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The FIRE MOOC – at the service of civil society

By Albrecht Sonntag, Professor at the EU-Asia Institute, Member of Sport and Citizenship Scientific Committee and Virginie Ménard, multimedia educational designer at ESSCA School of Management. Partner of FIRE Project


What’s the point of listing the needs of football volunteers wishing to engage in initiatives for the inclusion of refugees if such an inventory is not accompanied by an easily accessible tool that addresses, at least in parts, these needs?

As a response to this (rhetorical) question, the FIRE project opted for the elaboration of a full-fledged MOOC, a “Massive Open Online Course”. As the term suggests, this web-based educational tool provides a large number of participants with free access to an autonomous and interactive learning path leading to the acquisition of competences that are useful to them.

True, the numerous reports and guides on good practices that flourished in the wake of the mass migration wave of 2015 may be a source of ideas and inspiration, but they are unable to give an answer to the crucial (and sometimes intimidating) question: “How am I supposed to go about it concretely?”

Target group and target competences

The FIRE MOOC’s target group is an obvious one: grassroots football volunteers, not only those who hesitate to engage, unsure about how to proceed to launch an initiative aiming at a population of refugees or asylum-seekers, but also those who already got started, and now wish to deepen their know-how and share their experience with others.

In a workshop involving all project partners, the priority competences to be transmitted were identified:

  1. Better knowledge of the refugee experience, as well as understanding of the needs of accommodation centres.
  2. Increased intercultural awareness in order to overcome linguistic and cultural barriers.
  3. Project management skills (planning, implementation, monitoring, self-assessment, reporting).
  4. Effective communication on the project and search for external partners with the aim to make initiatives sustainable.

Very logically, these major learning objectives formed the backbone of the MOOC’s programme, structured in four thematic modules. The latter is scheduled over a theoretical duration of four weeks, counting an investment of approximately three hours weekly, but without a specific deadline and with the possibility, for each learner, to proceed at their own pace and according to their personal needs.

“Identifying priority competences to be shared”

The learning path

Each module offers participants a series of complementary learning elements. In the introduction the week’s learning objectives are detailed, followed by various forms of input on the module’s principal theme, most of them in video format and followed by self-evaluation exercises and practical tasks.

Video clips are an essential component of any MOOC, and the FIRE MOOC is no exception to this. It proposes different formats: videos with renowned experts who transmit their knowledge, but also numerous testimonies in which volunteers and civil society actors share their experience, advice, and tips. The fact that the MOOC’s participants are part of the same community as the voices from the ground enhances identification and credibility and constitutes a particular asset of this MOOC.

The learners can evaluate their progress with the help of different exercises, benefitting from immediate feedback. Each module is concluded with a short final test that allows, for those who wish, to obtain a certificate of completion

Focus on the local ecosystem

One of the biggest challenges in the design of such an online course is the sheer diversity of local ecosystems – with all their cultural, political, economic, and social specificities – in which participants are rooted. For this reason, it is indispensable to go beyond expert input, testimonies, and quizzes, and include practical application exercises.

In the FIRE MOOC, these exercises are grouped together in a kind of diary or logbook named “Personal Toolkit”. This enables each participant to relate what they learnt, in systematically mapping their local ecosystem and personal reflection tasks, to their own environment. The “Personal Toolkit” is a convenient takeaway, easy to save, store, or print out.

And it can be shared with others in the MOOC forum, another essential space of learning, feedback, and mutual support. Exchange with other participants – former or current – is not a mandatory task, but a highly recommended networking activity.

An evolutive project

As the sole academic partner of the FIRE project, ESSCA School of Management was represented jointly by one of its research units, the EU-Asia Institute, and its centre for teaching and learning, the Institute of Advanced Pedagogy.

The design and delivery of this MOOC – a process that was not precisely facilitated by the COVID pandemic – was guided by the wish to put ourselves at the service of the grassroots football community. It is the owner of the final product, and it is up to its members to make it thrive. This is clearly an evolutive tool, with a potential to grow and develop over time.

In a first step, the partner organisations will disseminate information and provide access to the MOOC among their constituencies. They will also be able to appropriate it further by proposing translations of the contents in several European languages. The original version is in English, and we made sure to use a clear and accessible language. This being said, other versions are easily imaginable, starting with the sub-titling of the videos and, why not, translation of the entire tool. The choice of the host platform – the CANVAS educational network – took this option into account.

Unlike a static textbook, the proposed contents are also dynamic. The follow-up project “FIRE+” aims at completing the four basic modules by complementary modules that deepen certain topics, such as unaccompanied minors, increased inclusion of female refugees, or empowerment of refugees to assume volunteering responsibilities themselves.

The FIRE project’s MOOC is a nice learning tool as it stands. But it is only at the beginning of its journey!

Click here to start the FIRE MOOC !

Sport et citoyenneté