In June the All-Ukrainian Association of Village and Settlement Councils completed a pilot project on introduction of the e-learning course “Communication Strategies for Rural Development”. The educational platform was created in partnership with and under support of the Swiss-Ukrainian Decentralization Support Project DESPRO.

" /> Being well-informed means being successful!

Being well-informed means being successful!

In May this year, 35 leaders of representative bodies operating in villages and settlements, and seeking to consolidate their community by means of ICT, sat “at school desks” again, though not at real desks but at virtual ones – on the web-portal

In June the All-Ukrainian Association of Village and Settlement Councils completed a pilot project on introduction of the e-learning course “Communication Strategies for Rural Development”. The educational platform was created in partnership with and under support of the Swiss-Ukrainian Decentralization Support Project DESPRO.

The introduction of e-learning was an important step towards strengthening of the institutional capacity of the All-Ukrainian Association of Village and Settlement Councils. Skilled advice and support from professional experts of the Swiss-Ukrainian Decentralization Support Project DESPRO – Maryana Kulya, Ihor Katernyak and Viktoriya Loboda contributed to the formation of a new team, capable of providing educational services to its members at a qualitatively new high-technology level, within the Association.

Integration of the web-based e-learning platform Moodle for creating communities of practice of rural territories into the portal of the All-Ukrainian Association of Village and Settlement Councils has, in the first place, has allowed the portal to develop as a resource. The number of visitors increased several times, especially during the implementation of the pilot project. Therefore, the number of representatives of rural areas who have got access to the information, provided by the Association, has also increased. There has been an increase in the number of the audience, which can use the electronic version of the VASSR printed publication “Bulletin of the All-Ukrainian Association of Village and Settlement Councils” and get consultations within the project of legal support – PRAVOCARD.

An important outcome of the project implementation is the formation of the first community of practice, consisting of representatives of local authorities interested in the development of their rural communities through establishing partnerships among themselves, as well as with donors and investors.

Four participants from Vinnytsia oblast (and the same number – from Kherson oblast) took part in the pilot project. Kyiv and Lviv oblasts “delegated” three representatives each. Two participants from Dnipropetrovsk oblast also “visited” the e-course, and the same numbers of participants came from Zhytomyr, Luhansk, Rivne and Chernivtsi oblasts. Zaporizhzhya, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kirovohrad, Sumy, as well as Ternopil and Cherkasy oblasts were represented by one person each.

“Within three weeks, starting from May 13, 2014, the heads of local self-government bodies have acquired the competencies and skills for practical use of communication strategies for rural development. According to the training participants, the e-learning course “Communication Strategies for Rural Development” has been highly rated: over 90% of students were satisfied with their participation in this project. The same number of students confirmed the statement that they felt convenient and comfortable during the training. Almost 87% of the participants agreed that their hopes and expectations from the course had been met”, - says Vitaliy Klyuchnyk, course administrator, based on the results of analyses of the final questionnaires. In order to establish communications, the participants had an opportunity to interact through the course forums and (if they needed a private consultation) in the expert room.

Valeriy Shulha – a developer and tutor of the e-learning course - conducted the training based on a modular system, based on the assumption that the participants learn one module per week. Each module contained learning material, built according to the following approach: theoretical part of the main topic of the module; applied or explanatory part for the main topic of the module; advice or recommendations (useful links) to the main topic of the module, and a practical task.

“We did not just try to allow the participants of the course to understand the concept of “communication” and its model, but also strived to find out the purpose and impact of communication strategies on rural development”, - comments Valeriy Shulha, tutor of the course, PhD in pedagogical sciences, expert in communications technology. – “In the practical part, the participants’ task was to develop a business card for their village and an investment passport of a rural area, which would then take their place on the web-site of the village or settlement, or on the VASSR web-portal.”

Another objective set by the e-course developers was to teach the students to identify the main communication channels for a rural community, to create a programme for news management, to build the investment attractiveness of their rural areas by means of online communication.

“The course was intended to expand the students’ knowledge of communication as a powerful tool for rural development through building investment attractiveness, bringing together internal and attracting external resources; to teach the students innovative approaches to promotion of an attractive image of their own rural area by means of online communication”, - comments Oleksandr Kryvenko, expert-consultant of the “pilot” project. – “The participants were a little bit short of time for implementation of the creative approach proposed in the third module, for it is quite difficult to learn how to write news and actually “see”, which of the events should be reported to a potential investor. So, perhaps it makes sense in the future to somehow separate the third module into an independent course and to involve people, who could try their hand as rural reporters, in the compilation of news material. In my opinion, it would contribute significantly to the dissemination of information, not only about the achievements, but also about the challenges to be resolved.”

According to the questionnaire, almost 100% of the trainees gave a positive answer to the question: “Have you gained new competencies (practical skills) of using communication strategies in the community?” All 100% of the participants were satisfied with the work of the course team (tutor, experts and administrator).

The distribution of answers to the question “What benefits have you gained in exchange for your time and effort?” (in %) is as foollows:


Analysis of the results of the educational activity demonstrated the key lessons learnt from the pilot e-learning project implementation. First and foremost, the expectations of the participants were met. In other words, the pilot project proved to be successful and worth continuation and promotion. The training subject, proposed by the course authors and the team, appeared to be relevant and long-expected for most representatives of rural areas, which made it possible to implement the unique features of the e-learning course, including:

Enhancing Communication Qualities and Skills, and Expanding Capacity

Each participant of the e-learning course got a unique opportunity to consider new approaches to the understanding of the concept of “communication”, to determine the structure of communication process and to articulate his/her needs for the use of modern communication strategies and technology in the community.

Skill-Based Learning

Each participant was able to master the approach to organising communication in his/her own community through the acquisition of knowledge, attitudes and, especially, skills of using a variety of experiences, particularly emphasizing involvement in participation.

Monitoring Performance and Setting New Objectives

Each participant had the opportunity to perform tasks individually, as a self-test and as a follow-up study, to take part in mini-debates and group discussions of the main issues of the course. The implementation of the proposed practical tasks represented the result of individual studies and has been covered on the information resource – VASSR web-portal.

Individual Development Programme

Each participant was actually offered an individual communication skills development programme, taking into consideration his/her purpose and peculiarities of the corresponding village community.

Team of Trainers

The success of the e-course was ensured by the professional team of trainers: an author-tutor, an administrator, a tutor-expert, as well as trainers from the Swiss-Ukrainian Decentralization Support Project DESPRO, and experts from VASSR.

Innovative Learning Model

From the very beginning, the innovative learning model denoted any target activity, an organizational solution, a system, a procedure or a method of implementation of training activities, that differed significantly from the established practices, were used in that organization for the first time, and aimed at improving the performance level and development of the organization in the competitive environment.

The main characteristics of this model include a number of important features, namely: target orientation; the way of interaction between a tutor and a trainee; change in participants’ attitude to knowledge during the learning process; effective organization of the educational process, particularly with the use of modern information and communication technologies, etc. The suggested characteristics have actually managed to transform the learning content both essentially and instrumentally.

Changes in the social role of knowledge as well as cognitive and creative abilities of a person have become particularly important for the development of the proposed learning model.

Sustainable development

Each participant of the distance learning course was able to go through continuous effective development and self-improvement. This pilot course can become a kick-off for a permanent VASSR training project.

Natalia Klyuchnik - Project Manager, VASSR