mHealth and humanitarian mapping: a brand new learning format

New topics and a new methodology is allowing people to study everywhere and at their learning pace. Compared to the “traditional” formula used, with live streaming lessons and pre scheduled sessions, followed by exercises to be carried out autonomously between one session and the other, we have now launched a new blended formula that combines the advantages of e-learning without losing the added value of the direct relationship with the lecturer. The two new training courses proposed are dedicated to the use of GIS for Humanitarian Mapping and the use of mobile technologies in the health sector, mHealth for International Cooperation.

by Anna Filippucci

For more than 10 years, at Ong 2.0 we have developed an online training methodology based on the direct exchange between lecturers and participants. Over the years, this approach has been applied to over 20 courses and has allowed over 1100 participants to successfully be trained on various topics related to International Development Cooperation and Digital Communication for Non-profit organizations.

Alongside this methodology, this year we have decided to develop a new training path that integrates the advantages of e-learning with the essential direct relationship with teachers. It’s a whole new format, able to better respond to the needs of an audience that is gradually becoming wider and more international. The new course is based on asynchronous learning that allows more flexible management of time and provides a test system to evaluate progress.

A new learning formula that better fits the needs of professionals

Greater flexibility in terms of time is essential especially for aid workers, who need to combined different time zones and work duties and that, in the past, were struggling in respecting fixed scheduling and learning pace.

Topics themselves have been selected for professionals who need to acquire practical and advanced skills on specific tools. The online courses offer the possibility of experimenting with some “open” tools ready to be used in the field.

Moreover, two live workshops ensure direct interaction between lecturers and course participants for clarifying questions, share experiences and work on practical examples and challenges experienced by the participants.

What the lecturers say about this new approach to online learning

Giuliano Ramat, one of the lecturers of the GIS Open Tools for Humanitarian Mapping, explains: “the course aims to provide participants with information about the most important open source tools concerning Humanitarian Mapping mainly focusing on the Openstreetmap products, working groups and experiences.” 

Paola Fava, head of mHealth for International Cooperation, describes her course as “the opportunity to get a general overview of the use of mhealth in developing contexts. Its applications in the health sector are the most varied: from health surveys, to remote monitoring, to educational applications and to disease detection systems, to name just a few. The course therefore provides examples and case studies in this regard to stimulate the use of these technologies to improve and integrate new health projects “.

Regarding the new course format, Ramat states that ” the adopted e-learning formula makes participants free to attend lessons at any time they want and the division of the classic 90 minutes lesson into smaller “chapters” of 30 minutes each increases the capacity of concentration on “smaller” but well-defined topics.”

Paola Fava confirms: “flexibility and the possibility to manage our own time are key requirements nowadays, that’s why I believe this type of ‘formula’ matches people’s needs and time availability compared to more traditional webinars. However, both confirm the importance and value of the moments of interaction between lecturers and participants: “connection with the lecturer or other students is however granted by the moodle forum as well as some live sessions”.

Why English? According to Ramat, “English being the language mainly used in international cooperation, professionals who intend to work in the sector must necessarily get used to the idea of interacting with colleagues in a foreign language. In this regard, the opportunity to immediately acquire sector-specific English-speaking terminology is certainly an advantage for future workers“.

In this regard, Paola Fava concludes, “the idea is to reach a broader audience and I believe that the English language fits more into this purpose. We also had requests from previous people attending similar courses and found the Italian language a possible limit. Furthermore, the topic is related to a sector that has seen a growing interest particularly outside the Italian context and with field experiences in foreign countries where the English language is widely spread”.

gvSIG Educa: teaching GIS basics in a fun way

I have always believed that education plays a key role in development cooperation projects if you want the beneficiaries to acquire the needed skills to make sustainable the achieved objectives.

Written by Giuliano Ramat


In the GIS sector you often face a poor habit to read a map or a satellite image (such as Google Earth service for example) due to the fact that in many developing countries the study of geography, pick up a map and play or the possibility to see your own city from the sky are not always common and widespread activities. I often, too often, unfortunately encountered that locals, including technical staff, knew very well how to go from point A to point B but they met insurmountable difficulties to retrace over a map the route they walked.

The project gvSIG Batovì, started in Uruguay in 2011 with local government support, has tried and managed to teach geography in a funny way through an open source GIS solution to a large number of students aged 10 to 18 years from rural areas. The idea is as simple as brilliant: from one side to release a GIS software “made for adolescents” with nice and non-academic icons as to make the study almost a game; on the other side train teachers in order to easily produce “packages” of maps and images that can be shared with and among students that, almost playing, manage to learn both the geography and GIS fundamentals by using dedicated tools made easier and more user friendly than the ones available in the official professional versions. The required computer to run this program do not have to be necessarily the most performing ones available on the market making this solution affordable at low by the training structure and / or by the government involved. The success of this initiative is confirmed not only by the blog where news are regularly published but also by the recent attempt to broaden the initiative by Uruguay to the rest of the world through a sort of evolution of gvSIG Batovì: gvSIG Educa.

giuliano blog 2

It is an Open Source GIS prototype specifically conceived for primary and secondary school, officially presented during the recent 11th Edition of International gvSIG days in Valencia, which expands the ability to upload and share information from trainers, increase the number of extensions to be used to “play” with geographic data, and overcomes the limitations related to the non-standard operating system of gvSIG Batovì.

This is certainly an interesting educational tool with great potential for use in the international cooperation projects for being multilingual, multiplatform, and especially open source but, like all prototypes, it needs to be tested to be improved. For all the person and companies that wishes to use it, test and contribute to its development in the framework of their projects and activities, it is possible to get in touch with gvSIG Association developers to receive all the necessary support.