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IMARK is an e-learning initiative in agricultural information management developed by FAO and partner organizations.
photo Communities offer us the power of learning and working together.
By taking this course you will learn about building an online community and:
  • how to assess community member’s needs
  • issues to consider when designing your online community, including required skills, privacy, security and usability, multilingual computing, marketing and training
  • the wide range of technical options and tools
  • tasks, methods and techniques for online facilitation

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Target Audience

This module is targeted at coordinators and facilitators of established or incipient communities, as well as groups of individuals with shared interests in agricultural and rural development. A wide range of potential beneficiaries in both existing communities and potential new communities include:
  • network and community users;
  • moderators of groups and communities;
  • managers, policy makers and decision makers;
  • academic, educational and training centres; and
  • public and private sector agricultural extensionists and rural development facilitators.

Module Content

This course consists of 29 lessons, ranging from approximately 15 to 90 minutes duration, grouped into five units:

Unit 1 - Online communities - new opportunities
This unit covers the benefits and opportunities offered by online communities to facilitate knowledge and information exchange, and describes the key factors for a successful online community.

Lesson 1.1 - Why you should use this module
Lesson 1.2 - Online communities for development
Lesson 1.3 - Key factors for a successful online community
Lesson 1.4 - E-networking in Communication for Development

Unit 2 - Understanding needs and assessing opportunities
This unit explains how to conduct a needs analysis for an online community, how to develop a team and define goals, and looks at the technical, financial, institutional and social issues involved in designing an online community.

Lesson 2.1 - Introduction to needs analysis
Lesson 2.2 - Creating your team and stating goals
Lesson 2.3 - Assessing the user’s needs
Lesson 2.4 - Skills and resources for an online community
Lesson 2.5 - Barriers to electronic networking

Unit 3 - Options, choices, tools and applications
This unit illustrates a wide range of interactive tools and applications for building an online community, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they affect and the nature of the community.

Lesson 3.1 - Overview of technical options
Lesson 3.2 - Tools and applications
Lesson 3.3 - Assessing tools and applications

Unit 4 - Designing an online community
This unit provides guidelines for the design of an online community including introducing online communication in your organization, the professional roles required, the technical choices to be made, and how to plan for marketing, training and evaluation activities.

Lesson 4.1 - Introducing online communication in your work
Lesson 4.2 - In-house roles and competencies required
Lesson 4.3 - Making the right technical choices
Lesson 4.4 - Online security and privacy
Lesson 4.5 - Usability and accessibility
Lesson 4.6 - Multilingual computing
Lesson 4.7 - Marketing your online community
Lesson 4.8 - Training for a successful online community
Lesson 4.9 - Monitoring and Evaluation

Unit 5 - Online facilitation
This unit provides guidelines on how to facilitate an online community and introduces the basic concepts of facilitation, compares traditional and online facilitation, and illustrates a wide range of facilitation tasks and techniques.

Lesson 5.1 - The role of the facilitator
Lesson 5.2 - Face-to-face and online facilitation
Lesson 5.3 - Developing your online community culture
Lesson 5.4 - Preparing and organizing online discussions
Lesson 5.5 - Facilitation techniques
Lesson 5.6 - Facilitation tasks
Lesson 5.7 - Managing membership and roles
Lesson 5.8 - Working with human differences


Each lesson includes a list of job aids, online resources and additional reading. Learners can consult a glossary specific to the module, and search within the course materials for specific terms. A series of non-proprietary methodological guides are also provided.


The Module curriculum was designed and developed by experts and institutions from an internationally widespread community.

The main contributors and authors are from the following Organizations:
Association for Progressive Communications (APC) Association for Progressive Communications (APC) International Development Research Centre (IDRC) International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
Bellanet International Secretariat Bellanet International Secretariat Summit Collaborative Summit Collaborative
Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) Rockefeller Foundation Rockefeller Foundation
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
Full Circle Associates Full Circle Associates

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