Training in eight low-and middle-income countries: lessons learned from a pilot study using the WHO-TDR dissemination and implementation massive open online course

Ashlin Rakhra, Cole Hooley, Meredith P. Fort, Mary Beth Weber, Le Shawndra Price, Hoa L. Nguyen, Manuel Ramirez, Adamson S. Muula, Mina Hosseinipour, Kingsley Apusiga, Victor Davila-Roman, Joyce Gyamfi, Kezia Gladys Amaning Adjei, Josephine Andesia, Annette Fitzpatrick, Pascal Launois, Ana A. Baumann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in low-and middle- income countries (LMICs). Despite this, a lack of funding, training and mentorship for NCD investigators in LMICs exists. In an effort to gain knowledge and skills to address these gaps, participants from the Global Research on Implementation and Translation Science (GRIT), a consortium of studies in eight LMICs and their networks, attended the dissemination and implementation (D&I) massive open online course (MOOC) developed by the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases at the World Health Organization to strengthen D&I capacity building. Here, we report on the pilot of this MOOC, which was implemented during the SARS COVID-19 pandemic from April- November 2020. Methods: Participants completed pre-and post-training questionnaires to assess self-reported D&I competencies, general research skills, and research mentor access and quality. D&I competencies were measured by use of a scale developed for a US-based training program, with change in competency scores assessed by paired t test. We used univariate statistics to analyze the data for all other outcomes. Results: Of the 247 participants enrolled, 32 (13%) completed all course requirements, 21 (9%) completed the pre-and post-surveys and are included in the analysis. D&I competency scores suggest improvement for those who had complete pre- and post-assessments. Trainee's average score on the full competency scale improved 1.45 points (0–5 scale) from pre- to post-test; all four subscales also showed evidence of improvements. There were small but not significant increases in competencies for grant writing, proposal/ manuscript writing and presentations from pre- to post-test assessment. 40% of trainees reported access to a research mentor and 12% reported access to a D&I specific mentor. Participants reported barriers (e.g., unstable internet access and challenges due to COVID-19) and facilitators (e.g., topical interests, collaboration with colleagues) to completing the MOOC. Conclusions: Although COVID-19 affected program usage and completion, the MOOC was feasible. We also had signals of effectiveness, meaning among LMIC participants completing the course, there was improvement in self-report D&I competency scores. Recommendations for future D&I trainings in LMICs include (1) adding more topic specific modules (i.e., NCD research, general research skills) for scalability; (2) fostering more collaboration with participants across LMICs; and (3) establishing partnerships with D&I mentors for course participants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1217619
JournalFrontiers in Health Services
StatePublished - 2023


  • capacity building
  • dissemination & implementation research
  • implementation research
  • massive open online course (MOOC)
  • non-communicable chronic diseases


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