The coronavirus has spread through the entire world and emerged as a major public health threat. In response, the government of Bangladesh, including the Directorate General of Health Services and Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, raised a national-level alert and implemented wide-range, multiagency public health measures under World Health Organization guidelines to fight against the pandemic. However, a lack of public awareness and widespread panic and anxiety related to this unknown illness among citizens posed unique challenges and an enormous threat to the health and well-being of populations.
As COVID-19 was a new disease, its causes, symptoms and remedies were unclear. It was vital to brief healthcare professionals to equip them with proper information and WHO guidelines on the virus as soon as possible to strengthen their preparedness to address the pandemic situation and increase public awareness. Since the community of doctors, nurses, midwives, volunteers and healthcare providers in Bangladesh who needed to be briefed in the shortest amount of time was numerous and widely dispersed, it was impossible to provide physical training to all of them, posing a challenge on how to communicate the latest updates and guidelines to medical professionals.
Towards a Solution
To address this challenge, an e-learning platform was used to bring training processes online, making training available to all medical professionals in Bangladesh, including those in remote areas. Called MuktoPaath, the platform had been developed in 2016 by the Government of Bangladesh’s Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programme in its Information and Communications Technology (ICT) division. The use of an e-learning platform not only avoided the need for physical classroom attendance (problematic at any rate in the early phases of the pandemic) but also saved time and costs. This made it possible to spread awareness of and respond to COVID-19 within a short time during this crucial period.
During the pandemic, the Directorate of Health Services gave permission to ten government, non-government institutes and organizations to disseminate information and training to prevent spreading misinformation. With guidance from the Directorate General of Health Service (DGHS), several institutions used MuktoPaath as their only training-learning platform.
To use MuktoPaath, medical professionals registered online and participated in courses. After completion of the course, learners took an online quiz and after successfully passing the assessment were awarded a certificate accredited by a relevant governing institution, nongovernmental organization or ministry, etc. MuktoPaath provided quality training to 285,000 healthcare professionals in sixteen core courses under the health category during the COVID-19 pandemic period (to date), including doctors, nurses and volunteers, contributing to the increased physical and economic well-being of people in Bangladesh.
This platform contributes to SDG 3 (good health and well-being), target 3.d (strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks). As an e-learning platform, MuktoPaath targets SDG 4 (quality education) by ensuring access for all healthcare professionals to quality training, and SDG target 4.4 (substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurs). Other goals addressed are SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDG target 8.3 (promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation).
MuktoPaath is the largest e-learning platform in Bangladesh. MuktoPaath is a multidimensional platform that partners with relevant institutions. Through MuktoPaath, almost two million participants have enrolled in courses on topics including health and awareness, education, information technology, entrepreneurship, journalism, personal development, etc. For all types of target groups there are all manner of courses available. In addition to medical professionals, the platform has been used by teachers, students, youths, employees, professionals, civil service officers, lawyers, journalists, entrepreneurs, agriculturists, fresh graduates, migrant workers, homemakers and more.
Throughout the lockdown stages of the pandemic, virtual participation increased dramatically. In collaboration with the Directorate of Primary Education under the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, MuktoPaath also launched online courses focusing on the professional development of teachers, attracting over 185,000 enrollees. Apart from that, professional training was provided to government officials, doctors, nurses, volunteers and lawyers.
The project is sustainable in that the certificates received upon successful completion are government accredited, which benefits the learners by improving their ability to gain decent employment. It is an innovative platform with unique features making it readily accessible for underprivileged and less educated communities. For instance, the course content can also be accessed offline, making it easier to use for people with limited access to or poor internet connections.
Through MuktoPaath, professionals and citizens in Bangladesh were able to access online training from anywhere at any time. MuktoPaath was an effective and inclusive platform for education and training during crisis. This can act as a model for national and international policymakers on how to ensure peoples’ access to quality knowledge and competencies, not only in the case of future pandemics or crises, but in general. The Government of Bangladesh has noted that a blended learning approach, with ‘face-to-face’ teaching and learning being complemented by e-learning and e-training, may be the future of quality education. MuktoPaath, with its e-learning platform success stories, can act as a long-term solution to achieving the educational goals of Bangladesh.
MuktoPaath’s e-learning and training framework can be replicated in other countries, specifically least developed countries where time, cost and physical presence are major barriers to providing quality education and training. Government-level collaboration should be possible with the MuktoPaath team offering technical guidance in implementing the initiative in interested countries.