We have been working from home from over 7 weeks and the constant challenges my staff face are electricity issues and connectivity due to sometimes unreliable internet connections and this is not including the cost of data.
And these issues are no different for the education sector. The digital divide has been widened because those who can access online learning are just a fraction compared to the whole student population. And even those who can access online learning experience several challenges of which data cost is one of the major factors.
EdTech alone cannot close the learning gap. It will be dedicated teachers and resilient educators who will ensure learning doesn’t stop.
So a key question continues to be “how do we ensure some form of learning continues for those who cannot access online learning currently?”.
Here are some option being considering and implemented
- Broadcasting video lessons through television and using radio stations
- Printing and distributing a “learning kit” (made up of various resources – self-learning resources, chapters of textbooks, worksheets, games, various activities, etc) to homes/schools
- Audio lessons through the medium of mobile phones
- Using WhatsApp as this requires minimal data
- Making selected educational websites and resources zero rated for those who cannot afford the high cost of data
- Making use of educational apps that provide offline content
- Creating free Wi-Fi hotspots for learners where they can access selected educational content
There is no one size fits all. There is a need to explore all the options to identify what works best for various situations and communities, and to ensure there is two-way communication between student and teacher to achieve effectiveness of any learning intervention
Ultimately, what is important is that in whatever form LEARNING MUST CONTINUE till it’s safe enough to return to school.
Apart from the students, it is also important that teachers are also being trained on how to roll out the various resources. A lot of what is happening is new to them.
The government and schools need to ensure feedback is constantly being received by rolling out help line (emails and telephones) to get feedback. This will ensure relevant adjustments can be made to better meet the needs of the learners.