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Improving avian influenza preparedness through e-learning

18/01/2022

Avian influenza is one of the major transboundary animal diseases, which has a wide-ranging impact on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and poultry farmers, regional and international trade, food safety, public health and international travel and tourism.

By incorporating FAO’s vision for digital innovation to prevent and control this detrimental disease, the FAO Virtual Learning Centers (VLCs) launched a new online pilot training on avian influenza preparedness. This training is intended for public and private veterinarians working in government veterinary services, directly involved in the surveillance, detection, prevention and response to avian influenza. FAO is inviting veterinary services to submit nominations for the course. 

The four-week online course starting today will run through the newly established FAO VLCs. Up to 500 veterinarians from 98 member countries in the FAO regions of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Near East and North Africa will benefit from this training. Alongside the students, a pool of 40 international experts from all over the world will join the course to bring a global and regional perspective and provide valuable feedback for the pilot version.

The overall objective of the course is to strengthen the capacity of the countries for early warning, risk reduction and management of avian influenza outbreaks through building knowledge and skills on the detection, prevention and response to avian influenza outbreaks amongst technical specialists and field veterinarians. 

The impact of the course will support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by reducing the socioeconomic and public health impacts of avian influenza, securing livelihoods, improving food security and food safety, and increasing productivity in the poultry sector.

The course

The course is conducted entirely online, will take approximately 12 hours to complete and will be open for four weeks. The course starts with an interactive webinar, where participants meet with their trainers and learn about the course and avian influenza. The trainees will then learn through eight interactive online modules, covering the impact and importance of avian influenza, epidemiology, pathogenesis and clinical diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis, outbreak investigation, prevention, surveillance, control with and without vaccination, etc.  This interactive course is enriched with audiovisual materials and self-assessment questions. During the course, expert trainers will be available through a discussion forum to answer questions from the trainees and to lead interactive discussions.

As the course is open for four weeks, a specific topic is covered each week using a discussion forum. Trainers post questions to challenge participants and deepen their understanding of the course materials. The course ends with a final course assessment and a closing webinar covering topics that were difficult for participants or sparked the most discussion in the forum. Participants who complete the coursework with a comprehensive assessment are awarded a certificate. Finally, through the feedback section, participants can provide suggestions for further improvement. 

About the FAO VLCs

The FAO VLCs are virtual hubs born to develop and improve One Health capacities in all FAO regions and subregions. 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. Through the use of communication technology and instructional design, the VLC develop courses that readily respond to regional needs and priorities and fill knowledge gaps identified in different topic areas.

The FAO VLCs training model is sustainable, scalable and inclusive. It allows ample and geographically disparate audiences to be trained in an interdisciplinary manner. Cascading trainings maximizes the efficiency of the entire training process and makes education accessible to youth, women and field experts in need of skills.

To date VLCs have been established in all six FAO regions, delivering courses to more than 5 000 trainees around the world. The courses are developed in close collaboration with FAO technical divisions, regional focal points and international experts. The FAO VLCs’ work and impact helps to deliver the SDGs, particularly SDG 1, 2 and 5, and fits into FAO’s Hand-in-Hand Initiative and FAO’s Strategic Framework.

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