E-learning has been around for some time now, and with its ability to reduce institutional costs whilst increasing accessibility for students, some thought it might replace conventional classroom-based learning.
However, last I checked, physical learning environments are still all the rage. It seems that there is still something to be gained from sitting in a class and learning from an instructor.
Another element of e-learning has kicked off though; using the properties of a digital infrastructures to disseminate learning materials. When I was at university, this simply meant that I rarely had to travel to a library to get a book; it was all available online.
Nowadays, there are organisations taking full advantage of this edtech, distributing learning materials in areas where a lack of books is a major issues for educators.
Libraries for all
Libraries for all is an organisation that seeks to solve a problem facing students worldwide. They believe that 250 million children are not learning to read or write despite years of attending school, and this is due to a lack of resources - primarily books.
Their solution, in short, is to build cloud-based library platforms filled with locally relevant e-books, curated for different regions in the developing world. These cloud-based libraries are built for low-bandwidth environments to allow users to read offline.
Library for All draws from the skills of their team in technological development, content curation, and connectivity solutions. They rely on their partners to implement the model in-country by dedicating local staff to manage the program, monitoring the impact of the library, and training teachers.
So far they have provided over 3800 books from 73 publishers to 9953 readers across the globe in countries as far reaching as Haiti, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mongolia, and Cambodia.
Why this charity represents an important step for education
First of all, when the internet first came into popular use, it came with the promise of democratising information and providing an access to education to a wider group of individuals. This is, in part, the start of this promise coming true.
Internet accessibility is starting to reach past just the cities of the west, making its way into the global south to places where it can really start to have a dramatic effect. This technology is not the most cutting edge, but it’s not about that, it’s about making a difference where it counts using the tools available.
Secondly, the notion of building an e-reading platform for developing countries 10 or 15 years ago would have been laughed out of the room. Now though, mobile and tablet ownership in developing countries has dramatically increased, and so has the infrastructure to support it.
The success of charities like this one signals a very different world and a very different future: most of all for the children reading the books.
In a world where education seems to be the best route to a better life, e-learning seems to be a real solution for many.
Whether the future is in online VLEs or a mixture between e-learning and physical classrooms, improved connectivity can only help the flow of necessary resources and hopefully help individuals work towards a better life.