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PK Empowers Latin American Digital Rights Activists with its First Open Internet Course

July 14, 2015 , , ,

The course is available for free here. The course was designed to be enjoyed on a self-learning basis, so we encourage readers to take it independently or explore the wide range of topical resources available on the course page. For more information, please see Public Knowledge’s press release on the course’s launch and our dedicated course page.

Over the past few years, the Global Team at Public Knowledge has increased its work in Latin America and its collaboration with partners in the region. A main focus of this work has been to support their engagement in global topics and, whenever appropriate, local and regional battles to defend an open and free Internet.

In 2014, we identified a critical gap in the lack of quality content on Internet governance related topics available in Spanish, in addition to strategic tools and resources that digital rights advocates could use to build their tactics. In a world in which Spanish is spoken more often than English, these knowledge and language barriers will need to be addressed if we want to ensure the participation of interested stakeholders and keep the Internet open to all. With this in mind, our team decided to build upon its in-house expertise to develop the Open Internet Course, a free, online course for Spanish speakers.

Public Knowledge recently concluded the first round of its course with 30 participants, including journalists, students, academics, and practitioners in the digital rights field, which began on March 15, 2015, and ended on June 20, 2015. It opened to a high reception, as we received approximately 200 applications during the first three days of the two-week registration period.

The course, which was hosted at Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) and licensed under Creative Commons (with its materials deposited and freely available at GitHub), covered a variety of topics relating to the open Internet, including Internet governance, human rights, net neutrality, privacy, free trade agreements, and cybersecurity, among others. In addition to the core material developed in-house, the class was structured to facilitate digital learning through interactive webinar sessions with key experts in the digital rights field, group discussion forums, videoconferencing, and writing exercises.

The goal of this capacity building project was to carry participants through a process in which they learn, conduct research, analyze, and think strategically about open Internet principles and policies, and ultimately empower them to engage with policymakers in order to ensure an open Internet for all. The program, comprised of both original content and existing curated resources, provides a valuable forum for advocates to share their knowledge and experiences. The experience was targeted to encourage participants to learn from one another and gain a better understanding of the wider regional context in which they are operating. Empowering civil society to become better prepared and more proactive about shaping their online future is essential to counteracting the weight of governments and companies currently dominating the Internet policy space.

The course received many high-quality contributions from the participants, and had an overall average participation rate of 50 percent throughout its three-month duration – a very high rate of completion for online learning courses. Eleven participants graduated with high performance evaluations and four of them have received scholarships to attend in-person workshops as a result, including one for the South School of Internet Governance in Costa Rica, and three for the CELE Training on Internet Governance and Digital Rights in Argentina. These scholarships were afforded to participants to help them gain real-life experience in the Internet governance field and give them the chance to apply their knowledge from the online course – a key capacity building component.

Its design and development was led by Carolina Rossini, Vice President of International Policy for Public Knowledge, an expert in e-learning and open educational resources. Her team was advised by a board formed by experts from across the Americas.

What Happens Next

To evaluate the course, we developed an anonymous survey focused on its design, content, tutors’ performance, and the usefulness of the course for the participants’ professional work and development. One of the respondents commented (translated), “Overall, I found the course very comprehensive, it has given me many useful tools to improve my work as a digital rights activist. It has also served as a space in which I was able to meet many other people conducting similar work in their respective countries, and I have been able to share their experiences and interact with them through different means.”

One of the participants, Carolina Sanchez Hernandez from Costa Rica, wrote (translated), “The Open Internet Course was an excellent opportunity to expand areas of discussion, understand the technical, social, and political realities of the various Latin American countries, approach the challenges that we face as a region, and strengthen our arguments in defense of the Internet as a human right. Without a doubt, it is a space with a great wealth of arguments, debates, and opportunities for knowledge sharing; the more diverse the arena, the greater the collective knowledge to promote the Internet as a free and independent cultural product that we need to protect.”

Public Knowledge is very proud to have hosted the Open Internet Course and welcomes additional collaborators to expand its global reach, including its adaptation to new languages. We look forward to using the feedback we receive to facilitate another session of this course in the future.