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Ahead of the Curve: IAEA Experts Leverage Digital Communications to Enhance Education Networks in Asia and the Pacific


Ashok Ganesan, IAEA Knowledge Management Specialist, moderates an ANENT teleconference in March 2019. (Photo: M. Malek/IAEA)

In 2018, when IAEA experts proposed the development of a virtual conference scheme to facilitate the work of counterparts in 24 countries engaged in an ongoing technical cooperation (TC) project[1], they couldn’t have known how valuable this initiative would be, just two years later. Designed to support nuclear education and training in Asia and the Pacific, the project’s implementation has continued unabated and little affected by the social distancing policies established to curb the spread of the virus causing the COVID-19 disease.

The overall objective of the four-year TC regional project, launched in 2016, has been to promote the use of nuclear science and technology and to enhance institutional capacity building in the region by working with educators and officials to build new and strengthen existing education and training (E&T) networks. By supporting the development of new, innovative nuclear educational  products to encourage budding scientists to explore nuclear topics, and by later disseminating those products through the Asian Network for Education in Nuclear Technology (ANENT) and other associations, the project will help generate an adequate pipeline of motivated, qualified experts in the region to support the sustainable and ongoing use of nuclear technologies, particularly power applications.

ANENT has 21 member countries and uses a bespoke web portal, hosted and maintained by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, to keep counterparts across Asia in close communication. The web portal uses a MOODLE-based Learning Management System and a Learning Object Repository to provide its users with a platform for creating and conducting e-learning courses and for sharing educational materials. The platform provides a cost-effective means by which universities and academic institutions in the region can develop and share high-quality educational resources related to nuclear science and technology. As a result, knowledge and experience available in one country can be easily transmitted to others.

This February 2019 teleconference was attended by counterparts from 24 participating countries, and was moderated by IAEA experts. (Photo: M. Malek/IAEA)

The efforts to establish, maintain and improve the ANENT portal are facilitated by the ongoing regional TC project. Yearly coordination meetings organized by the Agency in 2016 and 2017 resulted in new ideas, policies and initiatives in the area of nuclear education, and these ideas were eventually implemented via the ANENT platform. During a 2018 meeting, participants recognized that despite the growth and use of the platform, more frequent collaboration would be essential. As a result, the implementation of the project went entirely digital, and meetings became virtual and monthly, rather than face-to-face on a yearly basis.  

Since 2018 December, 14 structured web conference meetings of ANENT coordinators of participating countries have been conducted, all with the goal of accelerating the creation of new learning resources that can be used by university professors and training coordinators in the region to prepare a new generation of nuclear scientists for their future responsibilities.

In March 2020, when the impact of social distancing meant that communities around the world had to quickly turn to alternative means of communication, this ongoing project already had its remote meeting space. Despite the turbulence of international events, the project participants continued to focus on the ongoing development of the ANENT web- portal and the regional learning management system and the organization of e-learning courses, outreach materials, and the promotion of the Internet Research Reactor Laboratory, a platform which allows nuclear engineering students and young specialists, often from countries without research reactors, to participate in live reactor experiments and develop practical reactor physics experience. The Internet Research Reactor is hosted by the Kyung Hee University in Seoul and is currently in use by educators at universities in Mongolia, the Philippines and Azerbaijan.

The coordination facilitated by the ongoing virtual conferencing has allowed more than 70% of the participating countries to develop and share new educational and training resources remotely, and has helped more than half of those countries to contribute outreach materials to the network. Fifty outreach materials from 14 countries are currently available for use through ANENT, and 14 e-learning courses are currently hosted in the LMS. Moreover, 26 TC fellows from 11 Member States have been provided with one-month fellowships to learn how to create high-quality, interactive e-learning content, multiplying the number of nuclear education materials available at the national level.

Organized to the same professional standard as a ‘real-world’ meeting—complete with the requisite agenda, minute-taking and after-action reporting—the project’s virtual conferences have led to a significant growth in the learning resources available to the ANENT network, and have allowed the project to continue unabated throughout the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

[1] RAS0075, ‘Networking for Nuclear Education, Training, and Outreach Programmes in Nuclear Science and Technology in the Framework of ANENT (Asian Network for Education in Nuclear Technology)’

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