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PK’s Open Internet Course: What We’ve Learned and What’s Next

November 7, 2016 , , , ,

The second round of our online Open Internet Course concluded in October 2016. Please note that we will begin accepting applications for the third edition of the course in January 2017. You may refer to our course page for more details and future updates.


 

In maintaining our commitment to cultivate new leaders to enable and promote a free and open internet, Public Knowledge recently concluded the second round of its online Open Internet Course. The course, which ran from June 27 – October 10, 2016, hosted 30 participants, including journalists, students, government officials, and practitioners in the digital rights field.

 

The tuition-free, Spanish-language course, hosted in collaboration with Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU), began in 2015 as a unique effort to train and empower the next generation of digital rights experts, policy­makers, and advocates in Latin America. Utilizing a blend of open educational materials, including curated resources, original content, and interviews with renowned digital rights experts, we have provided advocates with a comprehensive set of tools to help increase their strategic engagement in internet policy debates in their region.

 

This year, we included additional resources, such as new webinars with experts in freedom of expression, privacy and data protection, the impact of free trade agreements on the open internet, and cybersecurity capacity building in Latin America. We also included updated reading materials and piloted our new module on spectrum management, which received positive feedback from participants for being relevant, concise, and easy to comprehend.

 

At the conclusion of the course, four of our top performing participants received sponsorships to attend internet governance related conferences: one for the annual Freedom Online Coalition meeting in Costa Rica and three fellowships for the global Internet Governance Forum in Mexico. These experiences are meant to help participants apply theory to practice, gain real world experience, and serve as networking opportunities to further their advocacy careers.

 

What we’ve learned after two years

 

After almost two years of benchmarking, designing, and developing the course, we’ve learned that there is still a very high demand for quality and comprehensive materials to help advocates strategize and learn about digital rights issues in depth. This can be seen through the high number of diverse applicants we received in each iteration of the course. Between 2015 and 2016, over 300 men and women from varying stakeholder groups and levels of expertise applied for a spot in our tutor-driven course.

 

It is also clear that tools to provoke dialogue and community building in Latin America are still greatly needed. Our course aims to help bridge this gap by offering an opportunity for emerging leaders to connect with regional experts to collectively think, analyze, learn, and exchange best practices and experiences in a trusted environment. The weekly discussion forum offers participants the opportunity to express their views and experiences, as well as the chance to engage with other participants and receive feedback to aid in their critical thinking. The interactive expert webinars also provide a clear and direct link from theoretical learnings to the practical application of the course teachings.

 

What happens next?

 

We surveyed our participants on the course materials, and their responses were overwhelmingly positive. For example, one of our participants, Leandro Ucciferri from Argentina, said (translated):

Public Knowledge’s course is a great tool for human rights defenders, in any sector of society (i.e. civil society, academia, etc.), because they have an interest in beginning to work on issues related to the digital world or because they want to consolidate their knowledge, and gain access to reading materials and new ways to analyze the issues. Meeting people from different countries in the region is a key added value that helps strengthen ties, not only personally but potentially professionally, offering the possibility of working on these themes at the regional level.

Another participant, Santiago Narváez from Mexico, wrote:

This course served as a good introduction to the topics in which I had little or no prior knowledge regarding the free and open internet. It helped me a great deal in clarifying and structuring my existing knowledge. It was also a good opportunity to meet people dedicated to digital rights from other countries and to get a general sense of how the internet is being dealt with in the region.

As the role of technology continues to evolve and affect the areas of government, law enforcement, commerce, and our everyday lives, we believe that our online course will only become more relevant. As public interest advocates, we want to be proactive and equip fellow digital rights advocates with the necessary skills and tools they need to counteract the growing challenges posed by authoritarian governments and powerful businesses such as  telecommunications companies and internet service providers. Therefore, we are proud to announce that we will offer another semester of our Spanish-language course next year. Our next installment of the 3.5 month tutor-driven class will begin in February 2017. Stay tuned to our course page for future updates and instructions on how to apply to become a part of the Class of 2017!


 

To learn more details about the course, please refer to our related posts, Public Knowledge Calls for New Applicants for Our Open Internet Course, PK Empowers Latin American Digital Rights Activists with its First Open Internet Course and Training the Next Generation of Digital Rights Advocates.