Going virtual for research training during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond: e-SORT IT
The Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative (SORT IT) model has contributed to building research capacity and has produced evidence for improving public health program performance in countries with limited research capacity. The model involves hands-on mentorship and consists of three modules/weeks. It is recognized to be an innovative research capacity building model. In a world changed by COVID-19, where bringing people together is not viable, an innovative, interactive, web-based, knowledge-transfer platform (e-SORT IT) for virtual implementation of SORT IT modules was created. The platform design imitated the residential course as closely as possible with the same lectures, plenary sessions, and breakout rooms. Despite the challenges, the platform performed well and even though participants and mentors were located in eight different time zones, the course was successful; 90% of participants achieved their milestones and 10 manuscripts were successfully completed. Participant evaluation revealed a satisfaction level that was nearly equivalent to the residential module. However, mentor evaluation indicated a number of shortcomings including capacity building, professional networking, communication, engagement, and contribution by participants, as well as overall module success. In conclusion, COVID-19 stimulated the creation of the e-SORT IT platform that provided a functional alternative to the residential version. Despite the limitations of reduced capacity building and networking, the e-SORT IT platform should be considered a success – it delivered the goods. This is an example of innovation and flexibility, two attributes that are sorely needed to maintain activities during the pandemic and beyond.
Copyright (c) 2021 Hayk Davtyan, Karapet Davtyan, Anthony David Harries, Anthony Reid, Garry Aslanyan, Mohammed Khogali, Rony Zachariah
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