Online course supports global learners
A free, online course in sport for sustainable development is filling a crucial educational need for those working in and entering the sector.
Sport for development specialists, practitioners and academics from across the Asia-Pacific say the free, online course in sport for sustainable development that recently re-opened for enrolment offers an unmatched learning opportunity for people working in the sector and those interested in learning more about sport for development policy and program planning.
The massive open online course (MOOC) attracted more than 3,400 learners from 165 countries and six continents in its first run in 2020, and has been updated to incorporate a section on sport and COVID-19, additional resources and tools, and an improved focus on cross-cutting issues such as human rights, gender and safeguarding.
“This course offers a good chance for those of us working in sport to stop, reflect, and think about how we have been working,” explained Sainimili Saukuru, Oceania Sports Education Program (OSEP) coordinator for Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC).
“For development officers managing programs on the ground, this is a good way to learn new ways of doing things, how you plan, how you engage partners, how you monitor and evaluate programs, and how you measure change. The course also offers tools to help with challenges you might encounter along the way, and these are generic and transferable to other sectors.”
Dr Katherine Raw, academic course advisor in sport development at Western Sydney University, said the MOOC fills a gap in sport for development education resources, and is particularly important in a sector that has only seen an upsurge in academic practice, learning and research in recent years.
“Even though sport for development has existed in an informal sense since the 1980s and momentum kicked off around the turn of millennium, we’re only now starting to see students coming through with specific university degrees and those graduates are only just starting to hit the workforce,” she explained.
“But, of course, not everyone has access to a university degree, so it’s important to get free resources like this out there, as it’s deepening the knowledge base of those already working in the field. It’s also helping refresh the learning of graduates or those from relevant degrees such as sport management who would like to move into sport for development.”
Dr Raw says a key benefit of the course is that it introduces audiences to recent learnings in sport for development best practice, drawing on successes and failures and a growing understanding that sport for development programs need to be carefully designed in order to maximise positive impact.
“It’s important that we move beyond the ‘throw a sport in there and it will automatically do good’ approach and that we get some qualifications, ideas and education out there, by sharing tools and frameworks that can be applied in these settings to increase the chances of people doing good and reduce the risks of doing harm,” she explained.
“The course is also promoting discussion which is really important when you’re working in such an international and collaborative space, and that is really relevant in the online world we’re currently living in due to COVID.”
Webinar co-host Melissa Velvel Fare, marketing manager at Vanuatu Cricket Association (VCA), is currently studying the course herself. Like many people working in sport for development programs in the Pacific, Melissa had no formal professional or academic background in the sector before joining VCA. She said the course’s combination of academic perspectives and practitioners sharing their experiences (through discussion forums) has made it particularly useful to people like her who are delivering programs in the field.
“It’s a very open, welcoming space and encourages discussions from participants, and this is really important because a lot of people working in sport in Asia-Pacific have had to learn through trial and error and working on the job,” she explained.
“So, we have gone through a lot of challenges, successes and failures, and being able to see other people’s perspectives and challenges, as well as looking at it from an academic perspective, helps me formulate ideas and the best ways to work around challenges, and I’m sure it’s helping other people too.”
Trần Thị Thu Hương, a ChildFund Sport for Development team leader working in Vietnam, said the course updates relating to COVID-19 are crucial in helping sport for development practitioners adapt to the changing challenges of the pandemic.
“It’s essentially important to understand the impact that COVID has had in communities and in our sport for development work as it has brought ongoing disruption,” she said. “Sport can be central to recovery and being able to adapt is essential, so we need to create strategy and take into account the challenges.
“The resources (in the course) are very relevant because COVID will continue creating a big impact in our planning, sponsorships, partnerships and for our beneficiaries, so it’s helpful for people to know more about this impact and how to adapt.”
The webinar also featured guests talking about their work in areas that the course focuses on: Henry Tavoa, director of youth development and sport in the Vanuatu Government spoke about how well-designed sport for development programs can help government policymakers; Rekha Dey, senior advisor partnerships at Yuwa India explained the importance of basing programs on a theory of change; and Lua Rikis, a former athlete and current sustainable development goals (SDGs) champion with the Papua New Guinea Olympic Committee shared her personal experiences of how sport can contribute to the SDGs.
The course, which is free and online, has been designed to cater to a wide variety of learners, including practitioners, students, athletes, government officials, sports organisations, board members, intergovernmental organisations, public policy experts, private sector and civil society organisations.
It is now open for sign-up and learners can commence at any time. The course is structured over four weeks, with each week focusing on a different core area:
Each week includes activities, video and audio material, discussion forums, reading and resources. The course features the voices and stories of people working in sport for development in Asia-Pacific and around the world.
Learners can study at their own pace and have free access to the course for six weeks from the date of sign-up but can extend their access for AUD $59, which includes access to the course for as long as it is hosted on the FutureLearn platform and a digital certificate.
The course was developed by the Australian Government (led by Team Up), the International Platform on Sport and Development (sportanddev) and the Commonwealth Secretariat to maximise the contribution sport can make to the SDGs and other priorities.