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3 Critical Issues and 4 Solutions to Providing Offline Educational Content

By Wayan Vota on August 11, 2010

Recently, Kiflom Bezabeh asked an interesting question on LinkedIn’s African ICT Network:

While there were several good answers to Kiflom’s specific needs, the overall question had me thinking about the implementation issues in providing offline educational content for high school and University teachers and students in Africa. Here are the three main issues that confront educational content delivery anywhere:

1. Digital Content

Locally appropriate content that follows the school curriculum needs to be created in a digital format. Ideally, teachers and students can modify this content and create new content as needed. This can be in direct conflict with the local University professors and their publishers who write and profit from physical textbooks

2. Local Storage

Internet access isn’t always reliable, and it often doesn’t even exist in developing world educational systems. So some form of local digital storage will need to be created that can serve as the host of current and future content. Ideally, this storage can be expanded and the content refreshed easily.

3. Content Delivery

Everyone usually gets most excited about the hardware – some form of content delivery that allows for individual visual absorption. It can as simple as a Wikireader or as complex as the iPad. Ideally it should be a) affordable b) sustainable c) available by the recipient institution.

Available Solutions

While there isn’t one solution that fits every need, there are several that can fit certain situations. Here are a few that we’ve found:

  1. Teachermate helps teachers reinforce and customize lessons for students, using local content
  2. eGranary is an offline server full of online content. It cannot be loaded with local content
  3. Wikireader is a handheld Wikipedia reader. Again, no local content access
  4. Talking Book is a highly-customizable audio player, but doesn’t present visual text

Do you know of a solution that provides offline educational content for high school and University teachers and students in Africa? Then be sure to add it in the comments.

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Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the digital lead on the Deloitte for Development team. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of Deloitte, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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5 Comments to “3 Critical Issues and 4 Solutions to Providing Offline Educational Content”

  1. Another way of getting content to people in rural areas is through the Digital Doorway solution. The Digital Doorway was designed in South Africa, specifically for use in deep rural areas where the typical environment is not conducive for normal desktop computers. The Digital Doorway consists of an extremely robust steel casing, that houses a server & 2, 3 or more Fat Clients. The OS is Ubuntu 8.04 and the content includes things like Wikipedia, Project Guthenberg, PHeT simulations, Maths, Science, Educational Games etc. The Digital Doorway has been deployed in South Africa, Lesotho, Kenya, Uganda, Solomon Islands & Australia. The basic concept of the Digital Doorway is Minimally Invasive Education (based on Hole-in-the-Wall) which has morphed to a more Peer Assisted Learning.

  2. Saskia Harmsen says:

    Hello Grant,
    Could you let me know where the Digital Doorway solution has been deployed in Uganda? It would be great to learn more about it, and the IICD programme partners working on ICT for Education in Uganda could follow-up to find out more.
    Thanks in advance!

  3. Hi Wayan,
    Thanks for this post. Another way that we are trying to assist in making (educational) content more accessible is by combining a number of solutions. For example, for educational purposes in Uganda, we are supporting the Computers for Schools Uganda(CFSU) programme to make offline content available, including the RACHEL content (http://worldpossible.org/rachel/). A hardware platform that is being used successfully to deliver the RACHEL content is the Synology server solution (DiskStation), a low-cost and energy efficient network-attached server.
    It can be loaded with any content you as an educational institution want, adding your own content or from the national curriculum development centre, complemented by internationally available educational content. We have also found that the design and the user interface is very easy for people to use, of course to set it up and install the content etc at start-up, you will need someone with a bit higher level technical knowledge, but nothing like administering a linux server etc.
    Computers for Schools Uganda is assisting schools with equipment, training and this shared-content platform. Fyi. Cheers, saskia harmsen (IICD)

  4. http://oerwiki.iiep-unesco.org/index.php?title=Access2OER/Home

    In February / March 2009 we ran a UNESCO OER Community discussion on Access to OER (much of which applies to access to educational resources in general). Broadly speaking, the discussion was conducted in three phases:

    1. Identification and description of the main problems associated with access, and an initial development of a classification scheme.
    2. Exploration of solutions and approaches, and their potential for the various types of barriers identified.
    3. A concrete attempt to develop specific proposals.

    The report is a comprehensive record of the discussion, and you’ll hopefully find it interesting.

  5. Quick follow up: To answer the question more concretely, I would suggest looking at this section of the report!