FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Online training helps veterinarians combat avian influenza

By incorporating the vision of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on digital innovation to prevent and control avian influenza, the FAO Virtual Learning Center for Europe and Central Asia has trained over 240 veterinarians through an online, Russian language course for preparedness against an outbreak of the detrimental disease.

Avian influenza is spreading throughout the world, affecting both domestic poultry and wild birds. The disease comes at a high cost. Not only do the production losses due to mortality affect all poultry producers, from backyards to the large integrated enterprises, but also because of the trade disruptions at both domestic and international levels and the serious negative impacts on local livelihood. There are public health risks and a possible subsequent effect on tourism.

To ensure preparedness, early detection, and response against the incursion of any transboundary animal disease such as avian influenza, it is paramount to train the first responders – the veterinarians, and as many as possible.

The four-week course targeting countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia is a self-paced study with a unique opportunity to discuss and network with international and national experts. This training was offered to public and private veterinarians who are directly involved in diagnosing, investigating and responding to an outbreak of avian influenza. The overall objective of the course was to educate first responders to enable early warning actions, risk reduction, and management of avian influenza outbreaks through building knowledge and skills in the detection, prevention and response to disease outbreaks.

“Recently, we’ve realized that, even with continuous trainings, we cannot meet the rising demand of both infected and at-risk countries,” said Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo, FAO technical advisor on animal health. He pointed out the “obvious advantages” of online trainings – a format that requires only a stable internet connection, and cost-effective to scale up, reaching people in remote locations who can then learn at their own pace.

About the course

The course materials were developed jointly by a team of experts from FAO and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute in Germany. A first pilot of the course with participants from 98 countries representing six continents took place earlier this year, with a very high satisfaction rate among participants. According to the self-assessment before and after the study, the target competencies of the trainees in terms of avian influenza knowledge improved significantly.

“The course is delivered entirely online and will take approximately 12 hours to complete” said Andrii Pavlenko, the Virtual Learning Centre Manager for Europe and Central Asia. “Up to 500 participants can take the course at the same time,” he added.

The course opens with a live interactive webinar, when trainees meet their trainers and are introduced to the course. Trainees then progress through eight interactive modules, enriched with photographs, exercises, and self-test questions. During the course, trainers and international experts are available through a discussion forum to answer questions and to lead discussions. A list of reference materials as further reading is also provided. Towards the end of the course a second live interactive webinar is held, to discuss topics raised during the course in more detail, and trainees take a final assessment to test their learning. Participants who successfully completed the course are provided with a certificate. Finally, through the feedback section, participants evaluate the course content and provide suggestions for further improvement. The records of course completion will be sent to the nominating organization.

The FAO Virtual Learning Centre provides virtual hubs for delivering online training. The mission is to provide trainees with access to inclusive, engaging, and high-quality training using a variety of methodologies such as online tutored courses, blended learning, technical webinars and mobile learning.

15 December 2022, Budapest, Hungary