E-learning for Biodiversity Conservation: Not Just Web-based Training

As a practitioner who has used e-learning to deliver training in biodiversity, I seldom imagined anything short of a full-fledged Learning Management System (preferably mobile responsive and supporting the full-range of multimedia) would qualify as effective e-learning architecture. A recent workshop by GIZ on ‘E-learning Instruments and Methods’ held in New Delhi was an eye-opener. Equipped with years of hands-on experience in bringing e-learning to the African continent, Latin America and South-east Asia, the GIZ facilitators drove home an important point – when it comes to capacity building for conservation in least developed and developing countries, e-learning can mean anything from computer-based training delivered through a CD-ROM to community radio.

Electronic-learning indeed encompasses all technology-enabled learning. And in remote areas that are yet to fully log onto the World Wide Web, offline options such as sms, mobile apps, videos, interactive pdfs, e-books and even educational TV remain relevant and powerful means of delivering the much-needed training and technology transfer for biodiversity conservation.

It is often very easy to get caught in the quagmire of ever-evolving educational technology, what with gamification and live collaboration, and miss out on the potential of simpler, more ubiquitous means for getting the message across. According to a 2013 U.N. report, six of the world’s seven billion people have mobile phones, while only 4.5 billion have toilets at home. Although a sobering statistic from the viewpoint of sanitation facilities, it also reveals the potential of sms and mobile apps in disseminating education.

WOMEN FOREST GUARDS

Choosing the right technology is the most important step in enabling e-learning. When catering to localized and specialized audiences (as in this case – managers of marine and coastal protected areas), edtech practitioners should consider the entire spectrum of technologies available and work within the very real geographic and accessibility limitations posed by different contexts. The technology option that is chosen should also be in line with the IT skill level of the field staff. Wanting to a deploy a technology option, just because it exists, could prove to be self-defeating. Technology is just a means to an end and not an end in itself. The focus of educational technology should thus shift from ‘technology’ to ‘education’, especially when dealing with a context-specific topic like biodiversity conservation.

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