Increasing efficiency for the poor


Biography Dr. Jiping Zhang is Senior Distance Learning Specialist and Instructional Designer at the Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC) of the World Bank. She started distance learning in 1997 by developing the Internet-based-training and CD-ROM version with streaming video on water resources management and rural development policy courses for World Bank staff training. Before joining TDLC, she worked in the World Bank Institute (WBI). Jiping has B.S. and M.S. degree in Civil Engineering from Tsinghua University (China) and holds an Ed.D in Human Resource Development/Adult Education from Oklahoma State University (US). Before she came to the US, she taught in the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University and worked as senior operational officer at the China Investment Bank.

Microfinance has already had a positive impact on the household budgets and quality of life for millions of people in developing countries. However, the gap between the supply and demand for microfinance services remains huge. What carries weight in this respect is not only a lack of funds; even more important is the lack of capacity in operation-sustainable institutions. To address this constraint, ADBI, TDLC and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) designed a course entitled “Training of Trainers on Microfinance” (MFTOT). It was launched in 2005, the year designated by the UN as the International Year of Microcredit. Courses have been carried out via distance-learning centers in more than thirteen Asian countries and made avalable to dispersed participants all over the world, including in Africa. At eLearning Africa, Dr. Jiping Zhang will speak about the experience gained so far and elucidate future prospects.

The eLearning material for the Microfinanace Distance Learning (MFDL) course was developed by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF); it consists of a participant workbook and 430 minutes of interactive computer-based instruction. The content explores why and how microfinance operations grow to provide financial services to poor and low-income people on a sustainable basis. The eLearning part of the MFTOT course is blended with online tutoring, videoconferencing sessions and local face-to-face activities at the country level. The course team introduced web streaming (live and archived) and the Moodle open source learning management systerm in 2007, which increased accessibility and flexibility of participants and scaled-up the course.

To build training capacity, accreditation of trainers has been conducted in each course to certify participants to become trainers of the UN MFDL course. It has ensured high-quality learning and a high completion rate. Excellent graduates are hired by later courses to tutor new participants. They become local champions and community leaders to promote microfinance in their community and country.

To overcome the lanaguage barrier, a demand-driven localisation plan has been introduced in eight Asia countires. The quality learning resource will be further disseminated to more people in need.

The current course features a unique, blended approach consisting of:

1. Self-paced study using interactive digital learning materials developed by UNCDF. The Microfinance Distance Learning (MFDL) package explores why and how microfinance operations grow to provide financial services to poor and low-income people on a sustainable basis. It brings together advice and best practices from successful practitioners and institutions from Asia, Latin America and Africa.

2. Online tutoring. The course engages tutors who were top graduates of previous MFDL courses to support the learning process. The tutors assist participants throughout the course in completing their assignments and then grade them. Communication takes place primarily via email under supervision of the course organisers. In countries where there is a large number of participants and where accredited trainers are available, tutoring is sometimes done in local languages, possibly with some face-to-face sessions. The tutors’ service fees are subsidised by the donors.

3. Meeting with international microfinance experts through four, three-hour videoconference sessions at the local GDLN center or through live webcasting. The videoconference sessions feature presentations and discussions on current issues and best practices in microfinance.

4. An eDiscussion forum moderated by experts.

Some comments from former participants:

  • “The course was very well structured, gave a lot of information in a systematic manner, gave broader perspective and clarified grey areas for me”.
  • “It is very convenient for full time working people to participate in the course. And the course provided all necessary and basic knowledge of MF”.

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