Designing Personal Learning Environments for Doctors Without Borders

December 23, 2014

Learning Agents has been engaged by Doctors without Borders (MSF Canada) to develop a flexible design for Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) for humanitarian workers. The design will be based on the needs of two international Operational Centres: Barcelona/Athens (OCBA) and Brussels (OCB).


The learning and development solution will serve health professionals as well as specialists in logistics, water and sanitation, security and communications. These workers include operational centre support staff, international expatriates working on foreign missions and national staff in the field around the world.

Technologies to be explored will include Learning Management Systems, Talent Management Systems, ePortfolio platforms and Open Badges (micro-credential) solutions.

ecosystem diagram
Early conceptual diagram

The goal of the project will be to make it easier for these often highly mobile humanitarian workers to learn and develop in their jobs as they move from mission to mission, role to role and sometimes from agency to agency. The learning needs of these diverse professionals are highly personalized and informed by experiential and social learning on the job, often under stressful conditions. Recognition of their development in knowledge, skills and abilities has historically been lacking. In addition, this PLE initiative will seek to improve the collection and valorization of feedback from these workers about particular missions and overall service delivery, which is crucial to ongoing continuous improvement in the MSF movement.

The phases for the project have been planned as follows:

  • An environmental scan of current and emerging PLE practices across higher education and workplace learning contexts around the world
  • An overview of current technologies in use at the two Operational Centres
  • Alignment with MSF Learning and Development policies and strategic plans
  • A survey of MSF staff and interviews with key respondents

Based on the activities above, Learning Agents will develop:

  • A high level PLE vision document which to be validated by OCBA and OCB
  • A strategic framework document, outlining potential technology paths and effective practices for moving forward
  • A low cost exploration of some of the potential technologies in order to validate assumptions about required functions and interoperability between components
  • A technical specifications document which MSF will use to invite proposals from potential suppliers

Yet to be planned in detail is a later implementation phase will test a pilot solution for a subset of MSF staff before rolling it out to a broader audience. This phased project is expected unfold through calendar 2015.