International solidarity, taught through e-learning!

The ESTBB University Diploma in International Solidarity – Humanitarian Healthcare Initiatives has been redesigned so that it is now delivered entirely as a distance learning course, thanks to digital technology. The programme kicked off in February 2019.

ESTBB Education


Given the inherent difficulties for professionals from low-income countries to come to France for several weeks to improve their skills, a major decision was made to offer a course delivered entirely online. This was the choice made by the pedagogical team of the University Diploma in International Solidarity – Humanitarian Healthcare Initiatives (DU SIASH).

This course targets both European healthcare providers wishing to undertake development initiatives in low-income countries, and medical professionals in the same countries. In the previous version of the course, before the distance learning programme started in February 2019, students would attend theory classes at ESTBB in Lyon, and then they would go apply their knowledge during field assignments lasting between three and six months.

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Video sessions lasting no longer than 20 minutes

The first stages of reflection on the matter focused on the educational delivery method: how to transform a lecture given at the university into a digital format that would still be attractive for the learner, alone in front of his computer screen. This work was carried out in collaboration with the Educational Support Centre at UCLy, CAP’EA.

Many studies have shown that learners’ attention diminishes after 20 minutes. To solve this problem, each lesson is made up of a video of no more than 20 minutes, addressing essential notions, supplemented
by ancillary materials in text or video form that take the subject further, plus self-assessment activities. The speaker’s slide show and the written transcript of the video are also made available.

The pedagogical model was reviewed, supplemented and adapted for distance learning. The diploma now consists of nine theme areas.

Next, the “staging” of the course was examined to determine the order in which each theme area would be posted online. After weighing the options, it was decided to post the first eight theme areas online, one after the other. The 9th theme area, project management, was posted in parallel, because this subject is the common thread running through the entire course.

"The challenge: transforming a lecture delivered in person into a digital format that is still attractive for the learner, alone in front of his computer screen."

High-quality, lively recorded lessons

The next step consisted in getting the speakers, most of whom are from healthcare NGOs, to come record a video. The studio used is the ICAP studio of the University of Lyon 1 in Grange-Blanche, available for free for UCLy, as it belongs to the University of Lyon. Before the recording, the speakers created a slide show following a predefined graphic charter. The recording principle is simple: the speakers, equipped with a microphone and placed in front of a green screen, give their talk in front of the camera, possibly going through their slides; they can be “embedded” in their slide show during the recording. As this system was new for everyone, getting the speakers to shoot the videos was difficult. But once the first video had been shot, everything went more smoothly. The end result was high-quality, lively recorded lessons.

In parallel to production of the educational content, a media system was developed so that all the content could be gathered onto an online learning platform, Moodle. A graduate student in educational engineering built the framework, making sure that it is easy and pleasant to navigate. After that, the course materials simply needed to be uploaded to the right place. Many tutorials were created as well.

"A forum, a virtual classroom and communication by email to stay in touch with the learners."

Twelve learners from around the world

The new version of the DU SIASH programme was launched in February 2019 with a class of twelve learners from France and abroad, mainly African countries. In order to maintain a connection with the learners and prevent a feeling of isolation, several measures were put in place: a forum for each theme area to discuss questions about concepts, and virtual class sessions, held on a regular basis to create a sense of togetherness. Students are also encouraged to communicate with the academic team if they have any technical or administrative issues.

Quizzes, tests and the final exam are given directly through Moodle, where a multiple-choice test is posted online. The system ensures strict time-keeping when students begin the test, allowing them only the allotted time to complete it.

"An innovative course, easily transposable to other programmes and adaptable to different topics."

Will others soon take the digital path?

The DU SIASH programme is not the only online course offered by UCLy. Online theology courses have been running for many years now. But, thanks to the format and the educational activities used, this innovative course format can be easily transposed to other programmes and adapted to different topics. In parallel with the launch of the programme’s second class, discussions are currently underway to offer the DU SIASH programme by skill area, in order to better meet new job training requirements and adapt to the needs of a broader audience. Now that the groundwork has been laid, ESTBB could soon begin transforming other programmes into digital courses as well.

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