The Increasing Importance of a Digital Skillset
The Increasing Importance of a Digital Skillset
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the world’s activities, the GCSP ends its first academic year having rapidly moved all our course offerings online. As from an educational perspective, it was essential, especially given the unpredictability of our world right now, to ensure continuity in learning to increase the capacity of practitioners. As our 8-month flagship course, the Leadership in International Security course (LISC) comes to an end, we asked four alumni to share their insights on the challenges and opportunities of virtual learning.
In reflecting back to the beginning of the course, how did you find your experience?
Damjan: At the beginning of the course, I encountered difficulties with the dynamic use of digital platforms even though I had a little experience, especially with zoom. However, in a very short time, I overcame these challenges and upgraded my knowledge. On something new that stood out: Using zoom chat was useful since it did not disturb the others in the “classroom” and at the same time, many interesting insights were shared by the students and presenters.
Eduardo: While the online distance learning model has been around for quite some time, this is the first time for me to experience this system. It has been challenging because it requires a person to remain focused for several hours since the method tends to be more interactive – where participants are asked to speak up, collaborate in exercises, and have Zoom focused on your onscreen faces most of the time.
Raushan: The 2020-2021 LISC was an inspiring learning journey. This edition encouraged us to use lots of new and useful online tools such as Padlet, Miro, BeeKee, and others. GCSP staff members spared no efforts to efficiently adapt the learning process to the digital context with the integration of useful digital tools, exciting simulation exercises and discussions in groups which contributed to making this learning journey interesting and at the same time responsive to the needs of the participants.
Emma: Although virtual, my LISC experience has been transforming. I was very impressed with the ability of Course Management to provide the same level of quality for this learning experience that would be expected for an in-person course. The participants in this edition had a special challenge as a group, as the sessions were running fully online and the full group were not able to interact in person. Despite the complexity of the virtual environment, since the beginning of the course the group was successful in building a strong cohesion and solid team spirit.
What new 2-3 digital skills did you acquire during the course? And which do you think will be most useful for your professional context after the course?
Damjan: Conversation on digital platforms is different than in live talks and using Zoom for a whole 8 months course increased my digital conversation skills in speeches and writings at the same time. I will benefit in my professional progress with my improved skills in handling and analyzing the context of shared information during digital meetings. I have also increased my online learning skills, and this will be very useful since many organizations provide online training, a trend that will progress in the future.
Eduardo: This was the first time I heard of and used different online tools like Beekee, Padlet, Miro, Doodle and the learning platform CLANED. I had used Zoom and other online social communication applications like WhatsApp and Viber before, as well as, done presentations in Powerpoint, but the constant use of these tools improved my understanding of and skills in using them. These skills were also enhanced because I saw how other participants were using them in better ways. I also improved my digital video editing and Google document collaboration knowledge because of certain activities. All these newly acquired and enhanced skills will be useful in my professional and personal life.
Raushan: First of all, I have acquired digital skills to use Zoom in a more advanced manner which will definitely help me in the nearest future where Zoom sessions will be more widely used to reach out to bigger and distantly located audiences. Moreover, I very much liked Padlet and Miro which I think I will be using in my further professional life as they provide a digital space to shape and improve ideas be it your own small personal one or an organization’s project aimed to bring changes to the lives of thousands and millions of people. These tools strengthen your capacity limited by a physical world stimulating you to think out of the box as a strategic foresight minded leader.
Emma: The fully digital edition of the LISC provided participants with the opportunity of learning how to successfully navigate the digital environment as effective leaders and acquire new digital skills such as digital diplomacy and digital negotiation skills, the ability to effectively facilitate digital sessions and discussions, and the capacity to deliver online presentations with impact. All of these will without doubt remain essential for my future professional context
What are some tips on how to learn effectively ‘at home’?
Damjan: Make your learning environment comfortable and, during pauses, do some physical activities. Occasionally use hard copy materials to have a break from the digital environment. Use digital platforms for an informal chat with other students and exchange opinions on learning topics.
Eduardo: It is important to have a dedicated learning “space” set-up to maximize efficiency and impact (in terms of lighting, background, ergonomic comfort, access to peripheral devices). One must also remember that offline preparation is just as important as online participation.
Raushan: In learning at home it is important to find a right balance between being concentrated in your learning and finding time to be spent with your loved ones and family members who live with you, care for you, and need your attention. In doing so, I have tried to share my daily learning experiences, successes and eye-openings with my family which let me firstly to consolidate this new knowledge in my own mind, and also include them into this interesting journey. Moreover, I would like to add that a variety of activities (sessions with guest speakers, discussions sessions, simulations exercises, Peer to Peer sessions and Hot Seat Sessions and many others) prepared by LISC Core Team really made the learning at home inspiring and enriching.
Emma: Learning from home might be challenging due to the lack of physical interaction, the hours on Zoom screen and the fact that participants cannot physically move from home to a learning space/GCSP facilities. I would recommend applying the “20-20-20” rule for eye strain (looking at something being at least 20 meters far, every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds) and having breaks from the screen/computer. Also, what was very effective for me during the course was having disconnection time from the intense workload, and once I was in Geneva, going with other LISC participants for walks around the lake and the city.
Have you discovered something new about yourself within this virtual context?
Damjan: I was surprised by my adaptability, the speed with which I adapted to digital learning. I expected to face difficulties, especially with digital materials, but it turned out that digital materials were more efficient for my learning.
Eduardo: People prefer brief interventions, so you need to adjust your interactions accordingly.
Raushan: I have discovered that a person, despite her/his age, can master new skills including digital ones and I have concluded that I should never underestimate myself without firstly having tried. Learning and networking online is possible - but it will require more concentration and individual reflection. However, even without physically seeing each other, it is possible to make contacts with new people and keep them up. For further insights from Raushan, please see here.
Emma: The virtual experience in a learning context was new for me, and whilst I have discovered important aspects about myself throughout the course. I would like to underline that learning how to remain creative and innovative as well as how to build trust and creating/managing relations in an online multi-cultural setting as some of the key elements for me.
Many thanks to Damjan Galevski, Head of National Central Bureau, INTERPOL, North Macedonia; Eduardo R. Meñez, Assistant Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippines; Raushan Bolotalieva, Security and criminal justice practitioner, Kyrgyzstan and Emma Ortuño, Spain for sharing their views.
All four participants recently graduated from the Leadership in International Security Course (LISC), and the parallel track Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in International and European Security jointly run with the Global Studies Institute of the University of Geneva.
Dr Siobhán Martin, Director of the Leadership in International Security Course (LISC) & Dr Alessia Biava, Academic Coordinator of the Master of Advanced Studies in International Security (MAS) gave their perspective on online education in a recent interview with the UN Special magazine.
Disclaimer: The views, information and opinions expressed in this interview are the speakers’ own and do not necessarily reflect those shared by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, its Foundation Council members or its employees. The GCSP is not responsible for and may not always verify the accuracy of the information contained in the digital products. Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.