How to undertake mobile learning with low tech literacy beneficiaries

In this article, we focus the lens on Africa, and we discuss how to undertake mobile learning with low-tech beneficiaries in underserved communities.

For context, low-tech beneficiaries are service recipients that generally have sub-par technology infrastructure; high-speed internet, inadequate cable lines, etc. These are communities that may be using legacy IT systems and devices. In many ways, current global technology is novel to them.

Mobile learning and e-learning have been instrumental tools for pushing education beyond various barriers such as location, time zones, classroom sizes, and many others. In geographical regions where access to supporting infrastructure is widespread, virtual learning has moved from strength to strength; however, it seems virtual learning has not progressed as rapidly in other areas. This is not to say virtual learning does not work in lesser-developed regions —only that e-learning solutions need to be tailored differently to achieve or match the success of other regions.

The internet is enormous, with over 4 billion users communicating and interacting at every single minute; despite these impressive figures, there is still a substantial amount of people who either have inadequate access to the internet or have no internet connectivity at all.

According to the World Bank, the internet usage gap between sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the other continents is enormous, as shown in the graph below. Northern America leads the way, with about 88% of its population actively using the internet somehow. In contrast, at the other end of the scale, sub-Saharan Africa is around a 19% usage rate. Internet usage is not the same as internet connectivity, but there is a strong correlation between connectivity and use.

Global Internet Usage by Region Source — World Bank Data Group

To go solely on the data would conclude that pursuing e-learning in sub-Saharan is not a worthwhile venture. Focusing exclusively on the numbers without context negates the promise the continent possesses. Internet penetration is increasing, albeit slowly but consistently growing, making the potential for e-learning immense on the continent.

Additionally, internet connectivity is an overly stated rationale behind why e-learning and mobile learning would fail: e-learning solutions can, and are, tailored to work around internet connectivity. Developing tailored solutions, one’s that combine both online and offline usage — hybrid models considering the market to build the most robust solutions.

In addition to internet connectivity and access, there are other contributing factors to why mobile learning and e-learning have not progressed in Africa as quickly as in different continents.

Within these communities, the mindset on learning and education frameworks is another barrier to e-learning. With the older generation having limited access to technology when growing up and being used to physical learning, i.e., with books and classrooms, this can sometimes be a stumbling block to implementing e-learning solutions. Within some of these disadvantaged communities, the importance of education has only been established recently. The introduction of mobile learning makes things seem more complex and unorthodox, making adoption a somewhat tedious process.

When developed by external consultants with little knowledge of the region and community, learning material leaves a lot of room for improvement. Content may sometimes lack relatable examples, explanations, and context with which beneficiaries struggle to understand and relate. This gap in content development can affect the depth of understanding recipients achieve. Sometimes, the vocabulary simply is different, and it is easy to loose a learner’s attention because they name an object differently.

People in underserved communities need flexible training solutions to accommodate their schedules

Some teachers and instructors do not have training with the necessary technological tools (devices & systems). This then leads to a struggle with approaching teaching and keeping track of students and their progress, especially in a remote setting. Using new technological tools abruptly can be overwhelming and may impact the quality of teaching without structured training on software and device usage.

People in rural communities are sometimes financially challenged, so they spend most of their time earning their keep. For them, current formalised education and training simply take up too much of their time; therefore, they are opposed to alternative deliveries of training and education.

How to undertake mobile learning

All the factors discussed above are essential considerations; below, we explain how to address and navigate the issues:

Collaborating with local teachers and instructors to help restructure learning material to fit the region better is key to creating effective course material for firms. With the help of these on-site consultants, knowing of the language and the culture, institutions can make the most of mobile learning, making sure beneficiaries can relate to the content.

With internet infrastructure having some way to go in sub-Saharan Africa, it would be wise to select a solution that is not solely based on internet connectivity. Firms should endeavor to pick an e-learning solution that can provide trainees access to learning material offline to ensure continued learning in scenarios where connectivity is interrupted.

Trainees going through course material

In addition to partnering with local educators to develop content, institutions should collaborate with instructional designers to help model learning experiences for students. Instructional designers ensure quality content delivery, adapted to the specific tool or constraints of your program, and aim to structure content effectively for recipients to understand.

Institutions should select a product that provides analytics and data for reporting purposes. Metrics ensure you can carry out proper evaluation; Analyze how beneficiaries interact with course material, and assess the problem-solution fit with trainees. The data also helps in report generation — to give firms actionable data to make decisions on

Success stories with Chalkboard Education

Chalkboard Education has assisted firms in rolling out their training material in different communities and countries. To further highlight how picking the right solution helps in service delivery, we showcase some of our success stories.

With this institution, trainee teachers have the flexibility to learn remotely and within their own time. Some of the trainees working day jobs or having varying schedules use our application. It allows them to learn, train conveniently, and get assessed by Jackson Education in their bid to become teachers.

Beneficiaries going through a training program with the Chalkboard Education App

Beneficiaries in remote cocoa communities train via Chalkboard Education on Child Safeguarding and Child Labour Prevention. Users take advantage of how the application works offline and utilise this to access courses even without having mobile data. Through the Impact Dashboard, I.C.I. can create their course material, make changes, and add users autonomously.

Chalkboard Education provided instructional design in English and Twi, illustration services, as well as its distribution software and analytics tracking capacity. ECOM was looking to develop course materials for trainees who would better understand core values and best practices in their local language and context. Our team set out to translate and augment the course content to make it exciting and easier for recipients to understand key concepts.

As a society, we must prepare and re-orient our mindsets about how to scale training and learning — this is where the future lies.

The promise of mobile and e-learning

With the youngest demographic — Sub Saharan Africa has enormous training needs

The opportunities and potential of virtual learning are vast, especially with population explosion and the need to scale learning. In sub-Saharan Africa, the market and promise for virtual learning are even more prevalent because of its youthful demographic. The stumbling blocks discussed above may hinder how quickly it is adapted and utilised and should be tackled. An all hands-on deck approach needs to be taken: by governments, schools, and society. Technology is not the problem, it is the solution. It is already available and constantly improving. As a society, we must prepare and re-orient our mindsets about how to scale training and learning — this is where the future lies.

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