Online Course Steps Up Learning on Urban Water

GWP, Cap-Net UNDP, and other partners have introduced a new tool to foster Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) on a global scale. The online course, Unpacking the Opportunities of IUWM for Sustainable Cities, was held in October-November 2018. It attracted 154 applications, with 72 accepted, and a follow-up course is being planned for 2019. “The great thing with the course is that it can be adapted to fit any project as needed,” says GWP Senior Network Specialist François Brikké, who sees a big potential in further developing the course at regional and country level.

By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population, some 6.4 billion people, are expected to live in towns and cities, almost doubling the current urban population. GWP promotes an integrated approach to water management and the network is active in many countries where rapid urbanisation means that water resources are often being managed in an unsustainable way. The IUWM online course is the result of a long and intense collaboration between GWP and several partners.

“The original inspiration for the IUWM concept in this course is found in the SWITCH project, an action research programme funded by the European Union that was implemented and co-funded by a cross-disciplinary team of 33 academic and urban planning partners in 12 cities across the globe. With the help of Dr. Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy, Director of SWITCH and a former member of the GWP Technical Committee, as well through the support of Dr. Seneshaw Tsegaye, Assistant Professor at  Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), this concept was further developed into training modules that were tested in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and West Africa. They served as a basis for the development of an IUWM programme in African cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and the Seychelles, supported by the African Water Facility. The online course has evolved, and includes new content designed and tested by partners, notably on water sensitive urban planning, local entrepreneurship, circular economy and nature-based solutions,” explains Brikké.

“The course equips attendees with the theory, tools and skills to guide cities and the different sectors in managing water holistically,” says Dr. Tsegaye.

“Excellent example of strengths of partnerships”

GWP Partner Cap-Net UNDP delivers training and education to water professionals around the globe, and provides the online platform for the course. Cap-Net Virtual Campus Coordinator Damian Indij says the course is an excellent example of the strengths of partnerships, and leadership to enable a high-quality course for participants from developing countries, representing multiple stakeholder groups and under a gender balanced approach:

“Designing an online course takes high dedication and careful thinking. Contents, length, approach, and structure all need to be considered. Specialised trainers need to be aligned and understand the course approach for consistency. Committed partnerships also contribute to giving the course an adequate visibility and outreach," says Indij.

The six-week-long online course was divided into 5 modules. Each module ran for one week, during which participants had to read basic contents and participate in suggested activities.

  1. The Challenge of Cities in a Globalizing World    
  2. Achieving Urban Water Security
  3. Improving Urban Sanitation for Healthy Cities    
  4. Effective Urban Water Governance         
  5. Inducing Change and Transformative Development

Reading materials included peer-reviewed publications, reports, manuals and technical guides, as well as PowerPoint Presentations with audio narrative and videos. To receive a certificate, participants are required to submit assignments, answer quizzes and participate in facilitated online discussion forums.

“Twenty-five participants (35%) reached requirements for course completion and received their certificates. Another 9 (13%) were active participants, but not enough for course completion. Total active participants were 34 (47%). This level of activity and completion is much higher than the global average for MOOCs (massive open online courses). And here is the basis of Cap-Net and partners online courses: they offer dedicated facilitation and mentoring. A sense of community is built, and participants follow course progress and activities. In this course, participants delivered 49 written assignments, 122 posts in discussion forums, and answered 156 quizzes,” says Indij.

“Can easily be tailored to meet local training needs”

“This course is very different from any MOOC online training, as it requires a certain level of follow up and guidance from external facilitators,” says Francois Brikké. “It employs the state-of-the art tools and techniques and can easily be tailored to meet the local training needs on innovative urban water management for a team at municipal or project level, and can be used by universities.”

The next steps are already being planned. Enhancement of the course will be done through its past participants.

“In May we will approach participants with an impact monitoring survey, for better understanding of knowledge use, sharing, and on the ground application. We also look forward to continue working with GWP in this and other subjects as part of our contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sustainable water management,” says Indij.

In addition to GWP and Cap-Net UNDP, the partners behind the project are: GWP Mediterranean and the Non Conventional Water Resources (NCWR) Programme Florida Gulf Coast UniversityUniversity of Lljubljana, IWMI, WIN, OECD, Waterpreneurs, GWOPA, UN–Habitat, with inputs from IWA on cities in basins and from the World Bank on economic and financial approaches for IUWM, and WMO on urban flood management.

Photo: Brazilian favela in Rio de Janeiro, by Mariana Ianovska/