In over 190 countries and territories UNICEF is working with disadvantaged children and adolescents. Their mission is to protect the rights of every child everywhere.  Ultimately, from earliest childhood and through their adolescence UNICEF helps children survive, thrive and fulfill their potential.


‘The world’s largest provider of vaccines, UNICEF support child health and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, quality education and skill building, HIV prevention and treatment for mothers and babies, and the protection of children and adolescents from violence and exploitation’.
Catalyst has a long standing relationship with UNICEF working in partnership since 2013. During this time Catalyst has provided a fully hosted and managed solution on AWS for UNICEF. The project has included a highly customised Totara learning platform, Agora, for UNICEF staff, consultants and guest users.


Since the outset of this partnership Covid has provided the most significant change in how we work. Since 2020 travel has been drastically reduced together with face to face training, in particularly far dispersed teams geographically have had to rely on online training and support. Added to which problematic internet connectivity in these countries has highlighted the digital divide.

In the current year the number of visits to the Agora platform has quadrupled, showing a total of 500,000 users per month.

UNICEF staff has seen a significant growth pattern not only in the way they use the platform but increasingly with partners and guest users. In the absence of face to face workshops we are all seeking new ways to respond to requests, to train partners and to use new tools and new skills in performing our joint duties. Many offices in country pledged urgent requests for guidance and support to fulfil the need for distance learning programmes.

Managing the individual needs of a group of professionals who are of necessity geographically distanced and frequently strangers who did not know one another, it became crucially important to find efficient support systems. During Covid more and more teams in UNICEF engaged in online and distance learning activities and their design and delivery.


A new version of the Agora platform was launched in 2020, offering significant performance improvements and new features for course managers, administrators and learners. Agora provided a wide range of flexible solutions. The platform is built with the same software that many universities use to deliver their online programmes, supporting and articulating a wide variety of formats.

Evidence of UNICEF’s increasing requirement for these skills and knowledge is clearly shown in their COVID-19 Learning Channel.

This shift in the way they work has helped reduce the costs of design, development and delivery of learning activities.

Example of the Agora platform on multiple devices

Customising the LMS

Our content development and instructional design teams have extensive experience for and on behalf of the public sector. UNICEF and Catalyst have worked together on course design to ensure simplicity, interactive e-learning content, developing meaningful learning experiences from beginner to expert level. Catalyst teams created and developed a highly customised LMS with UNICEF.

Catalyst has integrated H5P to make it easy for trainers to create, share and reuse interactive content within the newest version of Agora. Whilst assisting with the building of rapid, more economical online courses, trainers have contributed enriched content and more engaging design on behalf of their learners. The first course to benefit from H5P, is the new Introduction to UNICEF Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action, designed by EMOPS.

Desktop offline player
One of the key solutions Catalyst integrated to aid those teaching and learning in remote locations is the desktop offline player. Learners are therefore able to  download elearning content whilst still connected to the internet, and then have the advantage of completing the training process at a later stage when disconnected. Whilst usable on any device, the downloaded content is particularly beneficial across a multilingual, geographically dispersed workforce.

This included courses for UNICEF staff such as, Women’s Rights.

Course catalogue 
Agora’s new search engine is based technology called “ElasticSearch” allows more personalisation of learning recommendations and individual search results based on job-profile, topics of interest, preferred language, competencies, and more.

Catalyst improved the search engine configuration to ensure speedier relevance of results and promotion of particular courses. There are automatic options to share a course summary page through Email/Twitter/ Facebook, to help expand promotion and peer recommendations.

Administrators may also wish to increase the weight and relevance of courses resulting in higher search visibility, and clearer browsing of content. This solution also manages searches for time sensitive courses (e.g. MOOCs) –  in order to see which courses are coming up soon – and get a calendar of synchronous learning activities.

Example of the Unicef course catalogue

Theming and design
The Agora platform theme was redesigned in the process of the upgrade. The new interface  was prioritised as a high impact feature. The creation of this new interface was to the benefit of all users, incorporating full accessibility and inclusivity. Accessible design was part of the inclusive design strategy. The results speak for themselves as this interface is now used daily by diverse groups of people, living in different countries and environments.

Following the design of the new theme, two accessibility reviews were conducted to further improve the platform. This work continues in 2021, and we are pleased to report that Agora is already one of the most accessible portals in UNICEF.

Course formats
Catalyst integrated several new “course formats” on Agora 2.0, which are increasingly popular with course designers and learners. Two more course formats will be added in 2021, offering engaging, and state of the art learning experiences.

Multi Tenancy Features
The new platform now offers partners of UNICEF support in branding their own learning experience:
The URL can be modified to customise the partner organisation’s brand name – for example, using instead of
A custom theme can be created to include the organisation’s logo and adjustments of the site’s color palette (e.g. using the exact shade of blue of the UN Women brand).

Personalised dashboards
To achieve more targeted communication, presenting learners with more relevant options, Agora 2.0 introduced personalised dashboards as a homepage. Dashboards are composed of blocks to provide quick access to all the most relevant content and features. Some blocks may even display dynamic information based on a learner’s profile. Different dashboards can now be assigned to different groups of learners according to the organisation that represents them.

Learning plans 
Learning plans were developed. Giving freedom to customise your learning plan and set goals. Facilitating communication and two way flow with your manager.


233,644 active users


233,644 learners used Agora in 2020

+ 288% from 2019

17,693 were UNICEF learners and
215,951 were guest users

189,071 completion


189,071 course completions were recorded on Agora

+50% from 2019

Out of these completions, 51,726 were done
by UNICEF staff and consultants.

280 new activities


280 new learning activities were published in the Agora catalogue, including 75 MOOCs
offered by academic institutions.

Catalyst is committed to increasing access to digital learning for all.

UNICEF and Catalyst are working constantly together to strengthen access to digital learning platforms for those trainers and learners operating in the hardest to reach and most remote areas of the world.

The continuation of the development of the Agora LMS platform remains a high priority for us.

Joey Murison, Managing Director, Catalyst IT UK and Europe.