The global COVID-19 pandemic has challenged SOLTRAIN to come up with new and innovative ways to deliver training sessions despite limitations imposed by travel restrictions, with one such innovation being the use of online delivery for technical training.
Using a blended approach, participants from the partner countries, as well as the local SOLTRAIN country partners, meet physically in a meeting room in compliance with the applicable COVID-19 regulations, and the international presenters are connected via online platforms. Existing training materials are disseminated and presented digitally through the use of webcams, projectors, online whiteboards, digital voice recorders and other aids.
This was the format for the first three web-based SOLTRAIN train the trainer courses conducted recently in Gaborone (20 participants), Stellenbosch (7 participants) and Windhoek (14 participants). Each course involved three sessions; two days of coursework and a one-hour meeting for final remarks and awarding of certificates.
Prerequisites for a flawless blended training session included a good quality internet connection and testing the needed infrastructure in advance between the venues. The use of big screens, speakers and microphones provided workable conditions for participants and presenters and facilitated more than adequate knowledge transfer between trainers and delegates, meaning that SOLTRAIN's training activities could continue even as the ability for international presenters to be physically present was curtailed.
While the practical aspects of technical training are always better demonstrated on-site, the blended approach with the online component proved to be a good compromise and in the future, SOLTRAIN plans to conduct intensive online training for trainers, supplemented with practical on-site training as soon as travel restrictions to Southern Africa are eased.