The April 2020 Reintegration Workshops were delivered online due to the travel restrictions and physical distancing requirements of the current COVID-19 global pandemic. The two-day workshops, delivered in April, were interactive sessions facilitated by the University of Queensland.
Reintegration Workshops are a platform for scholars to reflect, review and modify their Reintegration Action Plans (RAPs). During the workshops, scholars reflected on their scholarship experiences, the development of practical linkages, and actions to support successful reintegration. Discussions also included potential challenges and practical opportunities that lie ahead with the occurrence of COVID-19 and potential impact on their goals to contribute to more equitable and inclusive development in their countries.
The online workshops included a total of 55 scholars (including 33 males, four identifying as having a disability, and 22 females) who participated in at least one of the sessions across the workshops.
Of the 55 scholars, 47 attended regular sessions across the two-day workshops. The scholars were from Botswana, eSwatini, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
The feedback for the online Reintegration workshops was overwhelmingly positive:
“The workshop was informative, educative and well-targeted to our integration action plan.” Walter Christopher, from Tanzania, Master of Integrated Water Management, Griffith University
“It is a great workshop to help us align our RAPs and opening our minds on how we can effectively implement our RAPs in our current level of employment with the available resources to make an impact to the next person.” Bonakele Ndzinisa, from eSwatini, Master of International Trade and Development, University of Adelaide
Online delivery can not be compared to face to face discussions, meeting in small groups and building rapport, spending multiple days together, sharing meals and for some, sharing a new city.
The facilitation team noted, “A fully online workshop that nonetheless fosters shared engagement and strong communities of practice are perfectly viable.”
The workshops have shown that a combination of an online workspace adapted for the pedagogy and well facilitated videoconferencing sessions, including the use of ‘break-out rooms’ can be engaging and successful.
Most scholars returned session after session and remaining engaged for the duration of the workshop is testament to this.
Overall it was agreed that “new normal”, online delivery, can be engaging and successful.