awarenet taking free online courses to rural schools in SA


Can South Africa harness the wealth of knowledge and highly polished teaching tools that are available for free to anyone with an internet connection and a laptop to improve the quality of education in rural schools? That’s what Grahamstown based educational NPO awarenet is hoping to find out. It’s just added classes from the Khan Academy‘s KALite KALite, a project which takes content from Khan Academy and makes it available offline, to its repertoire of tools that it supplies to schools in the area.

A year or so ago, you couldn’t move on the internet for stories about massively open online courses (MOOCs) and how they were going to revolutionise education. Major universities from all over the world designed courses specifically to be taught online, replacing traditional teachers with well crafted videos, presentations and student-to-student support forums. While the media has moved on a bit, however, MOOCs remain strong. Coursera courses are now available on an iPhone, Codecademy continues to add new programming languages to its web-based classes and Khan Academy reckons it gets around 10 million students a month looking at its online programs.

KALite is an open source, offline tool which gives schools that lack internet access the ability to use Khan Academy’s courses on local computers. Developed by Learning Equality, as well as hosting videos and other learning materials, it allows students and teachers to share feedback and quizzes easily.

awarenet, which is run by the Village Scribe Association, is a program designed to bring digital tools to underprivileged schools in order to improve education. It works in several ways, through online course materials and creating a social network for teachers and students to share over, and by encouraging the schools it supports to get involved in other events – like the current science festival in Grahamstown. VSA also sets up partnerships between underprivileged schools in South Africa with better-off ones in Europe.

Dr Anna Wertlen, one of the founders of awarenet, says that the Khan Academy tools should make the awarenet program more attractive for potential funders so that they can expand their work into more rural schools.

“We have integrated KaLite into awarenet so that learners can communicate over what they have learned on KaLite in the social learning network,” she says.

[Main pic – awarenet leaners]

 

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