The University Support and Workforce Development Program (USWDP) – funded by USAID and implemented by FHI 360 – aims to bridge the gap between universities and the needs of the labor market. The in-person soft skills courses created through the program are oversubscribed. To meet student demand, FHI 360 decided to transition to a blended model with students completing mobile course modules on their phones before attending in-person classes.
Ustad Mobile has created an open source app called ‘Mobile Soft Skills Training’ which enables students to experience interactive video-based simulations that work on smartphones and feature phones. The app content is based on the existing in-person soft skills course materials and contains four pre-employability modules (CV writing, cover letter writing, job search skills and job interview skills) and five post-employability modules (communication skills, workplace values and ethics, time management, report writing and entrepreneurship). Each module contains a short introductory video which explains the learning objectives and relevance of the module to the students. Summative and formative assessments are conducted on a rotating basis as the learners progress through the modules choosing how to respond to simulated situations.
Afghanistan is an ethnically and linguistically diverse country and this is reflected in the module content. All modules are available in Dari, Pashto, and English. We anticipate that some students may be preparing for interviews in English and choose to complete the modules in English irrespective of their native language. Actors and actresses of different ethnicities were cast by DNA Media Productions Ltd. to provide positive role models for all Afghan students.
The app enables the use of text, images, audio and video without requiring any connectivity. Usage data – such as time spent on each module and quiz scores – is logged to devices offline and automatically uploaded securely to a cloud server when a connection is available. An in-app peer-to-peer feature enables wireless offline sharing with nearby devices at high speed.
A pilot was conducted to ensure the app is easy to use for students and USWDP staff who assist students in installing the app on their devices. Feedback was solicited from both male and female students to be certain that the app serves both genders equally well. The pilot evaluation found that student outcomes increased from an average of 32/100 prior to using the app to 71/100 after using the app. There are no excess equipment costs as the students complete the modules on the devices that they already own.
While the mobile modules serve as a passport to attending USWDP classes for eligible university students and recent graduates, Mobile Soft Skills Training is freely available to download via the Google Play Store and the Ustad Mobile website.
Going to the Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit? See Steven Ehrenberg (Associate Director for Learning and Technology, FHI 360) speak about how the University Support and Workforce Development Program is using mobile technology to increase access without compromising learning outcomes on September 27th at 2:20 pm.
This post was co-authored by Steven Ehrenberg, Mike Dawson and Benita Rowe. Many thanks to Abdul Basir Quraishi, Gul Mohammad Hamad, Afifa Qurieshi Shams, and Abdul Malik Wafa from USWDP and the USWDP Translation Department, to Mohammad Atif for his translation and voice-over services, to Shoaib Shirzai for his translation services, to Varuna Singh for his work on the reporting system, to Lukundo Kileha for his work on the offline peer-to-peer functionality, to Mohammad Zeytter and the cast and crew from DNA Media Productions Ltd. for filming the video simulation, and the USWDP staff and students for their feedback on the UX.