Innovative online course attracts learners from across the globe

April 5, 2023

Between November 2022 and January 2023, GRID3’s self-paced online course provided learners from across the world the opportunity to learn about geographic information system (GIS) applications. In total, 347 learners from 45 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia took coursework on the use and application of geospatial data for population and development studies. 

The free course (available in both English and French)  was geared toward countries where GRID3 is actively working, but thanks to its format was accessible to anyone interested in learning more about the subject.  With GRID3’s learning management system (LMS) as a guide, learners navigated the online material at their own pace and schedule, receiving support from dedicated trainers when needed. 

The training covered the theoretical concepts and principles that underpin GIS, as well as provided detailed instruction in working with spatial data and using QGIS  software (an open-source, free, versatile platform). Learners heard from subject matter experts via recorded presentations and software demonstrations, and subsequently practised using QGIS through a range of exercises based on real-world examples. GRID3’s training team hosted community discussion forums to resolve queries and share ideas. There were also quizzes on all the core topics so that learners could measure their understanding as they go (quizzes can be retaken as many times as necessary); when all quizzes were successfully completed, learners received a digital certificate.

In addition to providing learners with a better understanding of GIS, the course aimed to: 

  • Show learners how to apply their newly acquired GIS skills to their occupational sector
  • Demonstrate how different types of spatial data and techniques could improve the outcomes of various kinds of development work
  • Enable learners to deploy tools in QGIS for data analysis (such as summary statistics and queries) 
  • Help learners understand how to independently develop maps 

Learners expressed satisfaction with their experience in a survey that was conducted after the course ended. In response to the question about whether they gained useful skills and knowledge, one hundred percent either strongly agreed or agreed. More than 80 percent of respondents reported that they now felt more comfortable using QGIS and working with spatial data to inform planning and decision-making, while over 90 percent anticipated that the training course would benefit their work or their studies. 

One learner hopes to use their newly-acquired skills to teach and to conduct research: “I will improve my teaching lessons by incorporating some of the concepts I learned in this course. I will also start a project that will use similar methodology as in the case studies for my study area in South Africa.” Likewise, a Malian learner enrolled in the University of Ségou plans to train fellow students who are also interested in mapping.  

A complementary GRID3  course, “GIS support for Microplanning,” will take place in early May 2023. The course will present a range of data and GIS techniques that can inform local-level planning for health service delivery.

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