Innovations in online learning for refugees, Slum Children earn UN Prize
March 6, 2017, London—As a university graduate, Korvi Rakshand wanted nothing more than to help break the cycle of poverty in his native Bangladesh by teaching children on the margins of society.
He rented a single room in a slum for his lessons and provided half a kilo, or about a pound, of rice a day to parents as a way of encouraging them to send their children to class.
A decade on, what started as a hobby has led to a network of 10 online schools and three regular schools which aim to give thousands of children in remote areas of the South Asian country of 163 million an education via technology and the internet.
"What we've done is not rocket science but the thing is no one ever tried it. It's a very simple system," said Rakshand, whose JAAGO Foundation was the joint recipient last month of a $25,000 U.N. award for innovation in education.
Even though primary education is free in Bangladesh, only half of all children in the country's slums attend school, a rate 18 percent lower than the national average, according to the U.N. children's agency UNICEF.
Rakshand said initially lessons were delivered over Skype, a messaging and video call service, but now teachers in the capital Dhaka use interactive video conferencing to present live tutorials, analyze charts and watch educational videos with students in remote areas.
"For the kids, someone appearing on a television is like a celebrity, so the kids love the concept that they're talking to a television and there's someone from the capital who's probably famous teaching them and giving them time," Rakshand told the
Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all is one of 17 development goals adopted by U.N. member states in 2015 as part of an ambitious agenda to end global poverty by 2030.
Yet millions of children and adults around the world have little or no access to education due to war, poverty, and displacement, experts say.
To address the deficit, non-profits and others are increasingly harnessing technology to reach disadvantaged communities and plug gaps in traditional education systems.
Promoting learning among refugees who have fled turmoil in countries like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan can transform their lives, according to Kiron, a non-governmental organization whose work providing refugees with free access to higher education was also recognized by the prize from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Based in Germany, the NGO runs an online platform that allows refugees to sign up for accounting, engineering, and other courses by logging on via their smartphones from anywhere in the world, including camps and shelters.
More than 2,000 students have enrolled in the courses working with 27 partner universities in Germany, France, Turkey, Italy, and Jordan.
Kiron University Refugees Standard
"For refugees that are in a new society, it's a lot about their identity of feeling like a student and not like a refugee anymore, and just having fun with each other," said Markus Kressler, co-founder of Kiron.
Kressler said Kiron had been inundated with requests from volunteers and academics who wanted to offer their services to the online university.
"They (refugees) need just one shot in order to start a new life," he said. "We need to give everyone a fair chance."
Despite the success of such projects, internet connection remains a challenge, according to Rakshand, who said JAAGO had considered introducing online classes in Sierra Leone and Nepal but faced limited bandwidth in those countries.
• Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Katie Nguyen. This story originally appeared on the website of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change, and resilience. Visit www.news.trust.org.
• The Thomson Reuters Foundation is reporting on resilience as part of its work on zilient.org, an online platform building a global network of people interested in resilience, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation.
Learning Success updated: Mar 12, 2017, 8:00 AM
Source: UCSB Public Affairs
Education pioneer Lynda Weinman, co-founder of the eponymous online learning website Lynda.com has been recognized for her successful effort to bring the classroom to everyone's computer. Weinman is the recipient of the 2017 Venky Narayanamurti Entrepreneurial Leadership Award.
Presented annually by the UC Santa Barbara College of Engineering's Technology Management Program (TMP), the award is conferred on individuals who have demonstrated success in high-technology leadership, particularly those who have been influential on the Central Coast or who have an affiliation with UCSB. Weinman and co- recipient and partner Bruce Heavin are the honorees for the award's 18th year.
"What it's really all about is the ability to change people's lives for the better,"
UCSB College of Engineering Dean Rod Alferness said on the role of technology and entrepreneurialism in the wider community. "It's about people who, through what they do and who they work with and how they think about the world, come up with ideas and find ways to make them happen. That's what the Venky Award is about."
The seed of what would become one of the world's earliest and largest online learning websites was planted in the 1980s when Weinman got her first personal computer.
"I became enamored and obsessed with it,"
she recalled. But, like many people who encountered computers for the first time as adults, she had difficulty learning how to use it through the operations manual. Determined to understand her new machine, she instead explored it through curiosity and experimentation. Along the way, she found that she had an aptitude for explaining technical topics to others, a talent she would couple with her background in visual arts and film, resulting in books, written tutorials, classes and eventually the online learning portal that would bear her name.
"What technology allows is for this incredible personalization,"
Weinman said, and that insight - in contrast to other education websites that emulated the traditional academic system - would contribute to the popularity of Lynda.com for those who were motivated to learn skills in design, technology, and business, but who didn't have the money, schedule or proximity to attend classes at brick-and-mortar institutions.
Meanwhile, the venture that began in Ojai moved into Ventura and eventually headquartered its operations, film studios and hundreds of employees on 12 acres in Carpinteria. Millions of subscribers later, Lynda.com sold to professional social networking site LinkedIn for $1.5 billion in 2015, achieving the rare "unicorn" status.
No longer involved with the website, Weinman nevertheless stays active in the community, serving as the president of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and on the advisory board for UCSB Arts & Lectures.
The Venky Narayanamurti Entrepreneurial Leadership Award is made possible through an endowment to the TMP in the College of Engineering. The endowment honors Professor Venkatesh ‘Venky' Narayanamurti, whose tenure as dean of the College of Engineering at UCSB was distinguished for its leadership and support of the development of a thriving local entrepreneurial economy, and dedication to the infusion of entrepreneurial spirit into all aspects of the College of Engineering and UCSB.