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Ramping up E-Learning During the Pandemic

By Catherine O'Shea and Antonella Abategiovanni

This article originally appeared on edufinance.org on August 14, 2020. 

When the global COVID-19 pandemic closed down travel in many countries in March 2020, the EduFinance Technical Assistance team saw an opportunity to support financial institutions that were attempting to rapidly transition to a temporary remote workforce. Recognizing that in-person professional development training for staff would not be possible for an extended period, the team decided to put pilot e-learning modules that were in development online and make them widely available as quickly as possible.


As part of Opportunity EduFinance’s Technical Assistance work with financial institution partners, we provide in-depth training modules to equip education lenders with the knowledge, tools and skills needed to understand the local education sector and successfully lend to school owners, parents and students. These trainings are normally delivered by the EduFinance team during in-person sessions with the staff of financial institution partners, including loan officers, risk and credit teams and branch managers.

In line with Opportunity EduFinance’s objective to continue innovating and scale our model to more markets for greater impact, in November 2019 the team began to explore how to deliver some of these training remotely using an online platform. This would give financial institution staff opportunities for self-guided learning to compliment in-person training sessions, and offer access to online refresher courses. However, the team had no idea in November that just five months later this new pilot to test e-learning modules would become the only option to continue offering professional development training to partners during the lockdown.  


The first challenge was to quickly create and deliver content, including training resources on approaches financial institutions could use to manage operations and staff during the crisis.  The learning curve to transition in-person training modules to engaging and interactive online training was steep, but team members with previous experience in e-learning and financial literacy leveraged their skills to help create the concept and modified content.

“EduFinance’s teamwork has been great. I’ve personally been impressed by the speed with which we were able to work together to create a pilot with the financial institutions” said Antonella Abategiovanni, Opportunity EduFinance’s Technical Assistance Associate.

Modules went through multiple iterations of review in very short periods of time before being finalized. The entire team has also been involved in recording voiceovers in English, Spanish and French. The modules were then published on the Opportunity EduFinance e-learning site, which was shared with financial institution partners with log-in credentials for their staff. After reviewing some of the first modules, several partners were excited by the online training option and requested customized modules to offer their staff which reflected their unique EduFinance product terms and lending policies.


The EduFinance Technical Assistance team did not expect to have so much engagement so quickly. To date, responses from 1,160 staff completing online training modules has been received, as shown by country in the graph below:

Feedback chart

Surveys completed by participants after finishing a module showed a lot of positive reactions specifically to the case studies in the modules. One participant stated “I liked the case study because they were real with what happens actually.” Another commented about the audio descriptions, explaining that “the narrative was simple and easy to understand.”

Feedback chart


Feedback chart

The slides in the modules are very interactive and ask participants regular comprehension questions after reviewing various concepts. In the survey, many participants said they liked the opportunity to answer questions at each stage. “I liked the engagement given to the student by self-assessment of each step of learning and feedback.” Some participants also responded that they would have liked the ability to go back and change previously written answers or to have more time to prepare written answers.

Survey responses included overall affirmation for the usefulness of the online training modules. “What l like most is that the training is directly relevant to what we do at our Institution.”

 Feedback chart

This graph shows that 53% of participants felt that the order of online and in-person training were interchangeable, but could compliment one another in a blended training model.


To date, the feedback from these e-learning modules has helped the EduFinance Technical Assistance team better understand the specific training needs of each financial institution. While right now only online trainings and webinars are possible, once travel and in-person training is safe to resume EduFinance sees new opportunities to create more tailored e-learning modules for individual partners to compliment in-person training sessions.

Tailored e-learning modules can also be created and offered to financial institutions to support new onboarding of staff and refresher courses. To assist the training module customization process, the team is working to develop a platform allowing each financial institution to designate a primary contact who will support the customization of these EduFinance training courses. This designee will be able to add institution specific material to the overall training courses.

In the future, a blended approach to partner staff training using both in-person sessions and online training content will allow the EduFinance Technical Assistance team to be more versatile and efficient. E-learning modules will also help partners institutionalize the knowledge presented on EduFinance, as staff can revisit the modules to refresh their knowledge, improve comprehension, or assist with onboarding training of new hires.  The EduFinance team continues to value the power of interpersonal interactions, made evident in our approach to in-person training that focuses on highly interactive, engaging activities that force participants to think critically and discuss. We believe incorporating e-learning into our training model will support and increase the effectiveness of our overall training programme, benefiting our financial institution partners and ultimately the school owners, parents and teachers they serve. 


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