Course Content & Structure

Course Content

Course content is organized into five technical units. In addition, there are two pre-reading units that provide participants with essential lenses for engaging with course material, and which will be revisited throughout the course. Key learning outcomes for each unit are given below:

  • Pre-Reading Unit A: Humanitarian Principles, Standards, and Structures
    • Explain the meaning of the four fundamental humanitarian principles: Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, and Humanity. 
    • Explain what the Sphere standards are, how they are structured, and how they can be applied in different contexts.  
    • Describe how human rights and international law are incorporated into the Sphere Handbook and the Core Humanitarian Standard.  
    • Give examples of technical standards that are relevant to designing water supply systems in an emergency context. 
    • Explain the main objectives of humanitarian coordination and how international protocols are triggered in times of emergencies.   
    • Describe different ways emergencies responses are coordinated including the Cluster Approach. 
    • Give examples and summarise the role of communities, governments, donors, local and international NGOs, UN, Red Cross, and private markets in humanitarian WASH responses. 
    • Explain what is meant by accountability in humanitarian response and give examples of how NGO’s can demonstrate upstream, lateral, and downstream accountability. 
  • Pre-Reading Unit B: WASH and Public Health
    • Recognize the fundamental epidemiological concepts that guide humanitarian WASH interventions.  
    • Identify and classify common water supply-related infectious diseases according to transmission pathways and risk factors. 
    • Understand how non-biological (chemical) water quality factors may affect human health. 
    • Explain how WASH interventions can address environmental health risks and give examples at the household and community level based on the ‘F-diagram’.
  • Unit 1: Water Quality Characterization and Risk Assessment
    • Gain an overview of the key biological, chemical, and physical dimensions of water quality.  
    • Give examples of how water quality can be linked to acute and chronic health risks. 
    • Describe what factors affect aesthetic acceptance, and why this is important.  
    • Explain how risk assessment and risk management can ensure the safety of a drinking water supply from catchment to consumer in a humanitarian setting through the use of water safety plans. 
    • Gain familiarity with how water quality monitoring and sanitary surveys are used in humanitarian field settings. 
    • List some of the ways that water treatment processes can be affected by water quality. 
    • Identify laboratory- and field-based methods for biological, chemical, and physical water quality testing, and gain familiarity with interpreting water quality testing results. 
  • Unit 2: Water Source Development in Emergencies
    • Gain familiarity with how to carry out water supply assessments, from desk based to initial field assessments, and the essential information that is required to inform decision-making. 
    • Understand the basic hydrological model and how the fundamentals of catchment scale analysis can impact decisions around water supply options. 
    • Understand the evolution of water supplies going from an acute emergency to a stabilized situation, and the roles of surface water and groundwater in the short and long term.
    • Gain familiarity with the common modalities of water supply from surface water sources in emergencies 
  • Unit 3: Water Treatment in Emergencies
    • Understand the multiple-barrier concept of water treatment and the organization of unit processes into treatment systems. 
    • Appreciate the physical principles of coagulation and flocculation, sedimentation, filtration, and chemical disinfection. 
    • Gain familiarity with typical configurations of water treatment processes for surface water and groundwater sources in emergencies. 
    • Gain familiarity with more advanced ion and mineral removal technologies (such as reverse osmosis) that are used for specialized applications in the humanitarian sector. 
    • Understand the appropriate role of PoU/HWTS approaches in emergency response as well as decentralized treatment options. 
    • Understand the central role of water chlorination for ensuring water safety and monitoring purposes in the humanitarian sector. 
  • Unit 4: Distribution and Safe Water Chain
    • Participants are presented an overview of manual groundwater abstraction options. 
    • Presentation of the basic principles of pump and power sizing, including solar power. 
    • Give guidance on water trucking in emergency water supply operations. 
    • Provide an overview of water network design considerations and practicalities. 
    • Understand the importance of the safe water chain and the factors that may compromise or preserve it. 
    • Familiarise participants with the basic components of an operations and maintenance plan. 
  • Unit 5: Outbreak Preparedness and Response
    • Summarise the key water-related components of WASH preparedness and responses to infectious disease outbreaks including cholera, Ebola, and Hepatitis E 
    • Discuss how the effectiveness of various water supply approaches for reducing transmission depends on technical, financial, and behavioural suitability 
    • Explain the water-related components of infection prevention and control measures required in health facilities during outbreaks 
    • Summarise what is required to prepare for outbreaks. 

Content may be subject to change as we finalize course.

Course Structure

The course is structured into a 2-week pre-reading phase followed by a 10-week intensive course phase consisting of five 2-week technical units. The total course time commitment is approximately 70 hours over 12 weeks. Participants should be ready to commit ~6 hours per week over the course of the 12 weeks.

Pre-Reading Phase

As the course is open to participants from diverse backgrounds including those without operational humanitarian experience, the pre-reading phase provides an opportunity for all participants to gain an understanding of humanitarian principles, standards, and coordination mechanisms, as well as of the essential role WASH plays in protecting public health in emergencies. The pre-reading units provide a crucial set of lenses that participants will take into and revisit throughout the course.

Pre-reading units will be released on the online course platform on 2 February 2023. A welcome session on 2 February 2023 will provide an overview and introduce participants to the course content to come.

Intensive Course Phase

The intensive phase of the course is divided into five 2-week technical units, beginning on 20 February 2023. During this period, participants should plan to attend online sessions every Thursday from 10 am to 12 pm EST, as well as with their small PBL groups at a mutually convenient time determined by each group. Each 2-week unit is structured as follows:

  • First week: Participants independently complete assigned readings for the unit, complete the online unit quiz, and attend the Thursday unit lecture (time commitment: ~5 hours in each unit first week).
  • Second week: Participants work in small groups on the unit PBL activity (supported by facilitators) and participate in the Thursday PBL workshop (time commitment: ~7 hours in each unit second week).

Course Components

Curated Readings

Course readings cover the technical and humanitarian fundamentals needed for humanitarian water engineering. They are curated to provide a comprehensive overview of each technical area and to prepare participants to contribute meaningfully in their PBL groups. All participants, therefore, irrespective of past experience or training, are expected to complete all assigned readings. We recommend participants complete each unit’s assigned readings prior to the Thursday unit lecture, in order to gain the most from the lecture. Each unit consists of 2 to 3 hours of core readings, for a total of approximately 20 hours of independent reading over the course. In addition to the core readings, we also provide enrichment readings for those seeking additional depth.

To promote active learning during readings, participants are provided unit reading guides that will help signpost the relevant parts of each reading and situate it within the larger framework of the course. Participants will also complete knowledge-testing quizzes for each unit on the online eClass platform. Participants will also be provided case studies of past humanitarian water supply interventions to help illustrate key considerations for the PBL activities.

Online Lectures

Live teaching sessions will be held on Zoom with subject matter expert (SME) lecturers during the Thursday of the first week of each unit. Each 2.5-hour session consists of two lectures, one on the engineering fundamentals of the unit topic and the second on field applications. The unit PBL design challenge will also be introduced at the end of the Thursday lecture. Lectures will be recorded and available online for those who are unable to attend (absences must be indicated in advance).

Group PBL Design Challenges

The PBL activities for each unit provide a structured space in which participants collaboratively work through the complexities of applying what they have learned in the readings and lectures to real-world problems. Participants will analyze real-world challenges and devise, justify, and prioritize possible solutions. The PBL activities provide an opportunity for participants to work through how technical decisions, human factors, and humanitarian principles interact in complex ways during emergencies.

Participants will meet in their assigned groups to coordinate the collaborative work for each unit’s PBL design challenge. Each group will be assisted by a facilitator, who will help participants interpret the challenge, figure out how to approach it, and help groups work through any sticky problems that may come up. Participants will be responsible for scheduling their own group meetings with their facilitator. The estimated time commitment for each PBL challenge is  7 hours per unit (~3 hours each unit week for collaborative group work plus ~2 hours each unit week for independent work on the PBL challenge).

The group PBL activities are a core component of the course, and all participants are expected to engage  actively during group work sessions and the PBL workshops. Roles within groups will be rotated unit to unit to ensure that all participants have an opportunity to contribute in different ways. Participants are expected to complete their design challenges and be ready to share back with the plenary group during the Thursday PBL workshop in the second week of each unit.

PBL Workshops

At the end of the second week of each unit, we will meet up for a 2.5-hour plenary session to share back responses to the design challenge, work on collaborative activities, and explore the key learnings with course instructors and facilitators.

Office Hours

The course director will hold weekly virtual office drop-in sessions for students over the twelve weeks of the course for 1-on-1 learning support and to address any questions or concerns.