Swedish Red Cross

Published: 7 October 2014 17:07 CET

The Swedish Red Cross has undergone a period of substantial change over the last few years, particularly at an organizational level. In order to be more effective, the National Society decided to align its activities with its overall goal. In this regard the change process led to specialized support being extended to the local branches.

The Swedish Red Cross is also making a shift in the way volunteering works. Increasingly people seem to have less time on their hands. In addition competition from other organiza- tions is on a rise. Hence it is becoming increasingly important to train potential volunteers and engage them in activities as fast as possible. Elearning has been introduced as a new way of volunteer development to make training flexible and accessible to staff and 30,000 volunteers across the country. As a result, potential volunteers no longer have to wait for extended periods of time for a face-to-face training to be organized within their vicinity before being able to actively engage in the work of their local branch.

Connecting with the Learning platform

In 2009, the Swedish Red Cross decided to explore elearning options. The Red Cross Red Crescent Learning platform was initially perceived as a skills development tool for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) staff and delegates. However, increased dialogue between the Swedish Red Cross and the learning and development team paved way for exploring opportunities to develop a customized area within the learning platform that would cater to the Swedish Red Cross’ elearning requirements. 

There are several advantages of being a part of this Learning platform. To begin with, it enables the National Society’s volunteers and staff to connect with and feel a part of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and take advantage of courses produced both by the IFRC and National Societies alike. Sharing and exchanging courses and information about digital learning creates great synergy.

Furthermore, after exploring a range of learning management systems, the Swedish Red Cross came to the conclusion that being part of the Learning platform was the most viable and cost-effective option available.

Benefits of elearning

Today one-third of all courses taken in the Swedish Red Cross are ecourses. Elearning serves several purposes for the Swedish Red Cross. To begin with it is a cost-efficient way of reaching out with learning to all its volunteers and staff. It is complimentary to face-to-face training.

Elearning is a way of providing easy and flexible access to learning

Traditionally, the Swedish Red Cross has offered face-to-face courses ranging from four hours to three days. Elearning has opened up a lot of opportunities. The National Society can now reach out to those who are unable to attend a face-to-face course. Volunteers and staff can take a course at home, at a time convenient to them and at their own pace. Elearning is a way to offer courses to everybody irrespective of where they live. It also enables the Swedish Red Cross to further ensure certain levels of knowledge and quality of its volunteers are achieved. It also enables engaging volunteers in activities sooner rather than later, i.e. volunteers no longer have to wait for a course to take place within their vicinity.

The Swedish Red Cross also uses elearn- ing as a method for more effective face-to-face training. Participants attending a face-to-face course are required to register and complete the e-course prior to attending a training. In doing so, all participants arrive at the training with the same level of knowledge and basic information. This in turn saves time and cuts back on repetition for participants during the face-to-face sessions.

Working in partnership the IFRC learning and research team and the Swedish Red Cross learning and humanitarian values unit, a Swedish interface on the Learning platform has been created. Swedish is one of about 38 languages that the platform supports.

Launch of the platform in Sweden

The first ecourse in Swedish – an introductory course explaining the history and Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement – was launched on the Learning platform in 2010. This ecourse is mandatory for all volunteers and staff. 

Following the introductory course, an ecourse for branch treasurers and accountants and one for short-term volunteers with a focus on the Fundamental Principles was produced. Four ecourses – Family Reunification, Return, Restoring Family Links and Refugees – were thereafter developed specifically for volunteers working in the migration field. At the time of developing this case study the Swedish Red Cross is working on producing an introductory ecourse to their new member database. This ecourse aims at providing an overview and training for local branches to maintain their respective member databases. This course is very different in subject matter but the common denominator is the focus on digital pedagogics and training.

There is one dedicated staff member in the learning and humanitarian values unit, which is a part of the national department, in charge of digital learning and responsible for among other things:

  • promoting the learning platform internally;
  • maintaining contact with the IFRC and increasingly with other National Society teams; and
  • providing support to users and other units working in the development of ecourses.

The Swedish Red Cross does not produce the ecourses in-house but provides manuscripts and pedagogic ideas to consultants.

Based on the needs identified, the Swedish Red Cross has further ideas for new courses that would benefit from being developed into ecourses. The focus of the National Society is on ensuring innovative ways of training are adopted to facilitate quality learning and skill development of its volunteers and staff. To this end, the Swedish Red Cross is also looking into more dynamic ways of disseminating learning to its volunteers and staff and beyond using a mixture of approaches such as web lecturers, peer-to-peer review, social learning, and ecourses.

The Swedish Red Cross is witnessing an increase in the number of users and is getting positive feedback regarding the elearning modules.

Challenges and lessons learned

Limited technological resources in relation to computer speed and sound have had some impact in the ability of learners to undertake courses. This is a challenge especially for users living in rural areas of Sweden. The National Society is looking at ways to produce ecourses that are dynamic and interactive but at the same not too heavy to ensure that people with poor internet connectivity can equally benefit from the ecourses. In addition, many of the ecourses in the Learning platform are both accessible via smart phones (mobiles) as well as offline.

One of the challenges encountered is that there are some who are not (yet) used to computers and it is important that the knowledge held within these courses is also available in other ways other than elearning. The Swedish Red Cross does not want to discriminate but at the same time would like to use up-to-date technology (as well as plan for the future when technology and the internet is ever more accessible) to produce methods of learning for the future. Computer knowledge is not a matter of the age of a person. It is also a matter of a learning curve when it comes to adapting to a new platform. People of all ages are tired of or just opposed to using digital resources, or for example, creating new profiles. Single login accounts for instance could help cure some of these frustrations moving forwards.

The Swedish Red Cross has seen good completion rates on the ecourses taken by their volunteers and staff. We have to respect that volunteers have limited time. Hence it is vital that the ecourses are developed with clear learning goals and indicate realistic timeframes vis-à-vis course completion.

It has been a journey from the first course to where the National Society currently is with regards elearning. The first course that the Swedish Red Cross produced resembled a web-lecture while for the recent courses the National Society has evolved its pedagogics and knowledge about digital learning. The National Society, at all levels, continues to believe that this “blended” approach to Learning Education and Training is the correct approach moving forwards.


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 191 member National Societies. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright