eLearning in the Caucasus: from capacity building to network development 
Since 2009 I am doing project management and consulting on behalf of common sense for a GIZ project in the Southern Caucasus to support eLearning introduction and implementation in educational institutions in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

The first phase of the project aimed at eLearning introduction and implementation in the institutions. We supported through consulting and workshops the development of institutional strategies for eLearning and trained in a blended learning approach the eLearning teams of the institutions. During the training process the teams were developing and implementing elearning pilot projects within their institution. This project phase was concluded with a regional conference, which we organized and conducted. The conference led to the foundation of a regional and three national networks for eLearning.

The foundation of the regional network was a great success, since regional activities in the Caucasus region are difficult for the political conflicts within the region. The next phase of the project then focuses in strengthening the national and regional networks. We built more capacity for eLearning development and implementation and trained local trainers and consultants to support the eLearning development and implementation within their countries and the whole region. Furthermore policy development for eLearning in the region is encouraged and supported by us.

The next steps will focus on making the networks sustainable and independent of donor support.
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Mobile Learning for Decision Makers 
In summer 2011 World Bank Instute (WBI) asked common sense to develop a concept for mobile learning. We did not want to come up with just turning the eLearning courses into mobile versions. After all mobile devices differ significantly from computers. After analyzing the educational activities of WBI we came up with the concept of "Mobile Executive Summaries" (MES). MES aim mainly at decision makers, who usually do not have time for anything, let alone lengthy eLearning courses. They consist of brief and condensed information on important concepts. The idea is, that decision makers can use these summaries for example for preparing for upcoming meetings by just quickly using their smarthpone for some minutes and thus being better informed in the meeting.

We implemented first MES for the World Bank Institute in the field of Climate Certificate Projects. We also found it important not to produce one of the usual "apps" for smartphones, but to make the summaries available on mobile browsers in order not to exclude the users of one or the other operating systems. Easy and wide accessibility was one of the main priorities. This of course limits the use of different media formats, but with some creativity there is always a work around, and there are easy possibilities to create interactive content also without flash and the like.
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Selection of eLearning Authoring Tool 
Last year I consulted on behalf of common sense a company in the car manufacturing environment for the selection of an eLearning authoring tool. The starting point was to determine objectives, topics and target group for elearning. From there we developed an instructional approach and identified the requirements for the authoring tool acccordingly. We analyzed dozens of authoring tools according to these requirements and came up in the end with two suggestions and highlighted their advantages and disadvantages. We finally produced a sample course module with both tools to compare them to each other. The client finally chose one of them according to our analysis.

The market of authoring tools is very complex. At a first look, they often seem to be quite similar, but at a closer look the even represent different approaches and philosophies. All of them have their place and use. Also in this case in the end we could not give a clear reccomendation. Each of the tools has its clear advantages. So for the client it is a matter of setting priorities.

For us as consultants it is vital to keep independence to the vendors of software tools. We are often proposed to become involved in marketing and distribution partnerships. Our clients however deserve real independent consulting to really identify the best tools for their purporpes.
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Eye on the Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi: Presenting possibilities of mobile Learning for the Environment 
In December 2011 I was invited by the Sheik of Abu Dhabi and United Nations Environment Programm to attend the Eye on the Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi to present the mobile learning pilot project in Kenya (more about it at the website of common sense). The Eye on the Earth Summit was a follow up event to the Rio World Summit on the Environment, which specialized in Information Systems for the environment. Interestingly we were the almost the only project which was in the field of technology enhanced training and education (there was one other approach to support farmers via radio and sms). Most other solutions presented at the summit were GIS systems and the like. Many of these were highly interesting - but the question still is, why is there still no broader movement to educate and train people to act more environmentally friendly? Technology enhanced training and education (eLearning and mobile learning) offer great oppurtunities in this field...
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Mobile Learning: beyond the hype 
My motivation to become engaged with mobile learning came from my activities in the African continent. As surprising that might be for those who do not know Africa, for those who know the continent it will be more than understandable. Mobile phones are the only technology which really has a considerable penetration rate in most of Africa. So the demand for using mobile phone technology for training and learning purposes was enormous. To our frustration we found out, that most solutions available focused on smart phone technologies and data transmission, while the wide spread technologies consist of simple phone models with GMS-connections only.

This motivated me and some colleagues at common sense to develop a "low tech" mobile learning solution which aims at awareness raising campaigns at the community level. The underlying principle is simple: Learners call a (toll free) number and listen to a soap opera, in which they take decisions in place of the characters ("if X should do this, press 1 - if X should do that, press 3..."). This solution is called I-Call and was first implemented on behalf of UNEP in Kenya to raise awareness for waste separation at household level. More about it: I-Call Website

Since we presented this solution to the public the demand for "high tech" mobile learning solutions aiming at decision makers and specialists followed immediately. I will describe the solution we developed at this level in a separate blog entry.
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