MOOC Operational Research for Humanitarians
This MOOC has been created through a collaboration between the Aga Khan University, the University of Geneva - represented by the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Evidence is central to good decision-making both in the humanitarian sector and beyond. Every day, a vast amount of evidence is generated that is relevant to humanitarian actors, much of it through research by academics and practitioners. This evidence can be incredibly valuable. It can help us better understand a situation and make humanitarian action more effective and accountable. The difficulty comes with understanding what evidence is relevant to our circumstances, where to find it, and how to assess its quality.
This course will provide you with the fundamental knowledge and skills to answer these questions and help you better engage with research. It has been developed with you - a humanitarian professional or junior researcher - in mind. The course moves through the core research concepts one-at-a-time and does not require any prior knowledge or experience. We encourage all of you to plan your own learning journey by using this MOOC in a way that is most useful to you.
- How can research be used for humanitarian practice?
- What are the most appropriate research methods?
- How can I judge the quality of the evidence and whether it is applicable to the context I work in?
- How can populations in a situation of vulnerability be protected during a study?
This course - co-developed in a partnership between academic and humanitarian institutions - is strongly positioned to give you the needed skills and knowledge to build a bridge between research and practice.
We hope that this course will change your perspectives and improve your knowledge and, ultimately, make humanitarian responses more evidence-based. Enjoy!
In this first module, we will dive right into the question of why there is a need for research in humanitarian settings. We will explore the difficult decision-making processes in humanitarian settings and how a good decision relies on four different types of inputs. The starting point will be the concept of evidence and how it connects to human biases and professional judgement. By hearing from global experts, implementing practitioners and your fellow learners we will critically explore the value of research by asking why, when and for whom?
- 10 videos (Total 43 min)
- 9 readings
- 6 quiz
In this second module, we will gain a foundational understanding and skills around research and its processes, methods, and core terminology. We also explore ways of answering the key question of "What evidence is good enough?". This will help us to gain the skills to examine common study designs and identify each of their strengths and weaknesses. With this foundation, we will then - in the next module - explore how the concept of quality becomes a little more blurred when implementing research in humanitarian settings.
- 10 videos (Total 76 min)
- 5 readings
- 8 quiz
In this module, you will gain a solid understanding of how the key characteristics of humanitarian settings are affecting how we can (or cannot) apply the study designs that we covered in module two. We will explore how, to overcome these common challenges, we need to adapt and combine our study designs and tools. At the end of this module, you will be equipped with a slightly different research toolbox, one that is more appropriate to be used in humanitarian settings. Throughout this module's journey, we will be heavily guided by practical examples and existing projects.
- 12 videos (Total 79 min)
- 9 readings
- 9 quiz
The fourth module will delve into one of the most critical aspects of good research practice: Ethics. Having explored the potential benefits of research in humanitarian settings earlier, we will focus here on the potential risks and ethical dilemmas when conducting research. We will start with reviewing some infamous historical examples of unethical research, like the Tuskegee study. Together, we will then establish good practices of how we can systematically and genuinely integrate ethical considerations and risk mitigation into our research projects. As part of that, we will specifically look into community engagement as one of the many powerful tools that we have. This module will also help you understand many of the core research ethics processes, such as informed consent and ethical review boards.
- 8 videos (Total 52 min)
- 7 readings
- 8 quiz
With this final module, we will connect all our insights and learnings by returning to our initial questions on the value of research in humanitarian settings. This time, we will focus on the “how”, by seeing how we can ensure that our research is valuable and how to translate the evidence that we have generated into actionable recommendations. We will explore common pitfalls of sharing evidence and learn about approaches and tools that have proven themselves useful over time. Beyond learning a step-by-step process, we will learn to appreciate the importance of contextual approaches that take existing power dynamics into account.
- 11 videos (Total 63 min)
- 7 readings
- 9 quiz
Since 2013, the University has been producing "massive open online courses" (MOOCs). These are university-level online courses that are scripted and structured around content, learning activities, interactions and assessments. They are open to everybody, without access-restrictions based on age, profession or level of study.
This initiative aims to make courses from the best universities in the world available to everybody, with monitoring and assessment requirements as high as for regular students. Launched in 2011 by computer science professors at Stanford University, MOOCs now have several hundred million students worldwide. The universities involved in this process include some of the world's most prestigious institutions.