Humanitarian eLearning: Helping Humanitarian Organizations Save Lives

Humanitarian eLearning: Helping Humanitarian Organizations Save Lives
Summary: Does eLearning have a crucial role to play in humanitarian organizations? The World Health organization (WHO) seems to think so. Earlier this year, the WHO published a report stating that eLearning could be the key to solving the current global shortfall of 7.2 million healthcare workers, particularly in developing countries where the need for healthcare workers is the greatest. But healthcare is just one very specific area where eLearning can further humanitarian causes – what else does humanitarian eLearning have to offer?

6 Ways Humanitarian eLearning Helps Save Lives

We’ve worked with many international humanitarian organizations and, during that time, we’ve created a wide range of eLearning content plus different supporting systems to help these organizations use and distribute their eLearning materials.

We’ve seen first hand that, although aid agencies do have some of the same training needs as corporate organizations, there are some qualities that make eLearning particularly well-suited to humanitarian training. Here are 6 ways humanitarian eLearning can help save lives:

  1. Helps vulnerable people access education.
    People living in remote, isolated or disadvantaged areas often don’t have easy access to learning; eLearning can be a way of making education accessible to these people. If the eLearning includes features that aid communication, such as forums or instant messaging, it can also give these vulnerable people the opportunity to connect with learning professionals. Being able to speak to a teacher on a one-on-one basis naturally improves the learning experience in general, but it can also have indirect benefits such as boosting the learner’s confidence and enthusiasm for learning.
  2. Brings your message to the masses.
    Raising awareness is often a crucial part of humanitarian work, and over the years, many aid agencies have used eLearning as an easy and cost-effective way of educating the general public about humanitarian causes.
    Some examples of eLearning and online educational tools that have raised awareness of important humanitarian issues, including:

    • ICRC’s free eLearning resources
      This collection of modules educate people about the many different areas of international humanitarian law, including modules aimed at educating healthcare workers about their rights and responsibilities during armed conflicts.
    • UNHCR Stateless training
      Stateless people are not recognized as citizens of any state. The UNHCR recently made their statelessness training publicly available, to help raise awareness of the issues facing the estimated 12.000.000 people across the globe whose human, social, and political rights are impacted by statelessness.
  3. Ideal for people working in the field.
    Hands-on humanitarian work requires people to be on the ground. From distributing food to refugees to establishing and running field hospitals, workers have to be thrown into the crisis in order to help alleviate the suffering and aid in bringing about a resolution. It is in times like this that internet connectivity is usually poor if available at all. Conferencing facilities, electronic references, and other forms of knowledge transfer tend to take a back seat where practical aid can be applied. This can cause issues not only in communication, but also in training workers in new developments or standard operating procedures in crises. In the absence of being able to ship a teacher out, eLearning can resolve issues like this if only workers can reach it. In our experience, agencies often get their field workers to download eLearning modules to take with them or even send them out on a USB stick or CD-ROM, giving them access to critical information even in connectionless places. There are also solutions (like our Learning Management System Buffer) which enable workers to record scores, learning results, progress etc. which will then update the organization’s Learning Management System next time they have even the smallest amount of connectivity, keeping learners and teachers connected.
  4. Helps organizations respond immediately to humanitarian crises.
    Humanitarian work is often urgent, for example responding to a natural disaster or an outbreak of disease in a refugee camp – so when there’s a need for humanitarian training, it’s often crucial that this training is completed as quickly as possible. Since eLearning can often be taken at a time and location that suits the learner, learners can usually complete eLearning much more quickly than the equivalent classroom-based training. By speeding up the learning process, eLearning can help humanitarian nonprofits respond more quickly and potentially save more lives as a result.
  5. Ideal for training short-term volunteers.
    Aid agencies may enlist the help of volunteers on a short-term basis, but scheduling classroom-based training is often too time-consuming and costly for short-term volunteers. If the organization already has a suite of relevant humanitarian eLearning, they can distribute these materials to learners immediately with no time delay and often without incurring additional costs, which makes it the perfect solution for training short-term volunteers.
  6. An easy way to train a global workforce.
    For organizations which operate globally, it can be difficult to ensure all your staff and volunteers have access to the training they need to be productive and safe in their work. eLearning is an easy way to train a globally distributed workforce, which makes it particularly well-suited to humanitarian work as these non profits typically operate across multiple countries and sometimes even globally.


Over the years of working with five international aid organizations, we’ve had the privilege to see first hand how effective eLearning can provide humanitarian organizations with a way to quickly and easily train their entire, globally-distributed network of volunteers and workers.

The instant, global reach of eLearning has helped these aid agencies respond more effectively to humanitarian crises.

There are, perhaps, very few industries or verticals in which eLearning has such a direct impact on people’s quality of life. Whether the online humanitarian training is giving an aid worker a greater understanding of a crisis or teaching them to make decisions with lives on the line, the advances in educational technology has, perhaps, helped to save more lives across the world than in any other field.