RENATA: Online Academy Helping Educate Public Sector

Ana María Ocampo Cuesta
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Bogotá, Colombia

Through its programs and certificate and specialized courses, Colombia’s RENATA network is training State officials in matters relating to governance and technology appropriation.

Work commitments are no longer a valid excuse for not continuing with professional training development. In fact, now more that ever, employers are increasingly encouraging their organizations to include alternatives such as e-learning, to improve employee skills.

This trend has also made its way into the public sector. In conjunction with the RENATA network, Colombia has had a wide range of online academic courses available since 2007, so that more public servants can be trained to use technology in their daily tasks.

RENATA is the Red Nacional Académica de Tecnología Avanzada (National Academic Network of Advanced Technology), and its main function is to connect and bring together members of the Sistema Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación – SNCTI (National Science, Technology and Innovation System) and to the rest of the world, through tools, services and technological infrastructure. This network offers services in education, innovation and research projects that promote the development of a knowledge-based society in Colombia.

Among the many education projects the network is currently running, the ICT learning experiences have been a highlight, and have been adopted in the public sector on subjects relating to the use and development of technology, as part of a national digital policy.

RENATA’s Academic Manager, Miguel Ángel Amórtegui, spoke with E-learn about his successful experience training Colombia’s public servants, through the Blackboard Open LMS platform provided by Blackboard.

Policy with scope

The Colombian government has established an ‘Online Governance’ strategy as part of its digital inclusion roadmap. Presented in 2008, the strategy aims to build a more efficient, transparent and participative State through ITC use. For this reason, State entities have been adopting new uses for technology, developing new services, and implementing new strategies to bring the public sector closer to citizens.

RENATA has joined forces with the Ministerio de Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones – MinTIC (Ministry of Information Technology and Communications) to offer a series of programs, certificate courses, workshops and free courses aimed specifically for public servants. As Miguel Ángel Amórtegui explains, these online courses are focused on the development of skills and optimizing the use of technology to encourage further adoption of the national digital strategy.

In 2014, RENATA formed an alliance with Brazil’s National Education and Research Network (RNP). This alliance enabled RENATA to bring Brazil’s Escola Superior de Redes – ESR (Superior School of Networks) educational model to Colombia, which offers classes and training courses on Information Technology Governance. This training model meets labor sector demands and allows professionals and public servants to be in direct contact by using these tools.

Learning and progress

RENATA is currently bringing to a close two Digital Governance courses and two MOOCs. The former is focused on Open Data and Digital Governance, while the MOOCs were on IPv6 Protocol Adoption and Adoption of Best IT Management and Security Practices.

Further programs will be launched between September and the new year, namely Public Procurement, Innovation Culture and Social Networks and Interoperability; 1,080 public servants nationwide are expected to be certified on these courses via the Blackboard Open LMS.


Online Education to Service and Improvement of the Public Sector

Additionally, three new MOOCs on the Moodle 3.0 platform are ready: IT Security and Privacy, a basic Internet of Things security course, and an advanced course on IPv6 protocol adoption. These will be open to staff beginning in September, foreseeing a total of 2,000 public servants certified nationwide.

According to Miguel Ángel, the overall sentiment around these activities is highly positive. The network has 1,000 active users, who have access to the programs and resources available at all times. The idea is to grow by expanding courses that have an impact at the Latin American level, where more users can develop further and more advanced skills.

Similarly, the abandonment rate remains between 49% and 60%, a positive figure in comparison to international desertion rates for online training, which stand at 80% or even higher.

Although these metrics are quantitative, feedback and follow-up on the program, conducted by RENATA and the Ministry, are favorable in terms of implementing this alliance as part of the Online Governance Strategy. These programs are expected to have a direct influence on public administration, while the tools and lessons learned will serve as a tool for improving the work at hand. This is why, according to Miguel Ángel, the academic offering will focus on subjects and tools that can be easily introduced at the workplace in order to improve and optimize processes.

Public servants, meanwhile, are discovering an opportunity for personal growth and professional training. The courses are not a requirement or obligation at their place of work, but rather, a commitment to developing skills that support them as they perform their jobs.

Miguel Ángel recognizes, however, that the online training model is still being consolidated in Colombia and as a result, there is a need to reinforce communication and distribution processes among the target audience.

Personalization for access

RENATA is a network that puts together and offers academic training services, placing emphasis on the importance that these services are convenient, attractive, and user-friendly. For this reason, they chose the Blackboard Open LMS platform to offer their training programs for public servants.

The reliability, support and versatility offered by Blackboard Open LMS were among the reasons why the decision was made, Miguel Ángel points out. Further decisive factors for keeping it in use have included the possibility of integrating and working with apps to complement the design, and the services that can be offered.

Another Blackboard Open LMS feature that Miguel Ángel emphasizes on, is how easy it is to work on the platform and adapt it to specific course and user needs. This is important for them, since they don’t count with a development team. However, based on feedback they have received from public servants and heads of participating entities, the platform has proved to be dynamic and easy to use. They have carefully followed up on user queries and suggestions, so that they can constantly improve the experience, since the aim, as Miguel Ángel explains, is to offer users programs and training options that are constantly evolving and improving.

This is why RENATA is working towards implementing and adding new tools that will make IT learning strategies more dynamic. These development strategies include blended learning courses, real-time lectures, services that use augmented reality, and more varied public and private Open Digital Education Resources (REDAS, in Spanish) to complement courses and learning facilities.

There can be no doubt that through the coordinated use of technology, RENATA is supporting the inclusion and implementation of ITC in Colombia’s governmental entities. But, in addition, it is also fostering professional growth for the thousands of Colombians who through RENATA can find the opportunities to learn according to their own specific needs and projects.

* Miguel Ángel Amórtegui, Academic Manager, RENATA, National Academic Advanced Technology Network Corporation, Colombia.


Carlos F Vargas.

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