A Smooth Start With Online Learning | HOP Crash Course 2021

HOP Crash Course 2021 [Priscilla du Preez via unsplash]
Priscilla du Preez via unsplash.com

TL;DR – The HOP Crash Course 2021 is an online course accompanied by a series of live events.about bringing your first course online: it covers the quality of online learning and the course implementation on the HOP Online Learning platform. Between March and May 2021, 20 participants went through a nine-week process of planning, creating and publishing their course while bringing their non-formal learning approach in line with online course design and the learning management functionalities of the Moodle-based HOP platform. The HOP Crash Course 2021 was organised by SALTO Eastern Europe and Caucasus Resource Centre in co-operation with Opetushallitus / Utbildningsstyrelsen, the Finnish National Agency for Education.

T The HOP Crash Course 2021 concentrated on quality aspects of non-formal online learning within the field of International Youth Work as well as possibilities of the HOP Online Learning platform.

The concept of this course was based on our experience with last year’s edition which was designed as a blended training course that combined an online course with residential training. Due to Covid-19 pandemic, the course format was changed into a pure online version which helped us gather first-hand experience in transforming events from residential to online.

2021, we went fully online again.

HOP Crash Course 2021 | A short overview

What are essential quality aspects of non-formal online learning? What are important skills in creating engaging, interactive and learner-centred online learning activities?

Let’s summarize first some general information about the course, it’s aims, content, participants and organisers. From there we will have a closer look at the course design.

Course goals

In brief, the HOP Crash Course 2021 aimed at raising the understanding of what quality means in non-formal online learning within the field of International Youth Work as well as discovering the possibilities of the Moodle Learning Management System (LMS) on HOP.

Course content

The course content went along with the following questions:

  • How can we better understand essential quality aspects of online learning? Especially in relation to values and approaches of non-formal learning and (International) Youth Work?
  • How can we become more courageous and skilled in creating online courses? How can we handle creatively various online learning formats and design blended and stand-alone online courses with small and big numbers of learners? How can we set up a system for facilitated and self self-paced courses?
  • How can we deliver engaging, interactive and learner-centred online learning activities? How to implement them within the Moodle-based LMS on the HOP Online Learning platform?

The crash course started on March 22nd 2021 with a live onboarding meeting. One week later, the 5-week online course started. Every week a new content was available. The online course was blended with 5 MeetUPs and 3 thematic Webinars. The webinars were open for a broader audience. A two week period of One2One Mentoring Meetings followed the online course. A live evaluation meeting on May 11th 2021 closed the learning journey.

“I was very very very pleasantly surprised at the great wealth of content on offer. I learned a lot more than I expected. I took great pleasure in discovering educational engineering dedicated to online training. …  A huge thank you for opening the doors to this exciting world of e-learning.”

Profile of participants

This course was for trainers, facilitators, creators of online learning activities supported by their National Agencies and/or SALTO Resource Centers or involved in Key Action 2 and 3 projects as well as officers and staff members of National Agencies and/or SALTO Resource Centers who are supporting online learning,

The selected participants ideally already teamed for online course development or have at least a basic idea what online course they like to develop. All in all, 24 participants attended the full version of this course, while another 24 participants were invited to the 3 webinars.

Course organisers and facilitators

This year’s edition of the HOP Crash Course was made possible by SALTO Eastern Europe and Caucasus (SALTO Resource Centre) in co-operation with Opetushallitus / Utbildningsstyrelsen / The Finnish National Agency for Education (National Agency). Together with Nerijus Kriaučiūnas (HOP Council) and Tomek Szopa (SALTO EECA & HOP platform)  I was happy to create and facilitate this event.

HOP Crash Course 2021 | Course Design

“While signing up for this course, I was not aware that it would be so holistic, with so much individual and group support by the facilitators, the quality and scope of the materials and tools was also beyond my expectations.”

Course Format

2021, we planned the second edition also as a blended format: “blended” in an understanding that we mixed the online course “Plan, create, publish your first online course on HOP” (asynchronous learning) with online live events (synchronous learning).

All in all, the HOP Crash Course 2021 consisted of several elements:

  • 10 live events: Onboarding Meeting, MeetUPs, Webinars, Final Evaluation Meeting (ZOOM)
  • Online course “Plan, create, publish your first online course on HOP” (HOP platform)
  • Course development (in teams and/or individually) 
  • One2One Mentoring Meetings

Course elements

Let’s have a look at the course elements, one-by-one:

Onboarding Meeting – The onboarding meeting aimed at getting to know one another, introducing the HOP Crash Course with its live events and the online course as well as presenting the HOP initiative, HOP platform and HOP possibilities.

Online Course “Plan, create and publish your first online course on HOP” (The HOP Course) – We adjusted the HOP Course especially to our blended format. It introduced participants to course design leading them through three steps: planning, creating and publishing. The online course supported course authors with a step-by-step guideline on how to plan, create and publish their first online course while discovering the possibilities of the HOP Online Learning platform and resources it offers to deliver their learning content. It allowed them to reflect on quality aspects of non-formal learning and International Youth Work in an online learning environment.

Course development (in teams or individually) – Participants could work on a common course project (in teams) or individually work on their on course development. Examples of courses or course elements: Online Training for Youth Leaders, Creative Makers, What is Solidarity? (a module on solidarity for On-Arrival Trainings), Media Literacy (ML) in Youth work, Art Escape and From Us to You. Each of these projects received a “playground” on HOP to try out Moodle functionalities and implement elements of their course. Teams and individuals received mentoring support during MeetUPs and One2One Mentoring Meetings. Participants shared their project work during the Final Evaluation meeting. 

MeetUPs – The MeetUPs aimed at deepening the individual learning experience made during the online course. Participants had the chance to meet and share their experience with the course and with their progress in course development. Each MeetUP consisted of several elements:

  • a check-in related to online learning,
  • a short presentation of selected content of the weekly released course content,
  • a short introduction of practical Moodle functionalities
  • a challenge to try them out until the next MeetUP,
  • a meeting in small groups/teams to work on own course projects and 
  • an opportunity to receive mentoring support.

Webinars – Webinars aimed at giving space to explore important content more in detail and with a broader audience. The content of the webinars focussed on:

  • Good practise examples of online courses (“HOP Study Tour”),
  • Quality aspects of non-formal online learning in the field of International Youth Work, and
  • Online facilitation.

One2One Meetings – At the end of the online course, participants could discuss questions related to their own course project in One2One Mentoring Meetings. 

Final Evaluation Meeting – During the final evaluation participants had the opportunity to show their course projects and celebrate together their achievements. With a review and reflection of the overall process the HOP Crash Course 2021 came to an end.

Course content

For the course content, please check out the full report here:

Download: HOP Crash Course 2021 Report

HOP Crash Course 2021 | Insights & Impressions

The learning journey was ambitious and challenging, however the content and learning activities supported to bring a lot of course ideas forward and gave an opportunity to discuss quality aspects of non-formal online learning and try out the HOP platform.

The overall course structure and content

“In general the platform it’s really good. With a lot of features, functionalities that make the learning process more attractive and easier. On the side of who builds the online course, there are numerous tools that are available and that allow you to adapt / flexibilise the way we want to build the online course according to the needs and topic.”

The course content, activities and resources offered were very rich, which was overwhelming for some and a challenge in organising their own time and own learning process for others.

The HOP platform

“In general the platform it’s really good. With a lot of features, functionalities that make the learning process more attractive and easier. On the side of who builds the online course, there are numerous tools that are available and that allow you to adapt / flexibilise the way we want to build the online course according to the needs and topic.”

The Moodle-based HOP platform added to this complexity, because it has many functionalities to create learning activities and various ways to implement and display content. Some participants handled this complexity better than others. 

“I still find it a bit complicated, however, I believe that “playing with it” is the best way to learn to use it.”

It was challenging and time-consuming to understand the technical side of course creation. Playing around with different Moodle activities was a good opportunity to try things out and understand better how to use (or not use) them in one’s own course.

“Although moodle-oriented learning environments are not always youth-friendly, HOP has made great progress so far.”

Moodle is often connected with a rather bad reputation, the HOP team worked consistently on the platform to improve it’s user-friendlyness. On the downside, some participants found the HOP platform complicated, overwhelming and confusing: they missed a more intuitive navigation and a better arrangement of content on the screen. On the positive side, participants appreciated the learning experience on the HOP platform. They highlighted the many possibilities of the platform, including interactive content and embedding tools from external platforms.

Participation and engagement

“I have signed up for the HOP Crash Course to learn more about the technical side of the online courses. However the course offered much more than that. We had an opportunity to create an idea, develop it, adapt it according to the online learning requirements and needs, play with the online tools, and finally publish it!

Participants spent most of their time on exploring the course content and planned live online activities and less individually and in teams on designing their own online course. Time for exploring, sharing and reflecting on how we operate and learn in online environments turned out to be a very important aspect of online learning.

We tried to adjust and offer various learning activities to participants according to their needs and interests. In that way, learners went through individual and multiple learning pathways at the same time: while some took advantage to try out the Moodle platform, others implemented a sample module or worked on a conceptual level of their course. They followed their own aims and different styles of learning online. And, they needed different ways of support.

Course development and implementation

“By taking part in this course I could not only practically create, develop and publish my first HOP course, but also cooperate with and learn from other trainers and deepen my knowledge about learning theories and approaches. I was provided with a variety of digital tools and to practically try out the options that HOP platform offers. What is more, I felt  supported and inspired by facilitators who were always eager to help and motivated me and my project group to progress with our course.  If you would like to grow as trainer/facilitator/youth worker in a digital world, thanks to this course you will enjoy it and practically experiment with the HOP possibilities!” 

– Marta Brzezińska-Hubert

Pedagogics or technology first? – For some course authors it is important to first explore the Moodle-based HOP platform in order to better understand its functionalities. From there they can dive into course creation. Others prefer to develop their course concept first, and then find ways to implement it technically. The course attempted to give learners the chance to follow their own learning paths. However, it was not always possible to deliver in-time the content needed for both paths. 


All in all, adjusting the course on the go meant to create course content and activities and adjust them to meet individual and group needs and interests. This brought more flexibility to follow individual learning paths, at the same time increased complexity in the course flow.

Please find more insights and impressions in our full report:

Download: HOP Crash Course 2021 Report [icon name=”file-arrow-down” prefix=”fas”]

Looking ahead…

In the next few years, the diversity of online learning and training activities and formats will still grow. From an online course design point of view, this requires a flexible and creative approach. According to what kind of learning experience your would like to offer your participants, the HOP platform can be a valuable learning management system for the learning path you want to create.

“As digitalisation and e-learning became such a big part of everyone’s life, we, educators, have to consider options and find opportunities to continue to empower young people and youth workers through information and education. And HOP platform is a great option for this!”

– Anna Korjakina