By Rachel Nova, SolarSPELL Project Manager
Think back to a class you took, or a training you attended, within the last six months or so. Can you remember all the details of what you learned? Could you — without any handouts, books or videos to look back on — teach others about what you learned? Most likely, your answer is “no.”
Now imagine this same scenario, but this time you are equipped with an interactive, multi-modal digital course that contains all the information you need to convey. Your trainees could take the course independently or with your guidance, right on their smartphone, tablet or laptop, without using the internet or any mobile data. In this scenario, would you feel more equipped and empowered to teach others? I imagine you’re yelling “YES!”
This simple, yet powerful, idea is what motivated the SolarSPELL team to develop the SolarSPELL Training Course, also known as the STC.
In 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic grounding the SolarSPELL team, the need for a digital version of our in-person training was more pressing than ever. We quickly got to work creating the first version of the STC (then called the Offline Training Course) using a platform called Moodle.
The first version of the STC contained much of the same information that we have in our multi-day in-person training, including the history of the SolarSPELL initiative, the contents of the digital library, navigation, information literacy, and much more. The in-person training is ideally conducted over three full days, and the first version of the STC took 4–6 hours to complete.
Now that the Moodle version of the course has been in the field for a couple of years, we’ve been hearing feedback from our library users around the world about the importance of the course, as well as some of their suggestions for it.
The overwhelming consensus is that the content and availability of the STC is important and helpful for trainees that return to their schools and need to train others on the SolarSPELL library. However, the format of the course presented some challenges for users. First, Moodle requires a username and password to access the course, which complicates access. Second, many found the navigation and layout of the course confusing, especially for digital novices. Last, we heard the course could be more engaging. With this feedback, we took action.
Version 2: Migrating and redesigning the STC
At SolarSPELL, learning (and applying that learning for continuous improvement) is one of our core values. So, in response to user feedback, we set out to develop version 2 of the SolarSPELL Training Course. Our main goals with this redevelopment were to make the course more accessible and more engaging.
To spearhead this process, we recruited three master’s students from the ASU Learning Design and Technologies (LDT) program to create the first iteration of our new-and-improved STC as their capstone project in Spring 2023. The LDT students used the free version of iSpring, a PowerPoint plug-in software, and worked closely with SolarSPELL staff to migrate the course from Moodle to iSpring, making major accessibility and engagement improvements to the course along the way.
With the foundation laid by the LDT students, SolarSPELL Project Manager Rachel Nova (hi, that’s me!) got to work in Summer 2023 finalizing the course—this time with a paid version of iSpring Suite 11.
The new course format is easy to navigate and, importantly, is not password protected, so library users can easily access it. Users can click through the course in order, or jump to a section using the Table of Contents if they are looking for specific information.
iSpring Suite 11 offered many more features to make the course visually appealing and engaging, with easy tools to build interactions, quizzes and role play activities into the course.
Perhaps the most exciting new addition to the course is the final section: Becoming the SolarSPELL Trainer. This section contains an abundance of brand new resources, activities, downloadable PDFs and examples to help library users plan a SolarSPELL training at their school or in their community.
This summer, our Education Library users in Lesotho were the first to receive the new-and-improved STC in their updated library! We look forward to seeing how the STC improvements empower our communities to further their knowledge and deepen SolarSPELL’s impact.