The COVID-19 pandemic has forced WMO and the international community, to rethink its working methods and to adapt many capacity development, education and training activities to address the needs of Members and ensure business continuity.
Building on this momentum, the Cabinet Office of the Secretary-General organized an internal WMO Hub exchange dialogue on distance learning delivery on 23 October. The aim of the virtual dialogue was to strengthen internal communication and exchange of knowledge among the WMO Secretariat on issues that are timely and relevant to the Organization’s work and that contribute to the international agenda.
The discussion focused on the opportunities and challenges provided by distance and hybrid learning and provided background information, available resources, and measures currently being taken by the Education and Training Office of the Member Services and Development Department.
The opportunities that were highlighted included:
- broader reach to learners in need
- lower carbon footprint
- lower delivery costs
- flexibility of scheduling
- long-term engagement with students.
The challenges addressed concerned unfamiliar delivery methods for many trainers and students, study space issues at home, reaching those with limited access to technology, particularly in developing countries, and the time required for instructors to invest in preparation and conversion to distance learning.
Also presented at the event was the perspective of a research-intensive academic institution and a long-standing WMO partner, the University of Reading, which has been applying online practices for some time, which made for an easy transition in March 2020. While it has moved back to blended and on-campus learning and teaching since October 2020, all learning material is available online and there is a choice for online or on-campus interactive sessions, including those related to computing labs and meteorological instruments.
Good practices and lessons learned from various collaborative initiatives with WMO Technical Departments were also shared. The 2020 Education and Training Innovations course served as an example of a successful large-scale online initiative that reached over 250 participants from various training institutions. The course was based on the recent publication, WMO Global Campus Innovations. The number of distance learning courses provided by WMO Regional Training Centres (RTC) has increased rapidly in the past year due to the needs presented and the means shared through training.