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Education & Digital Learning

Education in its general sense is a form of learning in which the knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training, or research. Education frequently takes place under the guidance of others, but may also be autodidactic. Any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational. Education is commonly divided into stages such as preschool, primary school, secondary school and then college, university or apprenticeship. South Africa faces many challenges in this modern age and education should not be one of them. One of the initiatives in place is E-Learning.

E-Learning

E-learning (or eLearning) is the use of electronic media and information and communication technologies (ICT) in education. E-learning is broadly inclusive of all forms of educational technology in learning and teaching and is broadly synonymous with multimedia learning, technology-enhanced learning (TEL), computer-based instruction (CBI), computer managed instruction, computer-based training (CBT), computer-assisted instruction or computer-aided instruction (CAI), internet-based training (IBT), web-based training (WBT), online education, virtual education, virtual learning environments (VLE) (which are also called learning platforms), m-learning, and digital educational collaboration. These alternative names emphasize a particular aspect, component or delivery method but all are forms of E-Learning.

E-learning includes numerous types of media that deliver text, audio, images, animation, and streaming video, and includes technology applications and processes such as audio or video tape, satellite TV, CD-ROM, and computer-based or device based learning, as well as local intranet and web-based learning. Information and communication systems, whether free-standing or based on either local networks or the Internet in networked learning, underlying many e-learning processes.

E-learning can occur in or out of the classroom. It can be self-paced, asynchronous learning or may be instructor-led, synchronous learning. E-learning is suited to distance learning and flexible learning, but it can also be used in conjunction with face-to-face teaching, in which case the term blended learning is commonly used.E-learning in learning and education refers to the use of modern technology, such as computers, digital technology, networked digital devices (e.g., the Internet) and associated software and courseware. There are several aspects to describing the intellectual and technical development of e-learning, which can be categorized into discrete areas.

  • E-Learning as an educational approach or tool that supports traditional subjects;
  • E-Learning as a technological medium that assists in the communication of knowledge, and its development and exchange;
  • E-Learning itself as an educational subject; such courses may be called "Computer Studies" or "Information and Communication Technology (ICT)";
  • E-Learning administrative tools such as education management information systems (EMIS).

 

Educational Approach

The extent to which E-Learning assists or replaces other learning and teaching approaches is variable, ranging on a continuum from none to fully online distance learning. A variety of descriptive terms have been employed to categorize the extent to which technology is used. For example, 'hybrid learning' or 'blended learning' may refer to classroom aids and laptops or tablets, or may refer to approaches in which traditional classroom time is reduced but not eliminated, and is replaced with some online learning. 'Distributed learning' may describe either the e-learning component of a hybrid approach, or fully online distance learning environments. Another scheme described the level of technological support as 'web enhanced', 'web supplemented' and 'web dependent'.

In South Africa specifically, with a lack of broad base availability of, and access to, internet services in rural areas and outlying areas within the country, and troubles with distribution of learning materials, E-Learning using IT became a possible solution, and through initiatives with a local company, MIB, the Learning Trolley was born.

MIB’s Trolley Solution is targeted as a holistic solution using the power of ICT to target the specific need of getting learning materials to schools within South Africa.

 

The most critical Challenges faced by rural schools is a lack of access to learning material. The schools and pupils are performing below the expected grade-level in terms of curriculum expectations, in language, mathematics and sciences. Schools have scored poorly in the 2012/2013 ANA Performance Tests. The focus on one methodology of teaching and learning – “Chalk and talk” or “Learning by Obedience” results to insufficient knowledge of subjects. The worldwide trend in education is to use ICT to drive transformation. Through ICT the digital divide can be minimised greatly and can help in effective education delivery.

Considering the political and economic factors, Government has introduced the LTSM budget to every school to facilitate ICT. Education is and will remain a major point of focus over the next 20 years as per the National Strategy Plan and education now has the 2nd largest Government spend allocated to it.

To that end the Education Trolley requirements to be met would be to be part of an Holistic Solution, to provide all training to educators, include an educational digital resource library with multimedia CAPS aligned Content with textbooks, to create a WIFI environment connecting to a central cache server and to provide technical support including all installation & configuration of the units.

The solution is built around a portable, lockable trolley box that contains all the necessary hardware and material inside. The actual trolley consists of the large containing box that will house the wireless router, a large capacity storage unit, typically a NAS with the learning material pre-installed on, and a number of Android based tablets.

There are 3 main advantages to this type of setup. The first major advantage is that the solution is cost effective and affordable, the information is offline and onsite without a need to be connected to the internet to use and has a customised multimedia resource portal with all the content readily available, and the schools that make use of the trolleys can earn an annual income from the license fees of the trolleys.

The platform also includes Moodle, which is a free software e-learning platform, also known as a Learning Management System, or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The platform has 7.5+ million courses with 1.2+ million teachers. Moodle was originally developed to help educators create online courses with a focus on interaction and collaborative construction of content, and is in continual evolution. The Moodle project comprises several distinct but related elements, namely the software. The Moodle Community, an open network of over one million registered users who interact through the Moodle community website to share ideas, code, information and free support. This community also includes a large number of non-core developers, with Moodle's free source license and modular design allowing any developer to create additional modules and features that has allowed Moodle to become a truly global, collaborative project in scope. The Moodle Partner network, which forms the commercial arm of the Moodle environment and provides the bulk of the funding to Moodle.

The other key to the platform is the mentioned portal. It is an innovative way of delivering online educational content to Teachers via a local cache based end device. This portal simulates the internet with relevant educational material aligned with the curriculum, and servers as a monitoring, reporting and evaluation tool and is a unique delivery vehicle with commercial and non-commercial content providers from both local and international educational sources with companies like Intel and IBM providing content. The portal is inclusive of multimedia content and delivers video content, interactive content, ebook/PDF/ePubs textbooks and also includes Teacher Development Resources help educators better engage with and teach our future generations.

Mr Kobus van Wyk (www.e4africa.co.za) said “A classroom without technology is like a football match without a vuvuzela”. There is great confidence that the above solutions will enhance and improve educators and education as a whole, thus improving learner knowledge and increase the pass percentages. Corex and MIB, as organisations, are committed to helping South Africa produce future Leaders, Engineers, Doctors, Scientists, Programmers and Educators locally by empowering our children to bridge the “Digital Divide” through ICT.

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