Training humanitarian professionals at a distance: testing the feasibility of distance learning with humanitarian professionals
AbstractTraining is an essential part of the professional development of staff working for international humanitarian organizations. While humanitarian workers are being deployed around the world to provide life-saving relief assistance in often-hazardous missions, it is imperative for organizations to ensure that staff members understand the mission and protocol of their organizations and that they develop an appreciation for the impact their work has on beneficiaries. Demand for such training has been expanding exponentially over the last decade with the growing number of humanitarian organizations and personnel. In the United Nations alone, an estimated 37,000 civilian personnel are being employed as part of UN humanitarian operations, an increase of 54% since 1997; 75% of this personnel is composed of national staff of the countries of operation (United Nations, 2008). With the increasing reliance of humanitarian organizations on national staff to manage their field operations, the professional development of staff members poses an ever-growing challenge due to the remoteness and distribution of staff, limiting organizations' ability to maintain the coherence and cogency of their mission and methods. Although many international humanitarian organizations have adopted some form of distance learning into their staff training, few organizations have evaluated the effectiveness of their distance learning programs. This research briefly evaluates the literature relevant to the use of distance learning for training professional staff in the humanitarian field, assesses how distance learning programs are being used among select humanitarian organizations based in the USA, and reviews the results of a pilot distance learning course offered to mid-career professionals working on international humanitarian issues in a professional capacity.