Peacebuilding 101

online course for an international humanitarian aid organization

As lead instructional designer, I worked with an international humanitarian aid organization to transform an in-person peacebuilding training into an online format in order to reach a wider audience than just those that could come to the training in person. At the highest level, the training provides practitioners with information, resources, and interactive exercises regarding how to understand and analyze conflict, envision peace and identify a peacebuilding response, and measure progress.

Participants on the first day of the training. Photo credit: Yohan Perrera.

Given that this course was based on an annual in-person training based in Africa, my team travelled to Foulpointe, Madagascar to film the training in order to integrate relevant aspects of in-person workshops into the online course. For instance, he first day of the in-person training included a series of workshops in which participants learned how to use several methods and frameworks to define and analyze a fictional conflict, including personal reflection, actors mapping, the "conflict tree" model, and the pyramid model.

In order to facilitate personal reflection in an online environment, I designed a series of free-response questions within a virtual notebook. As the course progresses, learners receive additional opportunities to reflect on course content, as represented through additional "tabs" in the notebook. I created a variable for each response such that the system captures text entered. At the end of the course, participants have the option to print their response through a custom html document that populates the document with the text entered by the learner through each custom variable. In addition to providing opportunities for personal reflection through free-response questions, I also embedded videos, where appropriate, of how participants in the in-person workshop responded to similar questions.

After completing reflection questions for themselves, learners have the option of watching how participants in the in-person training responded to similar questions. Learners may navigate to previous questions through the corresponding "tabs" in the notebook.

In order to teach learners in an online context the concept of actors mapping, I designed an exercise in which users learn about a case study from Kenya. After receiving information about the case study and identifying stakeholders, learners may hover over a graphic map of these stakeholders to learn how each stakeholder relates to one another.

An interactive map visualizing various actors in a conflict and their relationships to one another. When the learner hovers over a type of actor, the corresponding actor in the case study appears.

As for the conflict tree exercise, I designed an interaction in which learners apply aspects of the case study from Kenya to the conflict tree model. To demonstrate learning, users drag and drop aspects of the case study onto the appropriate part of the tree — the branches, trunk, or roots, where the branches represent effects of the conflict, the truck represents the core issues, and the roots represent underlying causes. I also embedded a video of how participants in the in-person workshop used the same model for a fictional case study to provide online learners with other examples of how to use the framework.

Aspects of the case study are provided on the left side of the screen. After the learner drops an item onto the correct part of the tree, it appears on that part of the tree. After completing the exercise, learners may watch a video of one group's use of the conflict tree model at the in-person workshop.

To provide online learners with the experience of applying the pyramid model, I designed an interaction in which learners watch four videos regarding a case study of peacebuilding projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After watching each video, the learner drags and drops the images representing the projects onto the correct part of the pyramid model. Based on this action, learners received feedback for why each project may or may not be considered a certain type of approach.

First, the learner watches a series of videos covering different projects. Then, the learner drags each representative image onto the part of the pyramid the case study represents and receives feedback based on their action.

While several of the exercises in the online course were derived from the in-person workshop, some exercises were unique to the online course. For example, the print materials provided by the client included an individual quiz intended to help practitioners identify their own individual conflict style. As self-awareness of one's own conflict style is important when analyzing how to respond to conflict on a larger scale, I transformed this static quiz into an interactive one. Learners drag a slider for each question of the quiz to indicate the extent to which the statement reflects their own style. At the end of the quiz, learners get scores that help them understand which styles they tend to exhibit more or less of. Learners may click each of the styles for more information. I created a variable for each score such that the system captures the data and is able to populate a custom html document with it, along with text-entry data.

To reflect on their own conflict styles, learners go through an interactive quiz. Based on their responses, learners receive scores relating to different types of conflict styles. The learner may click a style to learn more.

In addition to the individual conflict styles quiz, the online course also features a unique interaction that provides information about challenges practitioners often face when trying to measure the progress of peacebuilding projects. In order to convey this information, I conceptualized a maze that functions both as a metaphor for the challenges presented, as well as an engaging exercise in which learners actively drag a pencil graphic through the maze in order to learn about each challenge.

Learners must drag a virtual pencil through the maze to access content. When the learner drags the pencil over an icon, text appears and audio plays, explaining a common challenge regarding measuring progress. After the learner completes the maze, all icons appear in color and the learner is prompted to continue.

By presenting content in an interactive way, providing frequent opportunities to reflect and demonstrate learning, including ample case-studies, and embedding videos of other interpretations of material, I aimed to make the experience of completing this course as engaging as the in-person workshop. Even if it falls somewhat short of capturing the spirit and connection one feels when learning with others in person, it has made the material more accessible to a much larger, global audience.

The concluding slide of the course. Learners may click the "print" button to open up a custom html file that has pulled all of their text-entry and response data.