World Bank turns to MOOC for development finance learning

Students on computers at the University of Namibia in Windhoek. The World Bank is offering a free massive open online course on financing for development. Photo by: John Hogg / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will require innovation, partnerships, better data and importantly — money.

Development and finance experts estimate it will cost trillions of dollars to achieve the SDGs by 2030 and that mobilizing those funds will require getting more than just traditional aid donors on board.

To help address the looming funding challenge that the SDGs present, the World Bank is offering a free massive open online course on financing for development that will teach participants where funding for the SDGs is available and how it can be mobilized.

This latest MOOC, which is scheduled to begin on Nov. 16, is part of a broader effort at the World Bank to improve e-learning for development. In July 2011, the bank launched its e-institute, an online classroom designed for practitioners to learn from peers and experts about topics ranging from climate change, to governance to public private partnerships. Last year, World Bank senior management issued a mandate to scale up the e-institute. As a result, the World Bank plans to launch in December a more robust e-learning portal called the Open Learning Campus.

President Jim Yong Kim has championed the “science of delivery” for global development and has sought to turn the world’s largest multilateral donor into a “solutions bank.” Branded as “a destination for development learning,” the Open Learning Campus will encourage learning and dialogue from inside as well as outside the World Bank and would feature three “schools.”

The first Open Learning Campus school will house courses designed for “bite-sized” lessons geared specifically to the needs of the learner. These could include podcasts, video presentations, or written briefs, all combined with quizzes, exercises and extra reading material.

The second school will focus on “academy or structured learning” for participants to go deeper into a topic. MOOCs would fit under this category.

World Bank to offer free online course on PPPs

The World Bank offered a free massive open online course on public-private partnerships in June. Find out more about what the course entailed and why it was developed.

And the third school will focus on “connect or peer learning.” Participants in this school will be able to post questions and answers to development-related questions and challenges and share their own experiences.

Sheila Jagannathan, lead learning specialist and program manager at the World Bank’s e-institute, said she hopes the Open Learning Campus becomes an “ecosystem for learning that is dynamic,” and emphasized the need to constantly adapt learning technology to new and evolving insights into brain science and the way people learn.

The four-week online course on financing for development will be taught by five instructors from the World Bank and will feature government officials as well as private sector leaders. The course is open to anyone with an interest in financing for development, whether they come from the public, private or multilateral sectors.

With the aim of reaching as broad an audience as possible — at least 40,000 participants according to Marco Scuriatti, senior adviser in the financing for development unit at the World Bank — the developers of the course are offering two tracks. One is a “general awareness” track for those interested in learning the basics of development finance, and another a “development specialist” track for development professionals, policymakers or others interested in engaging at a more technical level around the financing of the SDGs.

Instructors hope the MOOC will help to generate connections among participants around the world who may then continue to engage with one another and play an important role in financing the post-2015 development agenda.

“A MOOC is an event, but it’s part of a process,” Scott White, senior consultant to the World Bank who helped develop the content of the MOOC, told Devex, adding that “if it were just an event it wouldn’t have the kind of lasting impact we hope it will have.”

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About the author

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    Jeff Tyson

    Jeff is a former global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid, and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the U.S., and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.