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Friday, August 22, 2014

eLearning: A Global Classroom Story

Kathryn Cave Editor at IDG Connect writes, "We take a look at the potential and promise in eLearning through the decades and around the world."

Photo:One Laptop per Child via Flickr

In 1917 my 11-year old great-grandfather caught a boat from his home in Mombasa, Kenya across the ocean to the Kathiawar peninsular on the western edge of India to attend school. Plumped straight into a world of strict vegetarianism - even in the holidays - this was a vastly different culture. Yet after three years he moved again, to the UK, for still more seismic changes. Finally, in 1922, he made the then mammoth journey to Darjeeling on the eastern side of India, to complete his secondary education. 

In a world long before air travel, or the internet, these distances seem truly incredible, not to mention expensive, but such is the draw of a ‘good’ education. Then, as now, a solid command of English, sat at the very centre of it all. Whilst in the early twentieth century this went one step further as Britain, and all its colonies, were moderated under one system: the Cambridge Examining Board.
This saw students tested in subjects like English, History, French, Greek and Latin and offered a common benchmark for everyone; albeit an Anglocentric one. My great-grandfather took his in Junior Cambridge Exam in 1923. And now, nearly a century later, with the help of technology, these exact same learning trends have been magnified out again, far into the adult arena.
There are the distance learning platforms like the Open University, constant real-time webinars and most importantly of all, Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs’, which mean anyone can glean the ‘benefits’ of a prestigious Harvard (or elsewhere) education, all from the comfort of their own home. In fact, the BBC World Service ran an excellent documentary, ‘The Education Revolution on the impact of all this in emerging regions, like Kenya, a few months back.

Geography: eLearning in Emerging Regions
In the same way the Cambridge Exam Board ruled the roost in its day, today cache comes from affiliated institutions. Now, as then, there is also an especially heartfelt emphasis on education in emerging regions, like Kenya. As James Hanaway, Head of Development at eLearning charity, Camara, explains:

“There is a real ambition to be in school across [all] the countries [we work in, through Africa]. This is the pathway to bettering yourself and there is hunger for education that is a lot more apparent within the kids in the school [than you ever see here in the UK]. They want to absorb everything.”

Dan Oja and June Jamrich Parsons are based in the US and produce eLearning content and solutions. Over the last couple of years they have been building partnerships with companies on the ground in India, Pakistan and the Middle East, to supply technological platforms and premium quality materials:

“The thing that really surprised me was the number of students in private school,” says Parsons. “[And because parents are paying] they want results [this means testing software and materials]. 
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Source: IDG Connect

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