18 May 2010, Rome - An innovative FAO online learning program has been incorporated into the curriculum of Spain's Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), marking the first time that an FAO virtual learning course can be used by students to earn a recognized academic certificate and college credits.
The certificate program is based on a virtual, distance learning course developed by FAO over several years and is taught in the UOC's Virtual Campus by an international team of experts with extensive field experience. UOC has been offering the course, Food Security: Assessment and Action, for several months.
So far, students from twenty nine countries, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Mali have participated.
Know-how where it is needed
This certificate provides students of all backgrounds with not only a strong and holistic understanding of food security but also the skills to assess and analyze food security projects and the tools to put those skills into action," said Imma Tubella i Casadevall, Rector of UOC during a signing ceremony, held at FAO today to formalize the working relationship.
"The Universitat Oberta de Catalunya makes a natural partner", added Anton Mangstl, Director of FAO's Office of Knowledge Exchange, Research and Extension.
"They are well known not only for the excellence of their online learning program, but for their emphasis on teaching students in the developing world".
"This is an important new step forward in FAO's efforts to transfer knowledge and build capacity in the developing world", noted Cristina Petracchi, a Capacity Development Officer at FAO who contributed to the development of the original Food Security related courses.
Working together with FAO, UOC took the UN agency's core 12 Food Security elearning courses and supplemented it with additional activities, assignments, and materials. Students engage with one another and specialized tutors via an interactive online forum.
Upon successful completion of the course, students get a joint FAO-UOC Certificate in Food Security: Assessment and Action, fully transferable to the UOC's Master's in Food, Society and International Food Governance, along with 15 European Credit Transfer System credits which they can apply toward their degrees.
The course is being offered in English. FAO and UOC are now looking at ways they can incorporate other FAO learning curriculum and expand their efforts into other languages.
A growing network
In order to take its rich store of knowledge into the field, FAO has been actively consolidating partnerships with a number of learning institutions concerned with capacity building and development.
In addition to UOC, these partners include: the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), the African Virtual University (AVU), the World Food Programme (WFP), InWent and the Goupe de Recherche Échange Technique (GRET).