The ongoing worldwide COVID pandemic has disrupted almost every area of professional and personal life, including international Rule of Law projects.  For example, training programs in courts around the world have been disrupted to a high degree.  This blog post will share a recent experience delivering effective training programs in Moldova, despite COVID conditions.  We believe that an innovative approach was created and could be a model for future training programs.

In 2021 the Judicial Leadership in Quality Management (JLQM) program of the Moldova Model Court Initiative USAID/Moldova Effective Justice IDIQ – Dexis Consulting Group (dexisonline.com) embarked on a new, six-module training program as part of its efforts to improve court performance.  After delivering the first two modules (Purposes and Responsibilities of Courts – Visioning and Strategic Planning, and Court Performance Management), it was decided to add short-term consultant help in designing and delivering the next two modules:  Caseflow Management and Workforce Management. I, along with Court Consultant Janet Cornell, were engaged in December 2021 to do this work (Janet for Caseflow, me for Workforce).

A major challenge in designing these next training modules was how to deliver quality programs in the face of the surge of COVID Omicron-variant infections.  Although the design team wanted to have faculty on-site in Moldova for the training to be held over two days in the first week of February 2022, it was agreed that this was not a good idea due to the COVID surge.  After considering options, it was decided to have Janet and me record multiple (about 10 each), short (8-12 minutes long), video presentations, then show these segments to the Moldovan judges and staff with locally facilitated discussion and exercises in between each segment. Video segments were recorded using Zoom (for Janet) and using both Zoom and existing recorded content from the EDevLearn program on Workforce Management (for me). At the conclusion of each day, we would have live video question and answer sessions with Janet and me (with the 9-hour time difference, these live sessions were at 4:30 p.m. there, and 7:30 a.m. for us).

We are happy to report that this approach went extremely well.  In fact, the flexibility afforded by this approach really paid off when one of the model courts could not attend the scheduled training because half of its staff had tested positive for COVID.  Because the essential part of the training modules was pre-recorded, and Janet and I could do our live appearances on another morning, the training for this court was simply delayed a week.

What are the lessons learned from our experience?

  • Flexibility and adaptability were key factors in overcoming uncertainty driven by COVID19.
  • Excellent collaboration between project staff in Moldova and U.S. based consultants in program design and delivery was essential. 
  • Knowledgeable and experienced project staff in Moldova made the work go very well.
  • The hybrid approach of using pre-recorded content, on site live facilitation, and virtual “guest faculty” appearances, allowed session planners to leverage in person and remote participation.
  • Training of this type can be done well without core faculty being physically present.  In fact, the on-site facilitator had to virtually appear for the second day of training due to a positive COVID test.

Janet and I believe that our experience in Moldova can be a viable model for future training programs.  This is particularly true as the COVID pandemic continues to affect life around the world, and as a model to keep in mind when educational programs are being designed.  In Moldova, the project will now continue to deliver upcoming training modules:  Court Facilities Management and Delivery of People-Centered Justice Services.

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