Sustainable Development Goal #4 is an inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. There’s many efforts that make some of what you can do with an online learning management system (LMS) like Blackboard or Moodle work offline. You can use content offline; but you can’t enrol students for example. So what would an LMS look like if it was designed with offline low resource areas in mind from the start?
You could do attendance, exams, homework, gradebrooks etc. on paper – then snap it with a shared phone
If you spend $50 on technology that’s $50 you don’t get to spend on teacher training, school buildings or anything else. Schools in low income countries often don’t have computes, libraries kitted out with a bunch of tablets, Internet or even power. So instead of getting every teacher (or even student) a new device why not fill in sheets on paper and then snap it? That way decision makers could get accurate information and there’s no need to go buying and maintaining a bunch of devices.
You could do everything offline and it’d sync peer 2 peer automagically
It’s not as simple as saying there’s offline and online. There’s plenty of places with a mobile Internet signal – but that signal may or may not be reliable. And if you need to register hundreds of students do you want to have people waiting because the Internet just died? Do you want the principal to have to for reports on because the net choked even though their phone has thousands of times more computing power than the Apollo moon mission? No – everything – really everything – must work offline : nor just viewing resources but registering students, recording grades, viewing reports should work offline. Devices would talk with each other locally over WiFi and bluetooth. Complex behind the scenes; but necessary.
You’d verify the information coming in
Unfortunately almost every study finds education space in low income areas has accountability problems. Teacher absenteeism costs $1.5billion/year in India alone with 23.6% of teachers absent. In difficult circumstances there’s incentives to game the system; and generally right now it’s pretty easy to game the system. That punishes taxpayers and the majority of teachers who do their job (and get paid less). So why not use mobile phones for random verification with location stamped photos?
You’d be able to deliver content to almost any device – even if it’s not a smartphone
Not everyone has a smartphone – even in IT saavy India less than 30% of people have a smartphone. Why should we wait for everyone to get a smartphone when they need education content now? Feature phones – of which there are 3 billion with Java Micro Edition enabled can be used for content: they have about the same computing power as a 1997 computer. Why not use those feature phones people already have for what their capable of?
You’d be able to use existing open standards
Just because you want to use something offline doesn’t mean you want to throw out everything else. In fact you might need to connecting up different pieces of the puzzle. So best to use available open standards like the Experience API for recording learning experiences and the Open Publication Distribution System for content listings.
We didn’t find that yet… so we’re building it (and open sourcing it)
With over 9 years of experience of education technology in some of the toughest environments (including 7.5 years in Afghanistan) we care about empowering educators to make quality learning a reality everywhere. So we’re building that… we’re putting together what we’ve learned over years – and we’re open sourcing it.
Got another idea about what a LMS designed for offline low resource would look like? Let us know on the comments!