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Remote Learning: As the World Moves Online, Here are Some of our Newest Online Courses of 2020

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AMPLE, or the Advanced Medical Physics Learning Environment, is an IAEA-developed e-learning tool available on the Cyber Learning Platform for Network Education and Training (CLP4NET). (Photo: J. Corpuz/Southern Philippines Medical Centre)

Travel restrictions did not put a stop to the IAEA’s training activities this year. On the contrary, more people than ever attended webinars and e-learning courses, now offered exclusively online.

The IAEA provides leading resources for experts, students and the general public on the peaceful use of nuclear science and technology. While the IAEA has been offering webinars and online courses for years, 2020 was a turning point for online engagement, highlighting the value and accessibility of e-learning.

“In order to respond to COVID-19 travel and access restrictions, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has increased its on-line activities. The IAEA courses were readily available in March, so PNNL was able to quickly pivot to on-line training,” said Steven Maheras, Nuclear Engineer at PNNL in the USA.

In 2020, nearly 11 000 users enrolled in courses via CLP4NET, the IAEA’s Cyber Learning Platform for Network Education and Training. CLP4NET hosts free, instructor-led courses and self-study resources by the IAEA. From specialized modules in medical physics and spent fuel storage to safety standards and nuclear security to ensure the peaceful uses of nuclear applications, “the platform disseminates high-quality resources and facilitates a sustainable learning environment that is accessible around the world and in multiple languages,” said Giorgia Loreti, a training officer, who designs and develops e-learning courses in medical physics to support the application of best practices.

Since the launch of CLP4NET in 2016, more than 40 000 users have enrolled in online courses. The learning platform is home to more than 330 courses, of which 118 were added this year. Read about some of the IAEA’s newest courses of 2020 below.

First e-course on small-field dosimetry in radiotherapy

The Code of Practice on Dosimetry of Small Static Fields Used in External Beam Radiotherapy course is the first-of-its-kind to be offered online. The course is based on the first international code of practice for accurate radiation doses for cancer patients when smaller fields and more targeted radiation is employed. Unlike many IAEA courses that have open enrolment and considering the advanced nature of the course, potential participants must first pass a mandatory entry exam before beginning the course. “We are seeking to select the right students who will be granted access only after demonstrating preliminary knowledge. This was also mandatory for training courses in this topic that were delivered in person,” Loreti said.

The specialized course for medical physicists garnered more than 200 active students within the first week of its launch in September. The original in-person course was delivered over five days and has been adapted for online learning with recordings of lectures, slides and extensive self-assessments, offering more than eight hours of specialized material. “Considering an audience that is remote, specific lectures were developed and recorded for this course,” Loreti said. “And to ensure users grasped the content of each module, they must pass subsequent self-assessments before progressing to the next module. We do not expect people to enrol and finish in one day. It is a process for the user that aims at ensuring acquisition of knowledge. We want the user to feel empowered as a result of this course, gaining confidence in the acquired knowledge, which they are able to check extensively throughout the e-learning experience.”

Understanding nuclear energy from start to finish

Storing used nuclear fuel, known as spent fuel, from nuclear power plants is an important step of the fuel cycle. To improve understanding of the safe storage of spent fuel, the IAEA launched its Course on Spent Fuel Storage in April. “Staff appreciate the more recently updated courses, which focus on clear messaging with updated graphics, videos and quizzes,” said PNNL’s Maheras, who has assigned early- and mid-career staff members to complete online IAEA courses. “One major significance of the IAEA courses is that they provide an international perspective on spent nuclear fuel management, while domestic training opportunities would typically provide only the US perspective.” 

To meet the growing demand and interests of professionals from all over the world, the IAEA also delivered this year various webinar series related to nuclear energy, such as Nuclear Technology Breakthroughs of the 21st Century and Role of Government and Key Organizations in Nuclear Power Programme Development.

Safety standards for the peaceful uses of nuclear applications

Specific to the IAEA safety standards, the IAEA’s newest online safety course provides a better understanding of the basis of safety standards, how they are developed and how they are used and applied in the peaceful uses of nuclear applications.

“The newly developed e-learning course, IAEA Safety Standards Overview, provides an ideal introduction to the purpose and scope of the IAEA safety standards,” said Juan Carlos Lentijo, Deputy Director General for Nuclear Safety and Security, adding that “the course highlights the safety objective and the ten safety principles that form the basis of the safety standards.” About two months since its debut, the course has drawn 271 participants worldwide.

Browse the IAEA’s online course catalogue here.

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