4 Peace Corps locations that are taking distance learning to the next level
Over the years, technology and infrastructure has made distance learning possible. All you need is a computer or mobile device and an internet connection. The COVID-19 pandemic made distance learning necessary for the Peace Corps and students around the world. Face-to-face classes were too dangerous, and it was impossible to know when schools would reopen safely. Educators around the world got to work on solutions to continue education and minimize the impact of the pandemic on students’ learning.
Peace Corps staff also got to work. Staff members across several locations collaborated with schools, ministries of education, and teachers to support remote learning. From supplying training on effective distance-learning techniques to developing remote learning curricula, they did it all.
In the Philippines, schools shifted to remote and distance learning shortly after the pandemic erupted, but the shift was sudden and unexpected. Schools lacked distance-learning materials and multi-grade schools – schools with two or more grade levels in one classroom – were hit the hardest.
Teachers needed learning materials for math, science, and English. Peace Corps staff saw a solution. They applied for a Small Project Assistance (SPA) grant and collaborated with the Philippines’ Department of Education Multi-Grade Program to fill the need. Together, they created and executed two virtual workshops.
For the first time ever, more than 200 educators from across the nation came together to boost capacity and generate learning materials. During the seminars, teachers, principals, and supervisors collaborated to build lesson plans and activity worksheets.
After the workshops, the materials went through a rigid review and quality assurance process. In September 2021, the Philippines Department of Education allotted 17 million pesos (more than $300,000) to print and distribute materials to select multi-grade schools throughout the country.
After lessons and materials were created, Peace Corps staff and the Department of Education’s Multi-Grade Program hosted a series of training sessions to go over the curriculum with teachers, principals, and supervisors to prepare them for the remote learning environment.
All the 16 regions implemented the training to reach multi-grade schools in the Philippines.
Our team in Morocco connected Virtual Service Participant Sean Hyland with counterpart Said Achhabou to advance English learning. Their project was called Communicative English Teaching and English Digital Curriculum Design, and its goal was to help improve teachers’ skills in designing lesson plans, facilitation, and student evaluation.
Virtually, Sean and Said created the program’s curriculum, trained teachers to create their own lesson plans, and developed a digital program for communicative English. They also hosted online communicative English lessons and facilitated cultural exchange sessions to introduce participants American and Moroccan cultures.
This project introduced participants in the Beni-Mellal province to distance learning and showed them the possibilities of learning through technology.
Peace Corps Moldova staff jumped in to support distance learning through training. The English Education and Health Education Program teams formed an education community of practice that included national experts and focused on training teachers. Fifty educators learned skills for student-centered teaching, inclusive teaching practices, and improved facilitation skills. The project included a series of online, in-person, and hybrid training events and workshops.
Staff partnered with experts from the Academy of Innovation and Change through Education and the Republican Center for Psycho Pedagogical Assistance to facilitate training sessions for teachers from 23 districts and 38 communities throughout Moldova. Facilitators led workshops for more than 1,200 educators and the Ministry of Education and Research of Moldova certified the professional development program.
The project came in response to the needs expressed by Peace Corps partners.
The Ministry of Education and Research of Moldova sets the national standards of competence for teachers, and our team there came up with an innovative approach to training to support teachers in meeting the standards. The eight-month training program included one-on-one coaching and team/peer support for teachers’ professional development.
The community of practice also provided 50 teachers with facilitation skills that they used to conduct more than 55 regional and local-level workshops.
Our team in Armenia is supporting distance learning with a project called Peace Corps’ Tips and Tricks for English Teachers. They’ve partnered with the National Center of Education to create a video series that provides educators with valuable skills and pointers on how to be an effective online teacher.
The first season of the series has seven episodes and targets those teaching via video conferencing. The videos cover topics like setting up your online classroom, online interactions and response times, and more.
Additionally, Peace Corps Armenia staff connected Virtual Service Participants with counterparts to support a variety of Education projects. One of their most recent projects was the Summer of Digital Learning and was delivered in partnership with the Association of English Language Teachers in Armenia (AELTA).
The project was entailed a series of virtual sessions that took place between June 24 and July 29. Each session highlighted a digital tool that could be used to develop students’ language skills. A total of 315 participants registered, and more than 25 educators participated in the sessions. Most participants represented regional schools in Armenia, and there were even a few teachers from abroad.
The training sessions equipped educators with necessary skills to support their online students and in-classroom learners with innovative and engaging tools.