MOOC & Me Exploring the impact of USAID's Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Land Tenure and Property Rights

USAID is launching its latest Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Land Tenure and Property Rights, open now through April 15, 2018. Sign up and start learning today.

The first version of this course launched in 2015. Since then, over 3,000 participants have taken MOOC, representing a wide range of stakeholders -- government, private sector, academia, and civil society -- from 112 different countries.

We asked participants who completed the course previously to share their stories with us.

Here is what they had to say.

Michael Otieno Okello

Land Economist & Property Officer, Nairobi, Kenya

“When I encountered the MOOC on Land Tenure & Property Rights (LTPR) online, I seized the rare opportunity to hear, learn, discuss, and share with other persons from diverse disciplines. The course was such an eye opener to a wealthy, global knowledge bank on real LTPR issues of gender, economy, dispute resolution, land cadaster implementation issues, and case studies.

"The gender, economic, and peace building aspects of land tenure and property rights will remain indelible in my heart forever. How economic empowerment starts with ensuring equitable land holding and documentation that, other than recognizing women as parties, ensures secure investments by women for posterity of future generations and sustainable growth—and the security of tenure (being a peace tool) in resolving land based issues."

"I would therefore love to study more, as I was left desiring for more to learn especially on land acquisition, land tenure practices, and governance."

"I will always be on the lookout to participate in the various initiatives by USAID.”

Tricia Wilkerson

Marketing Manager, Thomson Reuters, USA

“The Land Tenure and Property Rights MOOC interested me as a communication professional curious about the intersection of technology, human rights, conflict interventions and reconciliation, and development leadership in the land sector."

"The course offered unparalleled insight into the many factors that impact the critical work of governments, agencies, NGOs, technology partners and of course the communities and individuals who are working to create a more just and equitable world."

"The course inspired me to remain engaged as a global citizen and continue to contribute my voice and skills toward land tenure and property rights advocacy.”

Jorge Farfán

Lawyer in Colombia

I understood from a very young age that the essence of our conflict was the land and the inequitable distribution of it. [T]he enormous inequality present in the distribution of land and the social problems that have emerged as a product of it."

"I decided on the USAID course because all the social and legal issues regarding the content of the course have similarities to those of my country. I believe that having a universal vision of the problem allows me to develop new solutions, to work with better focused effort and to understand that despite the development of technology, the world remains rural and we must continue to work towards a more equitable distribution of rural land.”

Therefore, now that I have completed the course, and paired with my prior knowledge, I aim to better the living conditions of farmers from my field of work. Hopefully more jobs, less extreme poverty, more opportunities in terms of education, health and employment, and in general, providing a brighter future for the vast majority of Colombians, that work at the fields. This, contributing as well to more sustainable peace within the country.

Karen Louise Boothe

Sr. Strategic Communications and Constituency Building Lead, USAID BRIDGE Project, Washington D.C.

This course not only informed me of the myriad land tenure issues, but it taught the complex subject in an easily accessible manner for the non-expert. I will use much of this new knowledge in my current position with the BRIDGE Project.”

Anne Girardin

Land Information Specialist, France

I decided to take the course simply because I wanted to challenge my own knowledge and understanding on Land Tenure and Property Rights. I also wanted to consolidate my knowledge for certain areas of interest like economic growth, climate change and peace building. Finally, I wanted to make sure that I understood all terms used in English and the common land tenure practice world; terms and concepts varying sometimes widely depending on the language and the culture."

"This course really helped me structuring my knowledge and strengthening my approach to different situations. It also helped me to have a better understanding of the different UN organizations protecting land tenure and property rights. Most of my work is taking place in post-conflict, post-disaster or climate-affected areas."

"My focus was so far to secure land for the most vulnerable people. Via the MOOC, I 1) improved the concept of possession. Make sure that what one possesses (a piece of land somewhere, sometime) is recognized and compensated one way or another in case of inability to keep what he/she possesses and 2) I added a new component to my focus: protect the environment."

Through its MOOC on Land Tenure and Property Rights, USAID is working hard to deliver a unique and uniquely valuable education opportunity to US Government staff, implementing partners, government officials, and civil society organizations around the world.

500 certificates have been awarded in total since the launch of MOOC 1.0 in 2015.

If you have not yet had the opportunity to earn your certificate, join USAID's Land Tenure and Property Rights MOOC 3.0, which is free and running now through April 15th.

Continue scrolling to read more stories from other MOOC users!

Edwin Afari

M&E Manager, World Cocoa Foundation, Ghana

"Land is an important productive resource in Africa and arable agricultural land is scarce and has high opportunity cost because of competing use and attention.”

“In Ghana, we have the issue of mining, logging, alternate cash crop production threatening cocoa production, there are serious issues with land acquisition in Ghana and land tenure issues are complex from the National to the village level. I wanted to learn more about Land Tenure and Property Rights and some of the best practices of using technology to provide solutions to rural farmers (especially women) and urban poor so they can have some rights to the use of land. I wanted to learn from other participants from different parts of the world and experts who face similar issues or have supported programs and national governments to find workable solutions to land problems.”

The varied use of technology in providing solutions inspired me and I got to know that most of the modules were relevant to the situation we face across many countries and that we can learn from each other. I have a busy schedule at work and got off late with it but had to finish and therefore relied heavily on my mobile phone so I could access the course anywhere. It was challenging but has been very rewarding because I now understand the issues, the terminologies, the kind of solutions that are available and how I can support the cocoa sector by being a resource person in making sure that farmers are not worse off when it comes to land access and administration in Ghana—especially women and sharecroppers."

"My takeaways are many, but I will provide only three in addition to what I listed above. First is to be a change agent when it comes to LTPR. I am going to advocate for better administration of land especially agricultural land at the national and local level and be available to educate farmers and others on LTPR. Second, I love technology and I am a GIS user already, so I am going to support my organization with the right language when we write proposals, engage donors, implement any project with respect to land. Finally, I will pass on this knowledge to other staff and stakeholders within the next 6 months. I have already provided a directory for staff in the Accra office to access all the materials and plan to do a presentation or brown bag for them on the most critical issues per module. Hope to join you again next year as I introduce and link others to the MOOC."

Kpedetin S. Mignanwande

Development Professional, USA

“I am working toward my next career step and I am confident this course has been and will be very essential in this regard."

"One of my takeaways relates to the importance of tenure security and property rights to socio-economic and sustainable development. A secured tenure and clear property rights have a long-term impact on people's life and countries' economy. In the face of climate change and food security challenges, securing tenure in developing countries will play a crucial role in—if not the starting point of—many sustainable socio-economic development works.”

Joshua Oluchukwu Okafor

GIS Fellow USAID/Rwanda Mission

“It was my first time working from inside USAID and when I saw the information about this training, which is open to USAID personnel and those within the system, I figured this is an opportunity I would not like to miss."

"I was particularly enthused about how GIS is used in Land Tenure programming and I would go back home to see how this is also applicable in my local context. There were references to land availability/scarcity in my home country, region and continent as a whole. Population based pressure is a reality and practical examples of how USAID programming has worked to address some of these. I am happy I have some of the materials offline that I can revisit as the need arises and as I take the conversation further on the practicability of this training.”

Joshua is one of 64 USAID workers from staff and missions worldwide who took the MOOC this year.

Komakech Stephen Kevin

Community Mobiliser, Land Security and Economic Development, Uganda

“I decided to take this course because I knew there would be many participants in this course with so many stories to tell about their experiences on land matters—which I can learn from to help me in my job. Secondly, land is a very sensitive matter, so one who deals with it must have a vast knowledge so as to fare well."

"What inspired me to take this course was the fact that it was free and an online course, meaning I can take time and even use my phone to do the course."

"Land security means food security as people will have time to put their land to agricultural use, hence providing themselves with enough food supply. In my line of work, I will clearly enlighten the community on land security in regards to the environment, food security, and their economic development.”

Abebaw Abebe Belay

Land & Real Estate, Cameroon

“Land tenure and property rights is directly related with my official tasks and I have great interest on the area. Without land, every thing on earth is meaningless and impossible...I have a plan to continue my future career in land tenure and property right issues."

"The most important of my takeaways is that land is context oriented; its tenure is being influenced by culture, religion, educational level, geography, economic development, way of life and the like conditions. So we have to take [that] into account and should deeply know the society’s values and contexts before initiating and implementing a policy—for instance, a law enacted for settled highland peasants could not work for pastoralists. Issues of gender [are] also influenced by similar contexts. So, the way of life of the society and context highly matters in land tenure and property rights.”

Kiprotich Festus C

Economics Student at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya

This course will augment my degree program given that I will be soon doing a project on food security. This course inspired me especially on the issue of empowerment of women since where I came from, empirical evidence show that households which are led by women have access to land and food security is in a better state."

"My primary takeaway is that people should move away from traditional beliefs that women should not own land. It pays; it’s an optimal tradeoff.”

Eliodoro Murillo

Professional, Management Specialist & Animal Husbandry, Colombia

“I decided to take this course because in Colombia, the 60% of the rural population don't have land...In the territory for many years, the lack of policy of land tenure or property rights is a big problem, very difficult to solve. I am inspired to be helping the poor rural people and to support protecting the environment; to help to reduce Global Warming and defend the forest deforestation and protect the wild animals."

Romie Vonkie Nghitevelekwa

Lecturer & PhD Candidate, University of Namibia, Communal Land Board Member

“The depth of the materials presented by the conveners is extraordinary. They have really gone all the way out to make sure that the course is engaging, the materials are educative, practical and replicable."

"Protecting the land rights of people is important and it is needed now more than ever as we witness socio-economic transformations in many rural societies. These transformations put pressure on access to land, and if people's land rights are not protected, they stand to lose them. We should all aim to bring about equity in access to land.

Faus Tinus Handi Feryandi

PhD Student & Junior Researcher, Center for Development Research, Bonn, Germany

“This course is relevant with my research area in land tenure and cadastral application for coastal communities in my home country Indonesia."

"My primary takeaway is that it is very important to deploy an appropriate cadastral geo-application to secure land tenure security.”

Adish Khezri

PhD Candidate, Faculty of ITC, University of Twente, The Netherlands

“The course covers most of new emerging land-related issues. It was free, registration period was open for 2-3 months, the materials were evidenced-based and covered many case studies of different continents. The weekly module forum was quite live and always full of challenging and new discussions. I got a weekly notification of discussions. The module coordinator was pretty interactive and I got the reply quite soon."

"What inspired me about the course was the course design. It was well-structured and tried to cover some of the missing points of MOOC 1.0. I appreciate the level of knowledge and experiences of teachers and the participants in different aspects of land."

"The test was challenging. The questions were designed in an interpretive way. They made me think over and over about the content of the modules to understand them in details.”

Dr. Giedrius Pašakarnis

Lecturer, Aleksandras Stulginskis University, Lithuania

This course was a fantastic opportunity to know more about developing countries and their attitude to the issues related with land, vulnerable women position, disaster affected communities etc. This course allows me to share knowledge about international land issues in professional and academic arenas."

"Through this course, I gained a deeper understanding of the issues, complexities, challenges, and best practices around land tenure and property rights.”

Comfort Attah

CEO, ASHH Foundation, Nigeria

“I took the course because I want to gain more knowledge on land tenure and property rights. My experience with women, especially widows, inspired me due to the denial of their right of properties and land tenure."

"I discovered that women are the most economically productive land users that brings a lot of increase to the nation's economy and households, yet have very limited access to property. Therefore, I planned to carry out an advocacy to community's heads and leaders so that women can be given a fair opportunity to own landed property, which in Nigeria is not common, they can only own it through inheritance or marriages.”

Dr. Shyamal Kumar Jana

Programme Manager, Landesa RDI, West Bengal, India

“I have been looking after the four westerns districts West Bengal, India for securing land tenure for landless and homesteadless women and their families and livelihoods improvement..."

"I believe that effective land governance mechanisms can be made sustainable by working with women and communities at their level, learning what is of value to them; supporting them in understanding their land and property rights; and enabling them to effectively hold leaders, whether at the grassroots or national level, accountable. I have been longing to do a course on Land Tenure and Property Rights."

"I am well aware of the fact that landlessness is the key predictor of poverty. With secure land rights, women and men have the opportunity, incentive, and security to improve their harvest and their lives."

"The knowledge and skills gained having completing the course will enable me to work my day to day at ease now. I have gained enough confidence on the subject now. It will go a long way in serving landless poor women and their livelihood development.

Anthony Samuel Kollie

Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Specialist, Liberia

“I decided to take this course because I am highly interested in learning about land in general and problems associated with land—particularly the marginalized people—and the solutions to these problems so I can help these marginalized people in Africa and the world at large. I was inspired when I heard of this course due to my low knowledge in land tenure and property rights. I wanted to upgrade my knowledge in gender responsive land tenure and property rights programming or activities anywhere in the world."

"Now, I have gained knowledge in general on land tenure and property rights terminologies; climate change and its effect in bad land management; women’s rights on land and property... It has also given me basic foundation to work as a USAID monitoring, evaluation and learning specialist (contractor) in gender responsive land tenure and property rights activities in Liberia. I am very grateful to USAID and all of my professors and other staff who developed and built my knowledge in this course.”

Aaron Mead-Long

Associate, Programs Dept, World Cocoa Foundation, USA

“I took this course to get a better understanding of some of the key tenure challenges facing smallholder cocoa farmers in West Africa, including the lack of land rights documentation and the disconnect between the customary and formal land administration systems. This course helped me to see the complex and highly-contextual nature of land rights issues as both a challenge and an opportunity for finding innovative solutions for securing smallholder tenure."

"One key takeaway from this course was the need to incorporate learnings and best practices from the global land rights field into local contexts. In my work I will emphasize broad stakeholder partnerships that bring together local, national, and international voices with the aim of developing holistic approaches toward securing land rights for smallholder cocoa farmers.

Yijia Chen

Research Analyst, Indufor, USA

We are currently working for USAID on the Responsible Land-based Investments project to generate learning for the Analytical Framework. I wanted to take this opportunity to review land tenure related knowledge and update myself with its intersection with other subjects and new technologies."

"In addition to the tenure-related terms and theories, [my primary takeaway was that] understanding context is essential for implementing projects in different countries.”

Not only did this MOOC train USAID staff across the world, it also enabled implementing partners to receive the same training at no additional cost.

In the past, such trainings would have required time and cost for either the trainers or the trainees to travel to a set location and there would have been a limited capacity. With the MOOC, everyone can learn anytime, anywhere, and on any application.

Alozius Gonza

Land Economist, Uganda

“What inspired me to take on the course was my desire to further develop my knowledge as a Land Economist in order to be relevant to the changing dynamics of Land Management—not just in my country but to benchmark my knowledge against an international platform. The course allowed me to further integrate issues of gender, environment, and food security in land management. Being engaged in policy development meant that this kind of knowledge would greatly develop me to think at a much wider scale than before."

"What I very much liked [about the course] was the appreciation of importance of gender in land rights."

"They need to move it beyond a legislation to actually ensure that more women can own land.”

Louis Roy Byaruhanga

Land Valuer, Uganda

“I took this course because of the relevance of land tenure solutions in developing countries like my own, I was inspired by the different work experiences of the tutors and all the information they have acquired through their work life and I hope to one day be as knowledgeable as them."

"As a land valuer for the Uganda National Roads Authority, this MOOC has opened my mind to solutions to the various land acquisition tenure problems in my country with a high level of legal pluralism, and how best to handle these different interests in land to be acquired for road development.”

Emma Bello

Private Sector, Compliance, Malawi

“I decided to take the course because I wanted to be up to date on current issues on land governance and tenure so that I advise my company accordingly and I am proactive in how I manage land issues."

"What inspired me was the empirical evidence of recognizing customary rights to land as well as legitimate land rights. I did not have practical examples of where legal land ownership proved inadequate without considering other traditional and social aspects—the issue of bundle of rights was an eye opener to me besides working in the field for over 10 years.”

Abdourahmane Ndiaye

Regional Environmental Specialist and Livestock Adviser, USAID, Senegal

Our office is working on strengthening the resilience of agro-pastoral communities in Burkina Faso and Niger. In these areas, there are increasing conflicts over natural resources, of which access to land is the most important. And, in both the two countries cohabitation between two tenure systems: the customary system and the formal one."

"This access is more difficult for women who are often the most vulnerable populations with whom we work. We help them to have access to the land and accompany them to have a legal title. Other conflicts are also between farmers and herders related to access to land and pasture. It is for these reasons that I took this land tenure and property rights course to have the necessary tools and know about other experiences that will help me in my work.

Ayehualem Tameru

Programme Management Officer, Ethiopia

“I have more than 15 years of experience in managing development programmes, but scanty knowledge about land and property rights."

"Thank you, USAID. I found the different modules of the course amazingly crafted making it easy to follow and squeeze to a busy schedule."

"As programme management officer of a continental land governance initiative, the course provided me with right mix of information (both theory and practice) to help sharpen my contribution.”

Stephen Calder

Land Administration Consultant, Nigeria

“As land administration is still in a juvenile stage as a profession, the body of knowledge making up this profession is still in the process of being codified. Therefore, it's incumbent on all land admin professionals to strive to stay current and to seek deeper, more comprehensive understandings of the discipline. I took this course to help me achieve that."

"My goals were simply to keep learning. What inspired me most was probably Module 5, Community Land and Community Tenure. The fact that the largest segment of land ownership is that of community tenure, and that this segment could benefit the most from land admin., really makes the case for directing focus towards there.

Susana Simón Tenorio

Urban Planner & Urban Police Consultant, Ecuador

“I´m working in a beautiful project helping to implement the new law of land in Ecuador. Although in Cuenca there is a not so bad tenure land-system, I need to understand the challenge of working with insecure tenure system in order to apply in this and future projects. I´m looking forward to applying all the knowledge I have learnt.

Brandon Scovill

Development Consultant, Lao PDR

I took this course because I wanted to connect my work to the global context and research that has been conducted surrounding the issues we're working on here. We have issues with both forest and agricultural land management where the government is looking for solutions that will increase either productivity or conservation, but rarely consider the option of increasing tenure for the communities or families."

"We need well researched and well-reasoned arguments to promote increased ownership and protections of rights for local communities. For example, when governments struggle to address issues of agricultural productivity or forest conservation, we should point them to the conclusion that they need to increase tenure security, not increase strict management, which is their instinct. I've been able to say, ‘This isn't a new issue. All developing countries struggle with these issues. Let's look at some well documented concepts of tenure security and property rights and see how they can be translated to our local context.’"

Join hundreds of professionals worldwide from all sectors who have taken USAID's Land Tenure and Property Rights MOOC.

The course is free and runs now through April 15th.

Register today!


Created with images by John Dwyer • Sandra Coburn • USAID Nepal • Rena Singer • Eric Onyiego / USAID Kenya • USAID Colombia • H. Hill • Riccardo Gangale / USAID • Jeremy Green • Karol Boudreaux

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