About the WHO Scholar Programme

About the WHO Scholar programme

The Geneva Learning Foundation’s Scholar Approach is a state-of-the-art evidence-based package for capability development required to lead complex change. This unique Approach has already been shown to not only enhance competencies but also to foster collaborative implementation of transformative projects that begin as course work and end with impact.

  • WHO has used the Scholar Approach since 2016 to support country-level action planning and capability development using WHO guidelines to improve immunization outcomes.
  • The WHO Scholar programme’s network is growing rapidly, with over 15,000 immunization managers from 90 countries having participated in the programme’s activities in English, French, and Spanish.
  • Working together, Scholars have used WHO guidelines to develop more than 2,000 peer-reviewed, context-specific projects, with over 90% reporting that they routinely use what they learned from the programme.
  • Over 400 programme participants have served as Accompanists, supporting their peers and exercising leadership in new ways that challenge failed, conventional training-of-trainer and cascade models.
  • In some countries, Scholars have spontaneously initiated informal, self-led and motivated groupings of professionals operating across agencies that may provide a different kind of lever for systemic change than traditional top-down approaches to addressing immunization challenges.
  • Building on these emergent dynamics, Scholars are now being invited to join the first Impact Accelerator, working with colleagues from their country toward collaborative project implementation.
  • The programme is fully digital, with no upper limit to the number of participants, and has mobilized participants without having to offer per diem, travel, or hotel accommodation.

The WHO Scholar programme is being developed by the Geneva Learning Foundation and its partners for the World Health organization, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

Pedagogical approach

WHO has used the Scholar Approach since 2016 to support country-level action planning based on the Global Routine Immunization Strategies and Practices (GRISP) guidelines  and effective use of the World Health Organization Vaccination Coverage Cluster Surveys Reference Manual. The approach also draws on evidence-based action and applied learning, leadership acceleration, mentoring, and collaborative methodologies. This Approach, developed by the University of Illinois College of Education and the Geneva Learning Foundation to support effective learning for global health and humanitarian work, combines community of practice, knowledge co-construction, and peer review to support project-based learning.

What does it mean to become a WHO Scholar?

Participants in WHO Scholar courses are called “Scholars”. Those who have successfully completed at least one WHO Scholar course become Alumni, and are invited to join the WHO Scholar network. Some Alumni may choose to volunteer as WHO Scholar Accompanists, offering their support to new Scholars. 

Scholars who successfully complete a course may be invited to the WHO Scholar Alumni Impact Accelerator.

What is my chance of being selected by WHO for a course?

WHO will select applicants on the basis of information submitted by each applicant during the application process. Please take the time to provide accurate, complete information as requested in the application. Each course announcement includes specific criteria that will be considered when selecting applicants. Please carefully review these criteria. If you do not meet the stated criteria, your application is unlikely to be selected by WHO. Pay attention to the information contained in the announcement, such as the learning time required per week, as some application questions may refer to this information.

If you have applied but were not selected for previous WHO Scholar courses, this has no effect on a new application.

Candidates recommended by qualified WHO staff, country EPI managers, or WHO Scholar Alumni (who have already completed at least one WHO Scholar course) may be given priority, if their applications meet the required criteria.

Technical requirements

Applicants are responsible for ensuring that they are able to meet the following requirements.

  • Information technology: You will need to access the course web site on a regular basis (preferably every day). Participants need to have access to a reliable Internet connection and a standards-based browser less than two years old (Firefox, Safari, or Chrome). Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge users will be asked to use a standards-based browser for the course. Mobile-only users will need to use Mobile Chrome in desktop mode when working on their course projects.
    • When working with data, the use of Excel is likely to be required, preferably from a desktop computer.
    • Specific guidance will be provided to those who have bandwidth limitations, intermittent access, or may suffer from disruption of their connection to the Internet.
  • Languages: The language of the course are either English or French. Participants are encouraged to schedule extra time if they are not fully proficient writing in the course language.

WHO Scholar Accompanists to support and guide your progress

Throughout each course, participants may receive support from WHO Scholar Accompanists (Accompagnateurs). They are working immunization professionals who have volunteered to support their peers. They know what it is like to juggle a full-time job while participating in rigorous course work. Because they have both the job and learning experience, Accompanists are key actors in the support system to help you succeed in WHO Scholar courses.

Accompanists may or may not have specific expertise in immunization monitoring. Subject matter expertise will be provided by the course team. Rather, Accompanists will help you complete onboarding and orientation in Scholar. They will guide you through the learning process, help you to use the platforms, make sense of the assignments, and ensure that you know what you need to do next.

  • Course participants may request the support of an Accompanist
  • Some participants will be assigned an Accompanist if there are indications that they may need support.

Both Accompanists and Scholars will receive guidance to ensure that this exchange will be focused and productive.

Alongside the course team and the Accompanists, Scholars will also be invited to connect with each other, to learn from and support each other, but also to rekindle passion for and commitment to our work.

Connecting together as a learning community, we will support each other to strengthen our countries’ work to improve immunization.

Honor code

The WHO Scholar community is devoted to learning and the creation of knowledge. We view integrity as the basis for meaningful collaboration. We thus hold honesty – in the representation of our work and in our interactions – as the foundation of our community.

Members of the WHO Scholar community commit themselves to producing course work of integrity – that is, work that adheres to the scholarly and intellectual standards of accurate attribution of sources, appropriate collection and use of data, and transparent acknowledgement of the contribution of others to their ideas, discoveries, interpretations, and conclusions. Cheating on assignments or projects, plagiarizing or misrepresenting the ideas or language of someone else as one’s own, falsifying data, or any other instance of dishonesty violates the standards of our community, as well as the standards of the wider world of immunization.

WHO Scholar course participants are required to adhere to a strict Honor Code. Violation of the Honor Code may result in removal from the course, loss of certification (including prior WHO Scholar certificates), and notification of your employer.

Research and evaluation

WHO will review projects developed by Scholars, and may consider some of them for use in the Organization’s communication, advocacy and training efforts. If this is the case, WHO will contact you to request your agreement and, if needed, to address any sensitive issues related to its content. Learners may also be invited to participate in education research by the Geneva Learning Foundation and its research partners to evaluate the efficacy of this learning initiative. Participation in this research is completely voluntary, and you may stop taking part at any time. In cases where learners do not consent, no learner data will be collected. Participation or non-participation will have no effect on assessment of your performance in the course or your present or future relationship with WHO.