Peacebuilding 101

online course for an international humanitarian aid organization

Purpose & Role

This peacebuilding fundamentals online course 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. As lead instructional designer, I conducted a thorough review of client materials, storyboarded course content and visuals, designed a custom interface for the course, and designed and developed all course interactions using Articulate Storyline 2. Another team member edited photo and video content for the course. The client provided subject matter expertise.


This course was based on an annual in-person training based in Africa. As such, in addition to reviewing existing print materials for the training, my team travelled to Foulpointe, Madagascar to film the training in order to integrate relevant aspects of in-person workshops into the online course.

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

The in-person training conducted several workshops which the online course sought to replicate, in order to reach a larger audience. For instance, the in-person training conducted a series of workshops on day one 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.

Free response questions in the first module of the course.
Additional reflection questions in the second module of the course, presented as separate "tabs" within the notebook.
A video compilation of various definitions of conflict, as provided by participants in the in-person workshop.

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 is related 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, such as "primary actor", the appropriate actor appears, which in this case is "The Kalenjin Community".

As for the conflict tree exercise, I designed an interaction in which learners apply aspects of a case study from Kenya to the conflict tree model. To demonstrate learning, users drag and drop aspects 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 a case study are provided on the left side of the screen.
After the learner drops an item (here, "historical grievances") onto the correct part of the tree, it appears on that part of the tree (the roots, in this case).
Once all items have been dropped on the correct parts of the tree, the exercise is complete, as shown here.
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 two different projects.
The learner applies the projects to the pyramid model by dragging each representative image onto the part of the pyramid the case study represents.
If the learner drops the image onto the correct part of the pyramid, positive feedback and an explanation appears.
If the learner drops the image onto the incorrect part of the pyramid, negative feedback and an explanation appears.

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 this case, "competing/forcing" has been clicked.

In addition to the individual conflict styles quiz, the online course also featured 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.