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Grain and Feed Trade Association

Taking learning industry-wide through trade partnerships

  • 8 Min Read

Gafta uplifts learner engagement and creates an online learning hub for the industry by extending learning platform use and upskilling staff.


Grain and Feed Trade Association

  • D2L Brightspace
  • Learning Services
  • Virtual Classroom
  • Mobile App
  • Grading and certification


Cairo Okba, Digital Programmes Manager, Gafta


  • 49% uplift in learner engagement
  • Online short course offering grown from five to 30
  • Industry-wide central online learning hub
  • Commercial arrangements with industry partners
  • Staff upskilled in learning and creative design


The Grain and Feed Trade Association (Gafta) promotes international trade in agricultural commodities, spices and general produce. Training is an important part of its offering to over 1,900 members, which comprise individuals and organisations of traders, brokers, lawyers and other professionals across 100 countries. Gafta has been a D2L Brightspace customer since 2009. Over the years, it has significantly extended its use of the learning platform, adding bite-sized learning modules and short courses, incorporating the platform into face-to-face training, and conducting exams through it.

As a result, the association has achieved a substantial uplift of 49% in learner engagement and has successfully commercialised its training offering. At the same time, staff have embraced digital learning, upskilling in course design, and learning outcomes to achieve Gafta’s learning aims and benefit members.

With the Agribility™ platform we can reach more people, potentially gain more members for Gafta, as well as educate the industry. We’ve understood now that what we have here is a commercial business that sits within Gafta.

Cairo Okba, Digital Programmes Manager, Gafta


Optimise learner outcomes and create an industry learning hub

Gafta’s comprehensive training offering helps members understand the complex details of grain trading contracts, equip them to ensure mutually beneficial trades and minimise the risk of disputes. The organisation runs face-to-face professional development training sessions and a distance learning programme (DLP). 

The DLP, through Agribility™, which is Gafta’s online learning platform based on Brightspace, trains over 100 learners each semester, of which around 20 to 25% are new learners. Across the year and all modules it trains around 400 industry professionals. 

“Training is a very important part of the service we offer members, but we weren’t using all of the platform’s features,” says Cairo Okba, Digital Programmes Manager at Gafta. “We realised we could utilise different tools to enhance our learners’ experience. It was a case of investigating what we had and trying to make the most of it.” 

In addition, Gafta saw an opportunity to create a central hub for industry learning which would mean commercialising its learning offering.  

“We want Agribility™ to be a central, online learning hub for agribusiness—somewhere everyone in the industry will find training that’s relevant to them, whether they’re superintendents, traders or brokers,” explains Cairo.  

In this way, Gafta could partner with and support smaller organisations who may lack the time and resources to establish their own online learning. Within the industry, there is crossover of membership between organisations. Gafta set out to host partners’ content on Agribility™ to create a comprehensive suite of learning to serve the industry.


Multiple training options and branded partner courses

D2L was involved with the initial launch of Gafta’s online short courses through its design support service Learning Services which helped Gafta build its first five modules. The short courses are designed to be bite-sized learning modules that take 30 to 45 minutes to complete and target knowledge gaps on specific topics.  

“Now, we use the platform for much more and have around 30 online short courses,” says Cairo. “We use pretty much everything we have. The latest updates we’ve implemented have been geared towards improving the learner experience, this includes personalising the homepages and theming for each of our training options, introducing Virtual Classroom on the DLP which we find gives more value because learners get face time with tutors, utilising the App for news announcements and resource access at face to face training, and automating grading and certification. We also use intelligent agents for all our automation including sending out enrolment emails and reminders.” 

For a more sustainable events model, Gafta was using Google Drive and Dropbox instead of printing materials for its face-to-face courses, but in November 2022 the association switched to using Agribility™ for content and exams. This has delivered a more cohesive approach to course material provision, group interactions and certification.  

“We just found it works so much better,” says Cairo. “We team it up with the App and use ‘push’ notification features to send messages to learners. It works well for events, to tell people ‘there are five minutes left until the next session starts’, or ‘meet at 6:30 for networking’.  

“We save all course materials, like case studies, contracts and slides, in a central location for delegates. Once they’ve passed the exam, we also do all our certification through there which gets sent to them automatically. It’s streamlined our event logistics.” 

Cairo and a colleague upskilled in instructional design and creative services to get the most out of all they could achieve with online learning. This would also benefit the other trade associations that Gafta now partners with to host their online courses on the Agribility™ platform.

The decision to upskill was influenced by D2L and its Learning & Creative Services team because we saw all these cool things that could be done with templates. That made us want to learn how to do it for ourselves, and to be more independent and self-sufficient.

Cairo Okba, Digital Programmes Manager, Gafta

Cairo and a colleague benefited from video conferencing with D2L’s team to get a better understanding of how templates work. They used their newly acquired skills to develop branded templates for Gafta’s trade association client.  

“We’ve themed different areas of the platform,” adds Cairo. “So, if a learner clicks into the DLP, they have a specific homepage and theme. If they click into one of our client’s courses, it feels like they’re in a different place—it’s their branding. We’ve created separate identities which has improved the user experience.” 

The templates save Gafta time as they add to, and enrich, their learning offerings. They can simply pick the right template and enter the content, without having to create from scratch. 


Outcomes-based learning, higher engagement levels and mutually beneficial partnerships

Gafta successfully enhanced its learning options through Brightspace, upskilled staff to save time creating compelling courses, and created a learning hub for the whole industry by commercialising its offering and generating a new revenue stream. 

The association studiously and comprehensively increased its understanding of how to use the learning platform to engage members and optimise outcomes. As a result, it has seen a huge 49% increase in content engagement.   

Cairo says: “We think that’s definitely down to changing how our courses look and feel, because before it was just text on a screen or a PDF you could download and read. Now, students have to interact with the content, answer knowledge checks and make decisions. We focused on the learner experience and a 49% increase in engagement is massive, so we’re really happy with that.” 

Members have responded positively to the changes too with one noting that: “It has been a great learning experience. I was a bit apprehensive before taking up the DLP, but as the course progressed, I found it very well structured, readily comprehensible with thought-provoking case studies. My special appreciation for the enormous knowledge and skill of tutors during the interactive sessions.” 

Initially, we launched Agribility™ to be Gafta’s learning platform, but now we can see there’s much more commercial potential for taking Agribility™ to an industry-wide level.

Cairo Okba, digital programmes manager, Gafta

Gafta’s expansion of Agribility™’s remit through partner training has delivered a central learning hub for agribusiness, which has contributed positively to Gafta’s revenue streams. Meanwhile, online training helps the association meet the needs of its dispersed member base and supports consistent knowledge levels within the industry. As Cairo explains: “The digital aspect of Gafta is so important because our membership is international. Our training needs to be accessible to people who can’t travel for one of our face-to-face courses.  

“Making sure everybody has access to what Gafta offers ultimately serves the industry better through people understanding the same rules and the same information, whether that’s arbitration, contracts or trade policy updates. That is why we utilise our digital assets to the utmost of our abilities—to achieve what’s best for our members.” 

Gafta can look ahead to a strong future for its training programme thanks to the inspired upskilling of staff that has enhanced and optimised course design. “My diploma shifted my perspective on how I approach learning design, the learner experience and what we’re doing with our training in general,” notes Cairo.  

“We aim to focus our goals more utilising learning statistics—the tangible evidence that shows us what works. It’s been an incredible journey from where we started to where we are now. We’re looking to the future to see what more we can do with Agribility™ and what Agribility™ can do for the industry.” 

Gafta set out to expand its learning platform use, adding short courses, additional functionality and elevating course design to maximise learner engagement. Along the way, it realised the revenue potential of its powerful training resource and has supported the whole industry by commercialising its learning offering through mutually beneficial partnerships. Gafta itself has learnt throughout, upskilling staff in learning design to embrace an outcomes-based learning approach and generate a strong foundation for the continued development of its training offering.   

To discover Brightspace for member training, visit 

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