Training through e-learning: a guiding example from GBIF Spain

Experiences with choosing and setting up an e-learning platform for training in the Spanish-speaking community–and an invitation for other nodes to join

Chamaeleo gracilis
Graceful chameleon (Chamaeleo gracilis) by Babajide Agboola via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Enhancing opportunities for participation, online e-learning is a method used increasingly as it allows active tracking of courses and a wider flexibility for timetables and organization. Before offering online courses, GBIF Spain only organised on-site courses in a computing room of the Royal Botanic Garden–host of the node. These events had a maximum capacity of 24 participants and not all applicants could be admitted. Due to accommodation and transportation costs some users weren't able to attend the training in person. Aware of the interest shown by other Spanish-speaking countries in attending the courses, GBIF Spain decided to invest money and resources in building an e-learning platform to meet those needs–to explore other ways of creating capacity and to reach a broader audience.

"We explored several different options for e-learning. In 2012, we implemented our first platform using ATutor, which we used for five years. In 2017, we decided to migrate to a new e-learning platform and chose Chamilo. Since we started offering online courses, we have organized 18 online courses for over 400 participants from 16 different countries. Currently, we use the e-learning platform mainly to develop courses already held on-site, as materials already can be reused."

GBIF Spain made use external technical assistance for testing, installing and running the software on local servers as well as basic GBIF Spain branding customizations.

"We can offer the e-learning platform to other organizations in the community so the entire GBIF network can benefit from this service. Likewise, we hope to see courses organized by other nodes that users in our local community could attend."

The success of the e-learning platform is measured by several ways:

  • Number of subscriptions to the online courses
  • Interest in using the platform by other organizations and projects
  • Web traffic to e-learning website

The GBIF Secretariat now also uses the platform for training in the BID and BIFA programmes, and GBIF Argentina used it to offer a course on biodiversity data quality and publication.

More information and contact details

Maintaining the e-learning platform at GBIF Spain requires two staff members–for testing, coordinating the installation and customization, running the courses and resolving any issues. The current Chamilo platform runs on a local server with 50 GB storage and 8 GB memory with full access and permissions.

Nodes interested in e-learning could save time by speaking to GBIF Spain about their experiences and investigating ways to collaborate through use of the same platform. Nodes without the necessary technical resources to run their own platform, could use the GBIF Spain e-learning platform to host their courses. A test server is also available.

For further details or questions on testing e-learning platforms or using the GBIF Spain e-learning platform, please contact:

Katia Cezón Data publication & user support
Carmen Lujano Software Development
Cristina Villaverde Unit Coordinator