Africa – not wired

July 23, 2007

I saw Africa, Offline: Waiting for the Web in today’s edition of The New York Times, which states that less than 4% of Africa’s population is connected to the web, and that most of these are in South Africa and some of the northern Africa countries.

It seems that while most of the world is trying to put together elearning solutions and various non-profit organisations blog and work from Africa, the fact that most of the continent is not connected seems to have missed them. There are quite a few initiatives on the go and I have been fortunate enough to have been involved in a number of elearning initiatives. However with the cost of connectivity running at about over 50% of the per capita income of the people we are trying to reach, it is the telecoms that are killing the programs. So all the good intentions in the world of getting rural teachers, nurses and clinic staff educated via elearning, are not helping if the infrastructure is costing more than a teacher’s annual salary.

Ok – rant over. Read the article.

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Measuring Attention

July 16, 2007

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately into measuring elearning and its effectiveness. This is just a quick note to myself. Nielsen has shifted it’s measurement from Page Views to Attention (PDF). Some interesting thoughts there. Not really what I’m after, but worth reading if you feel that the SCORM standard needs to be updated.

It is an elearning week.

Nano-Learning: Miniaturization of Design
eLearning 2.0 – An Immediate, Important Shift
Personal and Group Learning Using Web 2.0 Tools
Personal Work and Learning Environments
eLearning 1.0, 1.3 and 2.0
Learning Trends Point To and Shape eLearning 2.0
eLearning 2.0 by Stephen Downes

A couple of years ago we were developing an offline Learning Management System (LMS) for the The Dinaledi Maths and Science Initiative, the main problem was that of connectivity. In South Africa the telecom costs are were so high, that although we managed to get all of the computer equipment donated, a week online would cost the equivelant of a teacher’s monthly salary.

The solution we came up with was to develop a CD based LMS, the LMS stored all data locally in a flash shared object (.sol) which is a type of cookie with a lot of storage space. Everytime the LMS was launched it would check whether it was connected and if it was it would send its data to the central LMS located in Johannesburg. In this way we hoped to keep down the connectivity costs, all of the uploading would occur whenever the school went online to pick up its email, which would happen once a week and at the same time it would allow the test and usage results to be aggregated in a central place. In other words, we developed a sometimes connected LMS.

Not an easy task back in 2003. Yesteday however, Google announced the release of Google Gears “… an open source browser extension that lets developers create web applications that can run offline. Google Gears consists of three modules that address the core challenges in making web applications work offline. LocalServer: Cache and serve application resources (HTML, JavaScript, images, etc.) locally. Database: Store data locally in a fully-searchable relational database. WorkerPool: Make your web applications more responsive by performing resource-intensive operations asynchronously … ” Now that would have made our lives a lot easier.

My hope is that offline capabilities will be used to develop sometimes connected applications for those who do not have the kind of fulltime connectivity that most of us take for granted. I am looking forward to the first forum with offline connectivity. Something that would allow learners in schools without full-time connectivity to still participate in global discussions and debates.