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March 2010

eLearning Promise

eLearning’s Promise: Will New Models Scale to Educate Youth?

Young people make up 18 percent of the world’s population today, or 1.2 billion in absolute terms. Of these 15-24 year-olds, 87% live in developing countries. At the same time, their basic educational needs are not being met. More than one-third of all youth around the world are not in the classroom – 73% of youth in sub-Saharan Africa and 51% in South and West Asia.

Yet developing world governments cannot expand traditional educational facilitates to these youth or the even larger cohort behind them. Demand for higher education in Asia and Africa will grow from 48 million enrollments in 1990 to 159 million enrollments in 2025, but India spent only 3.2% of GDP in 2005 on education, ranking it 140th of 180 countries tracked by the CIA World Factbook.

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Strategies for Deploying eLearning in Developing Countries

More than 60% of students who qualify for University or tertiary education in the developing countries are not able to join due to limited physical infrastructure. With the introduction of elearning, these students can be admitted in extra mural programs. The concept of brick universities has to be replaced with click technology.

Higher institutions of learning like universities and technical colleges need to embrace this model, to deliver elearning to their students located within the main campus and satellite campuses. The deployment can be based on a push model where the main server is connected to the national backbone, and through online updates from a high speed Internet connection, the content is posted through the Extranets (National Backbone).

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Collaborative Learning 2.0 for Pakistan

The technological evolution of Web 2.0 tools has produced a global platform that empowers the collective wisdom and intelligence of the crowd. Powerful arrays of technologies are emerging as ecosystems for extending, enhancing and enabling learning in an accelerated mode.

Deemed “Learning 2.0”, these online collaborative, interactive, and just-in-time information delivery technologies are encroaching on mainstream education in developed economies. The planets in Pakistan’s education constellation are aligning for universal adoption with its rapidly growing Internet infrastructure, increased funding from donor nations and an overwhelming demand from an illiterate population for which only scaling via Learning 2.0 technologies can provide the solution.

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WikiEducator: Empowering Teachers with eLearning

The high costs of producing appropriate teaching resources means that teachers often have to do without. Now the WikiEducator project is working on this. You all know about Wikipedia. Well, this is the education version with attitude.

Wikieducator is free and open teaching resources such as lesson plans and digital content to support them, initially created by committed teachers. Everything is freely available for any teacher to download and use. But it doesn’t stop there. Teachers can modify, adapt and re-purpose this material for their own use, on the understanding that they store the modified work back at WikiEducator.

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Universal Platform Solution, Universal Curricula Problem

In the United States, someone may walk into class with a pristine iPhone or Blackberry where another may have a very basic phone and another may not have one at all. In developing nations, the same divides exist though perhaps at a lesser level – and the advantage within such a nation is that a curriculum can be more easily adapted to an accessible platform. It is far from perfect.

Attempts to create a universal platform haven’t necessarily met with success or failure. The OLPC advocates will hold up their successes to the world like a proud parent and yet the metrics for such successes do not in and of themselves aren’t definitive. In fact, it is hard to state that eLearning even in developed nations has had a positive effect – and if so, how much.

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A Disruptive eLearning Business Model

We at SSG Advisors are currently incubating a new approach to the delivery of higher education services that leverages both new technology and disruptive business models. We presented this model at a recent eLearning Technology Salon and I am very grateful for all of the thoughtful and useful input received

The Salon was a great chance to get very practical advice from leading experts in the fields of both education and ICT4D. Here are key points I raised in my opening remarks and input received from participants:

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