Bringing Virtual Training to MSI’s Newest Client
As part of the Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation (AME) project with the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, MSI is mobilizing and training 50 AME Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who will provide AME support to Department of Defense (DoD) Combatant Commands across the U.S. and the world. These SMEs will help Combatant Commands to incorporate more robust analysis in the design of U.S. security cooperation programs and adopt better procedures for monitoring and learning from the implementation of these programs.
To prepare these experts for their roles, MSI developed an intensive two-week training program to equip the SMEs with a wide spectrum of AME skills, including contextual assessment, problem analysis, theory of change development, and the development of a robust monitoring system.
When it became clear that an in-person instructor-led course could not be offered due to restrictions resulting from COVID-19, the training team immediately converted the content into an online, virtual instructor-led course.
Thankfully, MSI’s Strategy, Evaluation and Analysis (SEA) staff (Danielle Burke, Raj Kapoor, Tim Reilly and Gwynne Zodrow) was able to rely on its Leadership and Organizational Development (LOD) colleagues Mary Liakos and Barbara Pando-Behnke – experts in adult learning and remote training methodologies. Together, they quickly worked over a period of several weeks to transform 80 hours of in-person training into roughly 18 hours of virtual, instructor-led training modules.
Since the SEA staff already had materials developed, the challenge was in adapting the instructional methods and shortening the instruction time to better suit an online approach. These trainings also needed to overcome the challenges of distance learning, including building rapport with participants and maintaining high levels of participant engagement.
To address these challenges, the virtual trainings were designed to be highly interactive and featured breakout discussions and exercises, multiple-choice, multiple answers, and short answer polls and opportunities for Q&A. Each module was supplemented by readings and homework to ensure the learning was cemented and processed by the participants. MSI further supported remote staff’s experience by fully utilizing its learning management system (LMS), where staff could access all the session slides, materials, homework sheets and reading assignments in advance of as well as after each session, as well as upload their completed homework sheets.
The DOD-AME team successfully completed the virtual training for the first 30 SMEs in May. Shortly after the course was complete, the trainers used an after-action review approach to pull out what worked well, and what could be improved for future course offerings. At the top of the list was the need to identify examples that were relevant in the security cooperation context. Additionally, pre- and post-training assessments demonstrated significant increases in participant understanding of the material.
Armed with this feedback, the L&OD team is now designing a training of trainers’ approach so that the newly minted AME project managers are equipped to be the instructors for the next incoming cadre of SMEs, expected in early September.
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