Sharing Best Practices Through Online Communities of Practice: Global Alliance for Pre-Service Education (GAPS)

Rationale / Objectives

The Global Alliance for Pre-Service Education (GAPS) is an initiative that was established by the Capacity Project to create an online community of practice (CoP) for nurses and midwives in developing countries to gain and share information about family planning and HIV/AIDS. The goal of this project was to identify new strategies to facilitate and increase competency. An online community of practice was chosen to understand how new technology may be used to support, scale and improve pre-service education in developing countries. Pre-service teacher education is the education and training provided to student teachers before they have undertaken any teaching.1

Project/Program Description & Major Achievements

Three online forums were run to host dynamic discussions. These forums included: 

  1. A discussion of family planning competencies and competency-based training principles;
  2. A structured group analysis of existing family planning competencies; and
  3. An exchange of challenges and best practices associated with teaching the priority family planning competencies.

Experts in family planning and pre-service education analyzed these discussions and identified key themes and challenges and identified strategies to address them. These forums enabled participants to better understand how people define ‘competency.’ Family competencies were not sufficiently identified and integrated into global curriculums. A major achievement of this project was that challenges to family planning in specific regions were better understood facilitated by the online community of practice. GAPS was able to provide a discussion of opportunities and challenges associated with the implementation of competency-based curriculum, specifically in the area of family planning. 

Lessons Learned

Many people choose to remain silent members in active online discussions with only about 16% of the registered members participating, demonstrating an opportunity to engage a larger community. The knowledge gateway was a good portal to reach out to a diverse larger audience. It was determined that family planning competencies must be defined and distributed consistently across health care sectors and across provider groups (e.g., from physicians to nurses). It was also apparant that communities of practice are more effective in person and should be developed during global conferences for best results. This project also highlighted the importance of having a universal definition of competency in developing countries. This could be accomplished by emphasizing community-based evidence and fostering better linkages between educational institutions and health care facilities. Major implications from forum discussions addressed family planning competencies and determined that they were not well established in enough countries to be able to do an in-depth analysis of the methods. Furthermore, family planning is considered a minor topic in many low-income countries and must be given heightened priority before research in this area can be undertaken.  

Further Description

GAPS included 49 countries worldwide from the continents of Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. More than half of these members were from low-resource continents such as Africa, Asia and Central America.

Members of the forums represented a diverse range of backgrounds. These included: 59% from program coordination and development, 25% from clinical practice, 8% from education, 4% from research, and 4% from policy. This diversity allowed for the differences in competencies to be effectively monitored and different perspectives to be heard. 

Cost implications of this project were approximately $21K US over the 8 months it ran, accrued through moderators and website development and maintenance. 

The Unites States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable democratic societies to realize their potential. The agency aims to further U.S. interests while improving lives in developing countries by:

  • Promoting broadly shared economic prosperity;
  • Strengthening democracy and good governance; 
  • Protecting human rights;
  • Improving global health, 
  • Advancing food security and agriculture;
  • Improving environmental sustainability;
  • Furthering education;
  • Helping societies prevent and recover from conflicts; and 
  • Providing humanitarian assistance in the wake of natural and man-made disasters.


IntraHealth International is an organization that works to better train and support healthcare workers across the world to deliver better care. The values of the company include partnership, innovation, learning and accountability. 

Major Achievements

GAPS connected 273 individual members from countries worldwide with 65% living and working in low-resource settings. 

Metric Result Details
Number of individual members 273 members Participating countries included Africa, Americas, Asia & Europe
Percentage of members from low-resource countries 65% Majority were from Africa