Understanding and meeting the needs and motivations of online learners for tackling hate crime and hate speech
What must we consider when designing online learning and capacity-building programmes in the fields of policing, criminal justice and human rights education?
By Joanna Perry, Senior research and policy advisor, Facing Facts Network
In March 2020, millions of us relocated our office to our homes while simultaneously moving into the online world. After mastering the basics of Zoom, we spent hours in front of our screens attending meetings and conferences, alongside the more familiar work of email and group chats. Those involved in training, began to think about completely redesigning hate crime and hate speech capacity-building activities–previously delivered exclusively in-person– into an online format. While people have returned to the office, and gatherings for trainings and conferences have resumed, the opportunities and questions that the pandemic exposed about digitally-mediated work and capacity-building in the area of human rights education remain.
Facing Facts, coordinated by CEJI is a multi-stakeholder partnership of civil society organisations and public authorities that works to better understand and address hate crime and hate speech through research, training and advocacy. Our online learning programmes are hosted on Facing Facts Online and are described in detail in Section III below. While we have learned from and reflected on our experiences, our work has, to a large extent, been undertaken in an empirical and conceptual vacuum. As we explore below, even definitions of ‘online learning’ do not fully reflect and encompass the type of approaches our learners need. With the exception of one or two studies, empirical research almost exclusively focuses on school and university students, teachers and educators.
We want to better understand what motivates and supports our community of practice to learn online. What are their needs? How can we innovate further in our own learning design? What is missing in EU and national policy frameworks to support and guide these efforts?
As explained in the European Union’s Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027),
‘Digital transformation has changed society and the economy with an ever deepening impact on everyday life, and demonstrated the need for higher levels of digital capacity of education and training systems and institutions.’
The action plan identifies the impact of the pandemic in further accelerating ‘the existing trend towards online and hybrid learning’, which takes place in a context where improvements are needed in access to computers and broadband, levels of confidence in using digital technologies in teaching, and levels of proficiency in digital skills.
Understandably, digital education researchers have mainly focused on the implications of this dynamic and challenging context for schools and universities. Few have turned their attention to the needs of those engaged in continuing professional development specifically in the area of policing, criminal justice and human rights education. The aim of this paper is to lay the foundation to better understand the needs and motivations of this particular learning community of practice in the midst of this ‘digital transformation’.
Summary and overview
Section II briefly reviews academic efforts to define ‘online learning’. Several characteristics of online programmes for policing, criminal justice and human rights education map well against established definitions, with the role of technology as particularly central. However, the focus of the academic literature to date on higher education and teaching means that broader concepts such as ‘online capacity-building’ and online learning in non-formal, informal and professional settings have received less attention.
Section III considers relevant EU policy regarding training and capacity-building of police, criminal justice and civil society learners in the area of countering hate crime and hate speech and finds limited references to their online learning experiences and needs. More general policy frameworks regarding continuing adult education and learning are also reviewed as important potential supplements for these gaps.
Section IV and V review what is currently being offered in the area of online learning on hate crime and hate speech, including a detailed review of Facing Facts Online programmes. It is highlighted that facilitating the sharing of learning and experience of partners who are active in this nascent field, including the Council of Europe and ODHIR, as well as at the national level, is essential. It is also very important to identify areas of complementarity and cooperation for the purposes of efficiency and coordinated national support. Linking with section II, a need to gain a more in-depth understanding of our learners’ experience, drawing on our own data is identified along with how to develop a meaningful community of practice across boundaries of institution and identity, which will also remain and further develop after a course ends.
Section VI shares two examples of Facing Facts’ innovation in the area of online learning. The highly collaborative ‘from here to there’ activity allows learners to co-create content and explore the potential of the hate crime concept in diverse national contexts. Our current work to develop a module on police discrimination in the context of hate crime, in partnership with Facing Facts Network members, including CSOs and police officers, has raised challenging questions that will be, in turn, addressed in the course. Next steps are to harness the learning from these initiatives, particularly in relation to developing lasting communities of practice on understanding and responding to hate crime and hate speech.
II What is ‘online learning’?
In their literature review spanning 30 years of scholarship, Singh and Thurman (2019) identified 46 definitions of online learning, which they narrowed down to eighteen ‘terms’. They found that while definitions have evolved over time–partly reflecting the changing preoccupations and concerns of educators–several core characteristics of a ‘modern’ definition can be identified.
First, they explain:
‘Technology is the most abundant and clearly defined element of online learning. Most authors agree that, regardless of what term they use when they are talking about online learning, technology is a crucial part of the definition’ (page unknown).
This matches our own experience. Technology delivers the content of online learning, whether it is the reading materials, videos and quizzes hosted by the Facing Facts Online platform, or the live weekly group tutorials hosted by Zoom during our 4-6 week ‘cohort’ courses. Technology also allows for online interaction whether through discussion forums or live group sessions, and for the collection and analysis of significant evaluative data. In a recent blog, we reflected on the fact that when it comes to online learning, one has to take the perspective of ‘learning in–as opposed to simply learning with–technology’. For example, initial training needs assessments that inform our learning designs aim to assess both technology needs, including for example the availability of, access to and confidence in using online platforms, alongside needs related to subject knowledge and skills.
Other identified themes were ‘time’ and ‘interactivity’. Online learning contexts allow course designers to think flexibly about time. For example, synchronous learning includes activities that are designed to be undertaken in real time, such as tutorials and webinars. Asynchronous learning activities can be undertaken at any time, for example, discussion forums, readings, videos and quizzes. Facing Facts Online cohort-based courses, usually running for 4-6 weeks, involve both synchronous and asynchronous learning, while our standalone courses only involve asynchronous activities. The ‘interactivity’ element includes several dimensions: peer to peer, student to content and student to instructor/tutor. ‘Interactivity’ also intersects with the ‘time’ element above to the extent that all forms of interaction can be synchronous or asynchronous. We have found these two components as well as their intersections as being central to our own learning design and our definitional concept of online learning.
The intersection of technology and interaction is also important. In each form of interactivity outlined above, technology is the enabler, the moderator and the architect(ure). As we have experimented with different Moodle tools, H5P, various video production methodologies, and simple technologies, such as GoogleDocs, we are conscious of the imperative to innovate and to find the best match of technology to need. In other words, for learning design that prioritises interaction and participation, keeping up with developments in educational technology is as important as keeping abreast of the latest in hate crime and hate speech policy! One of our aims in writing this paper and our research in this area is to strengthen our relationships with edtech experts and other relevant partners.
Singh and Thurman point out that the ‘learning’ in online learning is rarely addressed in offered definitions. They ask, ‘Why do the definitions of online learning not describe learning, and how learning done in an online context is different from learning that happens elsewhere?’. This is also an important question for us and for any organisation engaged in online capacity building on hate crime and hate speech. How is learning in these contexts different? What do we need to understand about these differences in our efforts to ensure a successful transition from ‘in-person’ to ‘online’ capacity building? What does this mean for the selection of learning outcomes, the targeting of appropriate participants and our own learning designs?
A final observation is about the focus of research in this area: ‘the majority of research published in peer-reviewed publications consists of an assumption that when authors discuss online learning they mean higher education’. This has been our experience when reviewing the literature and is one of the reasons that we have decided to commission our own research.
What is online learning in the context of the Facing Facts Network? It is important to not get too bogged down in definitions, however, they can be essential when trying to make an under-explored but important area of work more visible. Indeed, we have learned the power of definitions in our work on making hate crime and hate speech visible!
For example, we think that the concept of ‘online capacity-building’ should be considered alongside, or as part of ‘online learning’ when considering the learning and development needs of multi-stakeholder professional learning networks such as Facing Facts. United Nations Academic Impact defines capacity-building as ‘the process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organisations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world.’ Several of the current hate crime and hate speech programmes that focus on technical assistance overlap with this definition (see section IV below). Understanding the connections and differences across ‘online learning’, ‘online education’ and ‘online capacity-building’ is an important framing objective for Facing Facts’ research in this area, both to understand the current context and to identify future directions, connections and opportunities.
‘Open’ and ‘innovative’ are two other commonly cited characteristics of online education. Certainly the availability of programmes and content for anyone, anytime and anywhere presents a fantastic opportunity for learners who want to better understand and address hate crime and hate speech. Further, the role of technology and its transformational impact on what is possible for learning design allows for fascinating innovations. A future focus is to understand and articulate what both of these characteristics mean in the context of Facing Facts Online.
III Policy context
Key policy and guidelines on hate crime and hate speech emphasise the importance of training and capacity-building in identifying and responding to these serious human rights violations. This is particularly the case for law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. Rather than review the range of policies and initiatives in this area, the interest of this paper is to identify where online learning and capacity building has been mentioned, and to identify areas for further policy development in this area.
Overall, there are limited references to online learning and capacity-building. The paper, Hate crime training for law enforcement and criminal justice authorities, 10 Key Guiding Principles , drafted by the European Commission, aims to provide, ‘a compilation of key guiding principles on how to ensure effective and quality hate crime training for law enforcement and criminal justice authorities.’ The document contains a reference to online learning, explaining,
‘Hate crime training is increasingly being delivered in the form of e-learning and online modules. While delivering hate crime training in an online form has the merit of allowing to potentially reach a wide number of target personnel while containing costs, there is however some evidence that online learning is often seen by participants as less effective than ‘in-person’ training, as it is often not interactive enough. In order to ensure that online training is effective, it is therefore important to build in opportunities for interaction (discussion forums), online working groups, practical application (case studies), etc. The design of this kind of operational, hands-on, high quality interactive online learning needs… to be carefully planned and evidence based.’
It is noteworthy that the paper identifies police and criminal justice practitioners’ reservations about online learning. It is also interesting that the terms ‘online learning’ and ‘online training’, ‘interaction’ are mentioned in relation to online learning, yet not defined, reflecting points made in the literature reviewed above regarding both the lack of clarity on definitions and the importance of interaction.
A 2021 review of hate crime training in the EU by the Working group on hate crime training and capacity-building for national law enforcement explained,
‘advancements in technology and numerous benefits have propelled the popularity of online training (e-learning) in the last few years as more national and international actors develop online courses and platforms. The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to even broader reliance on e-learning. In addition to reaching a wide number of learners while containing costs, the online format can allow for more individualised learning and gives more flexibility to learners to follow their own learning needs and pace. To ensure the effectiveness of the online format, however, programmes should build in opportunities for live interactions with tutors and peers (e.g. tutorials, work in groups, discussion forums) and practical tasks. Tailoring the learning experience to different types of learners is also an important element in online learning.’ (p. 26)
In 2022, the Working Group published a ‘toolbox’ to support the embedding of hate crime and hate speech training in national training programmes for law enforcement. Specific references to online learning include: suggesting ‘compulsory online training with tests’; the importance of ensuring that all levels of the police have access to some form of training on hate crime; the usefulness of online training for officers who are unable to travel from their place of work; the ‘crucial’ need to engage with CSOs that can support training online; the requirement to establish an official online platform for easy access by police learners; and, the suggestion to use ‘blended’ learning where some content is delivered online, followed by in-person ‘practical’ training.
In terms of EU policy on online learning in general, it too focuses on schools and traditional education sectors. An interesting area to further explore are efforts at the EU level to develop a common approach to micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability. The Recommendation of the Council of The European Union on micro-credentials focuses on the importance of and ways to support continuing professional development through the delivery of high quality, accessible ‘informal’ and ‘non-formal’ learning. The targets of the recommendation include young people and adults who require re-skilling and upskilling as a result of, for example, changes to the workplace and related skills or due to their migrant status. The recommendation does not include a consideration of the role of online learning in delivering these aims, however it highlights the usefulness of ‘web-based tools enabling people to manage their career and lifelong learning with authentication services for credentials which make micro-credentials portable’ (paragraph 20). Indeed learners who have completed Facing Facts Online programmes are awarded ‘digital badges’, which can be displayed on their LinkedIn page, for example. It is not clear whether Facing Facts programmes would or should qualify as micro credentials or what specific advantages that this might bring.
In December 2004, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed the world Programme for Human Rights Education. Coordinated by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the programme is structured across three ‘phases’. Phase two of the programme is of particular relevance to this paper because it focuses on the need for effective and strategically grounded human rights training programmes for professionals, including civil servants and law enforcement officials. The second phase ‘Plan of Action’ sets out the relevant UN standards that should underpin such trainings, including the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Political Rights, which both contain binding obligations on countering hate crime and hate speech. The document contains one reference to ‘e-learning’ and ‘online learning’, recommending that responsible actors,
‘Facilitate access to new information technologies for networking, exchange of human rights information and discussion. Develop website resources, develop and facilitate e-learning, online learning programmes, e-forums, web conferencing and distance-learning programmes’
The document also identifies human rights learning and capacity-building for law-enforcement and civil servants as taking place in ‘non-formal’ and ‘informal’ education settings. This poses interesting questions regarding how police academies, civil service training bodies and indeed Facing Facts online would be described, i.e. as ‘formal’, ‘informal’ and/or ‘non-formal’ learning.
From this short review, it is clear that there is not a common approach to defining ‘online learning’ and/or ‘online capacity-building’ or where it fits in current policy frameworks either regarding police and criminal justice practitioner skills and their continuing professional development generally or in relation to hate crime and hate speech in particular. Further, there has yet to be a consideration of the needs of multi-stakeholder professional learning communities such as those served by Facing Facts Online. However, it is also clear that several standard-setting international bodies have at least considered the existence and potential of online learning. Also, there is an interesting intersection to explore between human rights education for law enforcement and other public bodies outlined in UN documents on the one hand, and more focused training and capacity-building for law enforcement on hate crime and hate speech set out by EU documents, on the other. Further research should explore this interface and identify any other relevant EU or other policy documents that address the online learning needs of our target groups, drawing broadly on different and perhaps less obvious policy areas. This could also include policies at the interface of hate crime and hate speech training and general EU and other policy documents regarding online learning and digital skills in adult education. It would also be important to identify particularly interesting and useful national policy documents.
This work should also inform the development of concepts and typologies that describe and encompass the learning the Facing Facts wants to develop and the learners that we want to engage. In turn, this work can help develop strategic design recommendations for the Network, as well as broader policy recommendations on training and capacity building in this area.
IV The hate crime and hate speech capacity-building landscape in Europe
There are several capacity building and technical assistance programmes on hate crime and hate speech within the Europe Union and beyond. Based on information in the public domain, apart from Facing Facts Online, the only other fully online programmes are hosted by the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP). It is also important to note that the EU Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) hosts an online module on hate crime. One of our key research questions will be to better understand the current tools and future plans of the key transnational organisations in the area of online capacity-building on hate crime and hate speech and to identify areas of complementarity and cooperation.
At the national level, in a recent mapping exercise conducted on behalf of the European Commission, 11 member states reported that they either currently use ‘elements’ of online learning in their training programmes or are in the process of doing so. Member States also reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these efforts.
Facing Facts has developed several tools and programmes on hate crime and hate speech since 2015, which fall into four categories of programmes: ‘cohort’, which means that a programme is delivered across 4-6 weeks for a group, or ‘class’, of students, and is supported by a tutor team; ‘standalone’, which means that the programme can be accessed at any time, without tutor support; ‘institutional’, which means that the programme was designed for a police institution and ‘mixed’, which means that the programme was designed and delivered as a cohort in partnership with another institution.
Across hate crime and hate speech, we have delivered more than 20 programmes in the ‘cohort’ and ‘mixed’ categories. These include our regular ‘identifying, monitoring and responding to hate crime’ courses as well as six courses we co-designed with international organisations to support their hate crime identification and monitoring activities. Overall, the response has been positive both in terms of the final course evaluations and as indicated by the fact that we have been commissioned to repeat several courses annually. For example, a common theme across these programmes is that learners highly value tutor and peer engagement through weekly live tutorials. The ‘identifying, monitoring and responding to hate crime’ has also received CPD Standards Office accreditation. We reflected on two ‘cohorts’ that we designed and delivered between March and June 2020 in response to the pandemic. While we see a ‘core’ group of highly motivated learners in our ‘cohort’ programmes, usually about 30%, we find an overall course completion rate of about 50%. We notice that completion rates are highest in ‘mixed’ courses, where the involvement of managers and a strong focus on institutional needs are likely success factors. We have gathered significant data from these courses and a future focus will be to better analyse and apply its insights.
Our ‘standalone’ content includes short courses on countering hate speech for journalists and on understanding and identifying hate crime against specific communities. These courses can also be described as ‘open’ in the sense that following a short registration process, learners can access the materials for free and take the course anytime, without the support of tutors. This content can also be integrated into ‘cohort’-based and ‘mixed’ courses. We would like to improve our understanding of learners’ experiences of this content, and whether they serve as ‘gateway’ material, leading to future registrations in our regular ‘cohorts’.
Our ‘institutional’ programmes include online courses on hate crime for four national police services. While each course is quite different, shared elements include: raising awareness with frontline police and call-handlers; identifying, recording and investigating potential hate crimes; ensuring a respectful service to victims; and, coordinating with investigation and prosecution partners. The importance of effective engagement and collaboration across hate crime specialists and training colleagues within police institutions, is key to this process and an area that merits further exploration. As next steps we would like to:
- improve our understanding of learners’ experiences of these courses with a view to improving course completion and engagement;
- share our reflections on challenges that arise when integrating new human rights-based programmes into police training at all levels; and,
- learn from others who have successfully planned, implemented and evaluated institutional online learning programmes in comparable contexts.
V Mapping key characteristics of online learning and capacity building in hate crime and hate speech
When there is no comprehensive framework to define and describe an emerging area of practice, it can be helpful to identify and map its core characteristics. This helps to start to identify thematic categories and framing questions for further exploration and development.
A core descriptive characteristic of Facing Facts Online learners is ‘multi-stakeholder’ because they are from public authority, civil society and international agency backgrounds. These include serving police officers, hate crime and hate speech policy leads in government ministries, staff from equality bodies, as well as victim support and monitoring specialists. Our learners include seasoned change agents as well as those who are very new to the field. They come from across Europe and beyond, including India, the United States and other countries. Our data shows that these diverse perspectives share a common motivation to better understand and to practically address hate crime and/or hate speech.
This multi-stakeholder characteristic has led us to make several strategic choices that inform our learning design, which we have also explored in our regular blog. For example, we foreground the ‘learning identity’ of our participants (as well as our own ‘learning identity’ as tutors) to support an equal connection across what can be differences in power and status between public authorities and civil society learners. In other words, while we might occupy different professional roles, when participating in Facing Facts courses, we are all learners. The importance of cultivating a learner identity has also been stressed when learning in work contexts, where the ‘professional identity’ is usually foregrounded (Thomas and Thorpe, 2019; Bayne 2005).
There is a further consideration. Learners are navigating their professional and learner identities online. Pre-pandemic studies suggest that professional online identities are constantly negotiated and navigated through individual personalities and professional realities, and that confidence builds when professional and online identities become more integrated (Bayne, 2005).
While we seek to establish and nurture a multi-stakeholder community of practice, we have to also take into account the fact that there are differences in needs and motivations across professional groups. For example, a frontline police officer who deals with any and all crime on a daily basis is unlikely to have similar learning needs and motivations to a specialist hate crime victim support practitioner. The limited available research has found that police experiences of and attitudes towards online learning are ‘overwhelmingly negative’ (Trickett and Hamilton, 2016). With regard to other groups, Charitonos et al (2020) focused on an online programme supporting ‘social justice practitioners’, with learners from the civil society sector. We discuss how this work has both reflected and to some extent influenced our own learning design in our reflective blog. However, as mentioned, the vast majority of research into the needs of learners who are engaging in continuing professional development focuses on teachers and educators; there is a lot of work to be done to examine our own and other empirical evidence to inform our knowledge of the needs, experiences and motivations of our learners.
Section I and Section II of this paper identified several factors and terms for further contextualisation and definition when reviewing existing evidence and identifying necessary avenues of research. Further framing factors relate to the type of learning environment that Facing Facts Online aims to create, as far as possible across our ‘cohort’, ‘standalone’, ‘institutional’ and ‘mixed’ programmes. Our reflective blog has explained various elements of socio-cultural learning theory that have informed our work (Vygotsky, 1978). For example, we are influenced by the ideas of Brown et al on the importance of learning in ‘authentic contexts’. As explained by Hall (2007), online learning design should be based on ‘genuine practice, which enables learners to function as a community, using the language signs and symbols that are a normal part of that environment [and] use domain knowledge in the same way practitioners would.’ ( p. 97).
And as explained by Brown et al (1989),
‘Authentic practice may be simple or complex depending on what the learner is ready for, but it should be embedded in the context and cultural practices of others in that field’. We also use principles of networked learning (Cormier, 2008) – regularly drawing on our own research as well as outside sources and materials such as OSCE-ODIHR hate crime reporting.
Within this context we need to better understand how to increase collaboration and by extension, how to develop a meaningful community of practice across boundaries of institution and identity, which will also remain and further develop after a course ends. On a practical level, we need to identify ways to improve our online platform’s interface, accessibility and usability to support the delivery of these aims. Perhaps we are offering something that needs a new name!
VI Examples of the ‘Facing Facts’ approach
This section briefly describes two recent examples of the types of Facing Facts’ activities and ways of working, to give a practical sense of our approach.
From here to there
‘From here to there’ is a simple but effective planning and reflection exercise that works very well in multi-stakeholder learning programmes. Participants are asked individually and collaboratively to reflect first on ‘where we are’, then on ‘where we should be’, and finally on ‘how we might get from ‘here’ to ‘there’ in the areas of legislation, data collection, training and guidance frameworks at the national level; as well as on coordination and coalition-building across key actors. The exercise is usually conducted in Facing Facts ‘cohorts’ and ‘mixed’ programmes as it requires active tutor facilitation. The first time Facing Facts experimented with this activity in the online space, it was presented at the start of the course and was based on a Moodle Wiki, which required learners to use HTML. Both learning design choices presented barriers to participation because learners were not yet comfortable in using the platform and not yet ready for participatory activities. Also HTML can be awkward to use for many learners. Now the activity takes place towards the end of the course when participants feel confident in their knowledge of the hate crime concept and after they have interacted with each other in discussion forums and tutorials. GoogleDocs instead of a Moodle wiki is used, which is very easy to work with and allows both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. The exercise has been evaluated very positively by course participants. It is highly collaborative and involves the co-creation of learning and content by peers, allowing for sophisticated experimentation with the hate crime concept in national contexts. Facing Facts would like to share and learn from feedback and other examples in other fields.
Learning through participating in learning design – course on police discrimination in the context of hate crime
We are currently developing a ‘standalone’ module on police discrimination in the context of hate crime, which will also be usable in our ‘cohorts’, ‘institutional’ and ‘mixed’ programmes. The aim of the course is for learners to understand the impact–on individuals and communities–of discriminatory policing, and to understand the particular impact of police discrimination on people’s confidence to report hate crimes. The course also integrates a police perspective regarding the challenges of understanding and avoiding police discrimination and to understand the negative impact of discriminatory policing on policing outcomes, particularly in the case of profiling practices. Finally, learners will work to explore international and national laws and standards along with their own role in their context. The content development and learning design team itself is multi-stakeholder, providing an opportunity for peer learning and discussion across police and civil society boundaries on a challenging topic. There is likely to be learning from this process that could inform our research process, particularly in relation to developing lasting communities of practice on understanding and responding to hate crime and hate speech.
This paper aimed to lay the foundation to better understand the needs and motivations of law enforcement professionals, hate crime and hate speech policy-makers and civil society organisations. In short, there is no comprehensive empirical, conceptual, policy and implementation framework to support high quality, innovative online learning and capacity-building for communities of practice such as the Facing Facts Network. There is an opportunity for a broader coalition of researchers, practitioners, policy makers and innovators in educational technology to connect and build the necessary infrastructure.
The paper started with key questions, to engage with in taking this work forward. This section summarises insights and next steps.
Our first questions centred on improving our understanding of what motivates and supports law enforcement professionals, policy-makers and civil society organisations with responsibilities in countering hate crime and hate speech to learn online. Future work should include wider literature reviews to identify empirical insights for example, from public authorities and civil society practitioners working in comparable areas. Facing Facts should also commission support to:
– categorise and analyse its own data gathered over several years to capture and share insights.
– design new empirical studies designed to extract data from learners and practitioners.
This work should in turn support efforts to define ‘online learning’ and ‘online capacity building’, which in turn can help improve relevant policy-making.
Online learning research and practice is taking place in a context of accelerating developments in technology, with huge potential implications. For example, the new chatbot from OpenAI, chat GPT, allows users to generate original content in seconds that can be used to produce essays, blogs and articles. Policy-making tends to lag behind such pace. However, there are likely to be great rewards and insights to be gathered by finding ways to stay abreast and informed of these developments and to identify and apply relevant insights for learning design and delivery as well as improved policy. Crucially, Facing Facts Online faces a double challenge of keeping up with technological developments in both hate speech online and online learning. Possible future actions could involve identifying appropriate conferences, research groups, and commercial partners at the cutting edge of these innovations. This paper also reviewed innovations in Facing Facts’ own practice, particularly in the area of participatory learning and co-creation, which should be fed into these efforts.
Finally, the paper aimed to better identify what is missing in EU and national policy frameworks to support and guide these efforts. There is a need to better understand and connect apparently disparate policy areas of hate crime and hate speech training and capacity-building with broader policy on continuing professional development, digital education and human rights education.
All of this work should take place in partnership with key organisations that are currently actively designing and delivering online learning and capacity-building on hate crime and hate speech, including the Council of Europe and ODIHR, as well as national partners. It is vital to create spaces to regularly share and capture experiences and reflections on developing and delivering online learning and capacity-building in this nascent area. It is also very important to identify areas of complementarity and cooperation for the purposes of efficiency and coordinated national support. An appropriate space could be the High Level Group on hate crime and hate speech working group on training.
This work will support our community to meet the fast-changing needs of those at the frontline of understanding and addressing hate crime and hate speech. We look forward to making our contribution to better describing and exploring this learning space and to developing the necessary knowledge, relationships, policies and guidance.
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