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Using digital technologies to improve education opportunities

Case study on how digital technology is used to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
two girls Smiling and Laughing at Computer Laptop Screen
© RMIT 2023

Well-designed and educationally sound, online learning environments targeted at school age children are expensive to develop for most African countries.

Add the small percentage of homes that have a laptop or desktop computer (estimated at <20%) and you can understand why online learning has not taken off across the African continent. Learning is hampered by lack of computer access outside of school and during the Covid lockdowns many students simply had no access at all to learning materials.

What is Beeline?

Beeline is a learning environment, developed by a South African company, that has the potential to make a significant impact on the education sector. It brings together multiple learning sources, such as online courses, videos, audio, images and blogs, in one place, and provides guide(s) on how to approach the materials and learning tool functionality. As Beeline’s web site describes it: “This is the place where content meets curation.”

The developers wanted a learning app that was first and foremost designed for Africa. It provides an effective and inclusive learning environment for those groups who are in greatest need of what it provides. It can be used by anyone with a mobile phone and internet access and operates on low data requirements and provides some off-line capability. Beeline is supported by a motivational approach and has measurable outcomes such as completion rates and knowledge retention. It uses social media techniques and gamification to engage users and increase enjoyment.

Beeline incorporates a range of learning techniques such as:

  • Spaced repetition – is a memory technique that uses reviewing and recalling information at intervals until the information is remembered.
  • Active recall – involves retrieving information from memory and being tested to improve retention, memorization, and comprehension. It’s commonly used in a self-directed manner through flashcards or self-generated questions.
  • Interleaving – is a learning technique that brings together different topics or practice types, to facilitate learning and highlight links between concepts.

Benefits and challenges for Beeline

Users are in control in Beeline as they can create their own learning paths, that can also be used by others. As the community grows, so will user generated content, along the lines of YouTube for example. Although it is easy to search on Google for educational material, with Beeline you can follow a guide that explains what is needed and when. The internet has a lot of information from American or European perspectives. With Beeline, African perspectives are incorporated. Educational standards can be maintained by an in-depth community reviewing and rating system.

The platform is in its beta phase and has over 1,000 users involved in pilot programs. Zero-rating (no cost) is a plan for the platform, supported through a partnership with telecom MTN’s Ayoba. Currently, the platform is not zero-rated.

Lessons learned for other organisations

  1. Sponsorship of apps is an opportunity for organisations to contribute to solutions.
  2. Software applications can make use of existing learning materials to avoid big delays in development.
  3. Systems that support community participation encourage ownership of solutions and improve their relevance.
  4. Developing countries are aware that apps, tools and frameworks developed in the North America, Europe or Australia may not transfer easily to developing countries. Therefore, involvement of people from the targeted countries should be started as early as possible in the proposal.
© RMIT 2023
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