Opinion: Creating educational pathways for development professionals

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As standards of living rise throughout the world, the need is growing for high-quality, accessible education that empowers people to thrive in increasingly sophisticated, knowledge-intensive economies.

For the first time in history, technological advances in online educational delivery and personalized learning have made cost-effective, high-scale teaching and learning possible, creating the opportunity for democratic and inclusive educational pathways. We can usher in an era of universal learning that serves learners from all socioeconomic backgrounds, at every stage of work and learning, with educational, training, and skill-building opportunities.

Through novel institutional models and partnerships that effectively apply new technologies in teaching and learning, we can not only democratize education globally, but also dramatically enhance the effectiveness of development practitioners in emerging countries.

Hundreds of thousands of practitioners around the world lack affordable, accessible opportunities for continuing education. But the need for advanced credentials, applied skills training, and enhanced subject matter expertise in core development practice areas remains unmet.

The programs offered by most universities are often geographically inaccessible and unaffordable for practitioners outside of North America and Europe.

Online educational delivery and adaptive learning technologies can help us reach underserved learners around the world. To fulfill this potential, higher education institutions must commit to new models and partnerships to effectively deploy these approaches to make them accessible.

“Through novel institutional models and partnerships that effectively apply new technologies in teaching and learning, we can not only democratize education globally, but also dramatically enhance the effectiveness of development practitioners in emerging countries.”

Partnering for educational progress

External partners provide the resources and connection to real-world needs to drive the successful development of new platforms for universal learning. For example, Starbucks recently partnered with Arizona State University to launch the Starbucks Global Academy, which offers world-class, customizable education pathways so learners anywhere in the world can reach their professional goals.

Targeted approaches that reach specific populations are also necessary. Recognizing the need to serve its 15,000 scholarship alumni from sub-Saharan Africa after they graduate, the MasterCard Foundation partnered with ASU to create the Baobab Scholars Community Platform, which advances alumni leadership skills and links them to employment and internship opportunities to maximize the impact they can make on their communities.

The international development field requires a similar approach to enable development practitioners in emerging countries to thrive in a context of unprecedented complexity and rapid global change.

Expanding access for development professionals

In partnership with implementing firms, funders, NGOs, governments, and development professionals themselves, we have created affordable, customized pathways for development practitioners to enhance their skills and earn valuable credentials from anywhere in the world. This model is demand-driven and connected to the needs of development organizations and professionals.

ASU co-designs learning platforms in collaboration with international development funders, firms, NGOs, and governments. Partners bring knowledge of key development focus areas and specific organizational needs, offer access to a pipeline of learners and co-create viable financial models that feasibly share the burden of professional development costs between the organization and its workforce.

Partnering with Chemonics for education

ASU has already successfully implemented this model as a part of its strategic partnership with Chemonics International. Working with the firm’s leadership to understand the needs of their in-country development professionals, we co-designed a platform that offers employees a three-course minimaster’s degree in procurement and supply-chain management, or leadership and management.

The program provides students with the option to continue on to a full master’s degree in leadership and management or applied international development, allowing learners to choose among numerous relevant specializations. Because this program is fine-tuned to the needs of the Chemonics workforce, demand for has been overwhelming: the available seats in the first cohort were filled within a week, and the program was expanded to accommodate students who began their studies this fall.

The model is built around the needs of practitioners based in emerging countries, who bring unique strengths, experiences, and challenges. Course pathways synthesize the informal knowledge that practitioners have acquired in the field with formal learning grounded in cutting-edge pedagogy and applied curriculum in relevant subjects.

We use fully online, immersive educational delivery methods to ensure that the learning experience is constantly re-calibrated to individual progress and that learners achieve true mastery over subject matter and skills.

ASU’s successful partnership with Chemonics International is one design among a myriad of possibilities for continuing education. It demonstrates an inclusive approach to continuing education for development professionals that meet the contemporary demands of a diverse global workforce while successfully addressing the access and cost barriers facing practitioners in emerging countries.

ASU invites innovative leaders in international development to join us in co-creating professional development pathways for the practitioners in their organizations whose work contributes to a safer, more prosperous, and sustainable trajectory for development worldwide.

For more coverage on professional development, visit the Skills for Tomorrow site here.

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