 16 countries graduated-a 95-percent success rate in an e-learning environment, where it is not unusual to see 30-50 percent failure rates.
* The course was split into five modules, each with participatory exercises or discussions. The exercises typically involved e-mailing files between the groups, with each student adding his or her own perspectives or comments.
* Students and tutors interacted through organized chatroom sessions and an online discussion forum.
* The final module included an exercise to develop an action plan for performance auditing in each student’s SAI.
Nothing can outweigh the contributions of the people involved, from the academic coordinator and the 7 tutors to the 59 students who graduated from the course. Each spent 11 weeks fitting this virtual course into his or her daily work and demonstrated enormous commitment.
The Future Is Bright for E-Learning in OLACEFS
Minor Sancho, one of the tutors, summarized the value of the pilot e-learning program to OLACEFS in these words:
“These results will, without a doubt, contribute to the implementation of an e-learning model in the OLACEFS region.”
“We will be able to train more people with fewer resources.”
“I’m convinced that we will, within a short period of time, see cooperation between SAIs to design and develop virtual courses to meet local and regional training needs.”
The OLACEFS Regional Training Committee is planning another rollout of the e-learning course in performance auditing and is organizing the training of additional online tutors.
IDI and E-Learnlng-An Addendum
The IDI/OLACEFS course was the first e-learning program IDI organized, and it followed one particular methodology: the virtual classroom. Subsequendy, IDI developed programs using other e-learning methodologies. In November-December 2005, 20 participants from five INTOSAI regions (AFROSAI, ASOSAI, CAROSAI, EUROSAI, and SPASAI) met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for a 2-week participatory workshop in e-learning methodology and were introduced to two pieces of e-learning software. Those participants are using the software to develop their own courses.
In cooperation with the INTOSAI Standing Committee on IT Audit (ISCITA), IDI is converting part of the ISCITA courseware into a 20-hour asynchronous e-learning course on the audit of controls. In an asynchronous course, the participants and tutors do not interact in real time. Typically, the student e-mails questions, and tutors or other students respond when they have time. This course will be developed using the Internet and CD-ROMs in three INTOSAI regions-AFROSAI-E, ASOSAI, and CAROSAI.
IDI has gained some important experiences through its initial e-learning pilot and later projects and is now ready to take further action. There is great potential in this training method, and it is worth investing more in its further development since, as demonstrated by the OLACEFS experience, it allows us to reach a greater number of SAI staff and reduces the costs of travel and accommodation, which constitute the primary costs for international training events.
For additional information, contact IDI’s e-learning Manager, Ms. Archana Shirsat, e-mail: archana.shirsat@idi. no.
Information on all IDI programs can be found in the IDI Update section in each issue of this Journal.
By Patrick Callaghan, U.K. National Audit Office, and Elizabeth Walmann, IDI
In the October 2004 issue of this Journal, Patrick Callaghan, then E-Learning Manager for the INTOSAI Development Initiative (IDI), discussed how e-learning could enhance training and capacitybuilding in the international SAI community. In this article, Patrick Callaghan and Elizabeth Walmann report on the challenges and results of developing INTOSAI’s first regional e-learning course.
Copyright International Journal of Government Auditing Jul 2006
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