The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2005

62 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U LY- A U G U S T 2 0 0 5 F O C U S O N F S I / F S T R A I N I N G E- LEARNING FOR D IPLOMATS n January 2004, Britain’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Canada’s Department of International Affairs organized a work- shop in London, attended by representatives of 15 coun- tries. The two sponsors presented a stark contrast: Canada is perhaps the world leader in applying Internet- based e-learning throughout its diplomatic network, closely followed by the United States. The British, at that time, were content to observe and profit from the experi- ence of others. Only in mid-2004 did they appoint an official to initiate the first of their new distance learning activities, and they did not put in place an Internet-based learning management system until this year. The other countries that attended either had small programs of their own in place, or intended to start some- thing (the Indian Foreign Service Institute, for instance, held its first e-learning course in mid-2004). The only participant that did not represent a national diplomatic academy or training institute was the DiploFoundation, co-located at Malta and Geneva, and one of the pioneers in using the Internet for diplomatic studies. The progress in foreign ministries’ adoption of Internet solutions in their training and educational pro- grams may be uneven, as the London workshop reflect- ed, but it is nonetheless inevitable. In many circum- stances, e-learning is undeniably more efficient and eco- nomical than traditional learning, or “t-learning.” Mid-career training and other continuing education programs in foreign ministries, for example, find a natur- al fit with the Internet. At any point in time, at least half the personnel in a typical diplomatic service are on assignment abroad, and it is much too expensive to bring them all together at one location for a training program. Calling locally engaged staff back to the home foreign ministry for training makes even less financial sense, save in special situations; consequently, such personnel are mostly left out of training programs. And yet, an increas- ing amount of non-sensitive, substantive work in embassies is being shifted to them, making their training a high priority. Another attraction of Internet-based training is that it permits use of a wide range of options, from the self- instruction mode to highly intensive small-class training with a dynamic interface between faculty and students. Leaders in the Field The Canadian Foreign Service Institute has devel- oped over 70 training programs that are incorporated into I I NTERNET - BASED TRAINING AND EDUCATION OFFER UNIQUE ADVANTAGES FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS PROFESSIONALS . B Y K ISHAN S. R ANA