The scaling down Cooptic in Belgium

Card's author : Gatien Bataille
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Testimonies :


In the framework of a Leonardo da Vinci "skill transfer" project called Coop-Tic (2011-1-FR1-LEO05-24397), the CRIE in Mouscron carried out a scaling down training session in its territory (Wallonia, Belgium) during the months of February and March 2013.
This training session had 5 distance modules and 2 residence meetings and was followed by 14 people from the fields of environmental education and nature management.

Support materials for this course can be found on this wiki:

Training methodology

For this training course on scaling up we chose:
  • active participation of students, face-to-face and distance,
  • frequent and diversified use of technological tools,
  • making available and encouraging the production of multimedia documents,
  • interaction between peers,
  • opening the tool to outside resources and actors.

Adapting the initial training focus

Based on the initial training experience

With the initial training experience we thought it would be interesting to adapt it based on the following:
  • We did not intend to organise our training around the life stages of a network as in the initial training. The duration of our training course did not allow us to reproduce the life stages of a network seriously (not even in an "accelerated" version).
  • We only planned one distance module before the first meeting in order to create the group dynamics as early as possible (because the dynamics only really started when participants were face-to-face)
  • We did not intend to suggest "itinerant cards" for our trainees since the rate of completion at the end of the initial training was very low, despite having a "web" audience that was more inclined to write on the net.
  • We did not intend to work with a wiki for each trainee and preferred using a common wiki for the group where all resources and production were compiled.
  • At the initial training, the time lapse between meetings was quite large, meaning there was a considerable loss of participation. We preferred grouping face-to-face modules close in time to minimise this effect.
  • During the initial training, we were exposed to many ICT tools. This was not accompanied with sufficient time to become familiar with these tools and lead to a lot of frustration among trainees (lack of skills, not enough time or knowledge to test the tool "at home"). Therefore we decided to choose fewer ICT tools and provide more time face-to-face to allow trainees to become familiar with them. Our goal was to get them to use the ICT tools we considered essential in a totally independent way.
  • We planned some time to think about solutions together that would allow each trainee to talk about this training using simple words in their environment to promote the dissemination of the lessons learnt.

Based on the "Belgian" context

The profile of "Belgian" trainees

The target audience of our training were actors in the fields of environmental education or nature protection.
They can be described as having:
  • a high level of involvement in environmental problems
  • a high level of freedom in their actions (non-commercial sector) or, in the opposite sense, working in a very restrictive environment (employees in local or regional administrations)
  • a certain level of reticence towards ICT tools and the Internet
  • not much knowledge on ICT tools and the Internet
  • facilitating a network of people who are not very connected to the Internet.

Mapping the trainees

Our group included:
  • 2 people who worked on a river contract
  • 4 people working in the field of environmental education
  • 2 people working in the field of popular education (specifically regarding organic food)
  • 1 person working in the field of sustainable development
  • 3 people working for a communal nature plan
  • 1 person working in a local action group
  • 1 person working in the field of cryptozoology

Adaptations made

  • Since our audience was "close to the ground" and had little time (or in any case were little inclined to spending much time in a first stage on training in ICT tools), we adapted our training and made it shorter. This entailed two modules face-to-face with five distance modules.
  • We chose for a more advanced form of accompanying (re-launching, connected to Skype or reachable on the phone, advanced explanatory screencasts) this was because our trainees were not at all familiar with the web 2.0.
  • In general terms, we adapted the content of the activities with themes relating to the protection of nature or environmental education. (moving discussion, facilitation exercises for participatory meetings…)
  • For trainees who worked in environments that were not very "connected" we provided network facilitation tools "outside the web". This also allowed us to keep up a certain interest in the trainees that were not that "ICT friendly" and to answer their concerns regarding "off-line" network facilitation.
  • We generally spent more time on "common goods" and free licences. We thought it was appropriate to do this since:
    • it is the core of the "political" project that is underlying to this training
    • it is an important challenge that has a strong repercussion in the environmental context
    • it is important to be able to protect one's productions as common goods
  • While remaining open to the opportunities and suggestions-requests of our trainees, we "modulated" the learning times for a certain number of tools that we considered were basic and for which we wanted the trainees to be fully independent at the end of the training (co-writing and audio and videoconferences).

Content of the "Belgian" training course

At the start of the training/ distance learning between the 8th and 14th February
  • Module: Getting to know each other.

During the first 3-day face-to-face meeting from the 27th of February to the 1st of March
  • Day 1: The challenges of cooperation
    • Module: The 12 sides to cooperation
    • Module: The power of cooperation
    • Module: The invisible abundance
  • Day 2: Tips and tricks for network facilitation
    • Module: The barriers and facilitating elements to participate in a network
    • Module: Encouraging participation face-to-face and from a distance
    • Module: A network lives, grows and is assessed
  • Day 3: Some tools to get started
    • Module: Tools are never neutral
    • Module: What tools and for what purposes?

Distance / week of 4th to 8th March
  • Module: Individual tracking
  • Module: Project accelerator

Distance / week of 11th to 15th March
  • Module: Individual tracking (continuation)
  • Module: Project accelerator (continuation)

At the last 1-day meeting on 22nd March
  • Module: A world without common goods?
  • Module: Competition or cooperation: some tips to act
  • Module: Free licences and intellectual property

Distance / beginning of April
  • Time for collective synchronous distance assessment
  • Personal assessment

Distance / beginning of May
  • Distance exchange with the trainers / What have you done with what you've learnt?
  • Feedback to the groups of trainees

Impressions on the training

by the trainees

A survey was circulated at the end of the training that was answered by all trainees. Here are the overall impressions.

To summarise, participants expressed the following satisfactions:
the training had been well thought through: a combination of theory and practice
that trainers were available and created learning dynamics that were clearly appreciated
that the training allows building confidence towards the methods and ICT tools to facilitate a network and to get going right from the start of the training (a leg up for our projects)

To summarise, participants expressed the following frustrations:
not enough time to discover more about the ICT tools and practice with them!
not enough time to go deeper into some more theory aspect that require a big change in posture (so it is not simple and requires some time)

To summarise, participants expressed the following areas for improvement:

Plan more time to learn to use the ICT tools…take it a little further than simply discovering them
Plan more time for face-to-face meetings (even if it is difficult to fit into one's agenda)

To summarise, participants made the following other remarks:

Thank you, it was great!
This must continue

By the trainers

These are the main results of the assessments made by the trainers.

Even if we planned extra time to learn about the web tools we introduced, it seems this time was not sufficient
It seems necessary to have an even tighter framework for distance modules to really accompany "hesitant" trainees
It could be useful to organise "remote control"; that is controlling a trainee's computer remotely when there is a technical problem
Even if we did our best to avoid any technical glitches, some occurred anyway!
We expected this, but the scope of it surprised us: trainees were very keen on the underlying political and philosophical aspects in the training

Below is a graph describing the progress of the training, made with the tool Hy-Sup (Hy-sup is a European research programme on the characterisation of Hybrid tools for Higher Education)


Success factors

We consider the following factors contributed to the success of the training:

  • A highly available team of trainers
  • A clearly identified main trainer who was highly available on-site and remotely
  • Permanent contact between the group thanks to the discussion list with the training team members
  • A strong technical control over the tools used
  • Creating favourable conditions for collaboration during face-to-face meetings (during breaks, meals and during the evenings)
  • Organising the training in a way that allowed trainees to "skipping" some distance modules (this is often a weakness in terms of participation for this type of trainings)
  • A constant combination of technical work and moments for philosophical reflection
  • An alternation between times when trainees where "logged-on" and times "outside the web"

Comments for the future

Even if this topic was interesting for many people, it is not that clear how to transform this interest into a real wish to participate in a training course.
  • because of the broadness of the topic requires several days of face-to-face training and this can be an impediment for many people (;3 days of face-to-face meetings! Impossible, my agenda is overloaded")
  • because the topic was perceived as one "they already knew and more or less mastered" by many of the participants (why invest money in a training course on this topic?)
  • because the topic of the training was seen by some as something for "geeks" ("my network does not really use the web… these tools won't really help me")

However, at the end of the training, the trainees
  • would have liked the training to continue...
  • consider the face-to-face meeting were a real plus, essential to the group dynamics
  • mentioned they had learnt and discovered a lot on network facilitation (facilitating a network is not only organising a meeting every so often!)
  • appreciated discovering the theory hiding behind network facilitation and the "off-line" facilitation methods.