It was a pleasure to participate in the CSDP Orientation Course. First of all, the course documentation and asynchronous e-learning modules via the ILIAS Platform were useful in my preparation for the course and encouraged me to research relevant topics further. It was also exciting to hear, from experts from civilian and military backgrounds, their own views and insights on CSDP. I appreciated the balance between military and civilian topics in the course programme, as well as the diverse cultural backgrounds of participants. As for the course organisation, I could not be more satisfied, as the organisers encouraged active participation, supported all participants and facilitated interaction between them (both virtual and residential participants). Finally, as a young European citizen, participating in the course enhanced my European identity and strengthened my hopes for the further development of CSDP.This was the sixth CSDP Orientation Course organised by the EUMS under the auspices of the ESDC, and was attended by 64 participants (46 in residence and 18 attending remotely) from EU member states and institutions, Canada, Switzerland and Vietnam.
CSDP Orientation Course – A Blended & Hybrid Learning Experience
ESDC adapts its training format to meet the requirements of participants and speakers forced by the COVID19 crisis to attend or speak remotely. The European Union Military Staff (EUMS), under the auspices of the European Security and Defence College (ESDC), held a CSDP Orientation Course in Brussels and remotely / virtually, from 28 September to 2 October 2020. Since it was an orientation course, we introduced participants to as many topics and policy areas within the CSDP context as possible, at a somewhat elementary level. This was mainly done during the residential/ virtual synchronous phase of the course. However, participants were offered the opportunity to acquire more advanced knowledge via asynchronous eLearning and readings suggested in an aide memoire: hence the blended character of the course. On the other hand, the COVID-19 crisis obliged us to offer alternative ways to attend the course. Forty-six participants took the course residentially, while 18 attended in a virtual environment, making use of Big Blue Button virtual classroom capacity hosted by the Romanian National Defence University. This feature gave the course its hybrid dimension. We anticipated that the most challenging aspect of a hybrid course would be to create conditions allowing the two groups to interact and to feel that they were sharing the same ‘space’. To achieve interactivity among the participants and between participants and experts, most of the course topics were structured as “Participant-Expert-Discussion”. At the beginning of these sessions, participants presented the outcomes of the discussions they had taken part in in virtual groups on the first day of the course, prompting experts to provide immediate and relevant feedback, tailoring their input to the participants’ knowledge gaps and learning needs. The first day of the course was also the first day of the internship of Ms Vasiliki Plessia, a student with a background in International and European Affairs, who found the course very useful for her studies.