Post written by David Hopkins. Teaching and Learning Consultant, University of Warwick, and Learn Appeal Trustee.
Bringing the theme of the 2016 ALT conference of Connect, Collaborate, and Create firmly to the fore, I wanted to introduce the ALT membership to a learning charity that is taking a collaborative and highly creative innovation to areas where online learning has not previously been possible or appropriate.
Disclaimer. I am a trustee of Learn Appeal charity, which this ALT blog post talks about.
Those of us in the UK, working in further or higher education, are very fortunate that we, and our students, are able to connect, create and collaborate at the touch of a button or screen. We take it for granted and our complaints are usually about broadband speed, lack of WiFi or poor battery life. However it is the growth of the internet that has enabled and empowered online learning for those that are connected, which has actually widened the educational divide with those that do not have access. The McKinsey report: Offline and Falling Behind, Barriers to Internet Adoption quite clearly identifies some of the key problems:
“More than 60 percent of the world’s population remains offline. Without removing crucial deterrents to internet adoption, little will change—and more than 4 billion people may be left behind.”
Educators in remote areas, particularly in Africa and Asia, are facing new challenges created by this digital divide. Lack of electricity and reliable network access is creating an unfair two-tier society, where children and adults growing up and living in villages are unable to access knowledge considered commonplace in developed areas. But new Learn Appeal initiatives, such as #makeamodule #makeadifference, are addressing this by ingeniously delivering eLearning without the need for mains power or internet access.
Launched last year, Learn Appeal provides physical ‘capsules’ to create a local WiFi micro-learning centre that can be accessed by digital devices within a radius of up to 1km. It is designed to deliver easily accessible and low cost learning in any remote area. Though the technology is now proven, the learning content itself is still in production.
One of the key projects Learn Appeal is contributing to is Complitkenya in Kenya. CEO Eric Kimori explains the need.
“In today’s information and increasingly digital economy, places such as remote areas of Kenya are falling victims to the ‘digital divide’ which are widening income disparities between the unconnected rural and urban affluent areas who have a good access to digital resources. Without projects like this [Complitkenya], communities in places like rural Kenya will be completely excluded from participating in the global economy. The effect will be a huge social divide between the information rich and the information poor in the society, whether locally or internationally. Longer term it will lead to seclusion from the global economy. Poor communities will be poorer in five years and even more marginalized than they are now.”
Whilst the Capsule does not provide direct access to the internet, it will enable Complitkenya to establish e-community centres and give connected users within a range of 1km access to elearning and other relevant information stored on the Capsule via WiFi.
Eric concludes by saying that “the Capsule is an invaluable reservoir of learning, which will make a huge difference to those who have no access to the internet. For the first time, many of them will be connected to the digital world.”
It’s not just about projects in Africa, there are also projects where the Learn Appeal Capsule is helping closer to home. Many of you know the children’s charity Barnardo’s. Some of you may also be aware that they provide drop-in centres for clients. Some of their centres have computers with access to the internet and internet-based learning resources. Opening their networks to allow those they support to access, using their own device, is not possible: E-safety is a priority, particularly when you are working with vulnerable communities. The Learn Appeal Capsule will enable Barnardo’s to deliver relevant elearning and other useful resources that can be accessed via WiFi at the centres. Connected users will use their own mobile device to access the Learn Appeal Capsule and it’s content and will be able to learn and share whilst, in the knowledge that it is a safe and secure environment.
This is where we, the eLearning community, comes in.
Members of the ALT community are ideally placed to contribute and support this initiative. As educators who use learning technology, you understand the benefits and the potential it offers. You also understand the importance of access to an education and the difference it makes to people’s life chances. To make each of the Capsules into a micro-learning centre, Learn Appeal has joined forces with Practical Action, The Thare Machi Foundation and the Open University to assemble the content for more than 200 modules. Each one is designed to provide training on the skills that matter to the communities where the Capsules are being deployed.
There are many different ways you can support Learn Appeal, either by donating learning content you have already created, or by donating your time to help Learn Appeal convert existing resources into modern effective, interactive eLearning which can be accessed offline – #makeamodule and #makeadifference.
One idea is to get your students involved, or even early- or pe-career Learning Technologists. This an ideal opportunity for those who have an interest in digital learning design to develop the practical skills they will need to work in the ever growing eLearning industry. By working on a ‘live’ project and by building actual and real learning modules from learning materials that have already been donated, students will not only be able to build a portfolio they can demonstrate to potential employers. They will be able to learn from, and network with, experienced learning designers to build their experience base.
If you would like to find out more about how you can get involved, then please email Learn Appeal on firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post was written by David Hopkins. Teaching and Learning Consultant, University of Warwick, and Learn Appeal Trustee. Contact David via Twitter @hopkinsdavid
If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member