Online network of learner-rated educational resources/courses freely shared among organizations in 5 countries serving young Syrian refugees
The Open Learning Exchange seeks to build a Syrian Education Library Network (SELN) to reduce the learning gaps for Syrian adolescents and young adults. The SELN will be a repository of free learning resources shared by organizations in five countries. It will provide Syrian youth and organizations that serve them with access to Arabic and English multimedia learning resources. Members will be able to add resources, create courses, rate and comment on resources, and create new topical collections. Although the SELN will be accessible by individuals, the primary beneficiaries of the SELN will be member organizations who will be able to download to local libraries the resources and course needed for their programs.
The SELN will be developed on top of OLE’s existing PLANET software (Personalized Learning Achieved by Network Enabled Teams). PLANET was developed and implemented by OLE over the past decade and it has been deployed for the past two years with adolescent Syrian refugee girls at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. PLANET already includes hundred of Arabic and English learning resources.
The SELN will provide an international shared repository of open learning resources for use in the Middle East and beyond by organizations serving Syrian refugees. While organizations will be able to use PLANET as their own learning management system, the PLANET system will not be required in order to access the SELN repository. In other words, individuals, local schools and communities, government agencies, and educational organizations will be able to access and use these resources independent of the PLANET system.
Membership to the SELN will be open to any organization or company prepared to share their learning resources and courses relevant to the needs and interests of young Syrians so long as they do so under a Creative Commons license. Initial SELN Advisory Council, will be chaired by Fernando Reimers, Harvard University.
What are the key outcomes and impact of your solution?
The most important outcome of the Syrian Education Library Network will be an increase in the numbers of Syrian refugees in Bulgaria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan able to read, study and learn thus provide a greater sense of personal agency, meaning in what they do, and connections with others so they are not isolated and alone. Quantifying this is virtually impossible. However, the existing PLANET system does allow us to collect a wealth of user data that will provide valuable evidence of change during the program itself. Every week we will be able to monitor the library activities of those using the system. User metrics collected include the number of users who sign in each week, the number of resources accessed during each visit, resources ratings and comments, and the difference between resources accessed by gender. For example, at our implementation sites at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya we are able to tell that although men visited the library more often, women opened more resources per visit than the men. This kind of information can be extremely valuable in planning and upgrading programs.
The SELN will result in:
1) Increased ability of organizations to provide young Syrian refugees with wider selection of quality learning resources related to their needs and interests;
2) Increased ability of individuals to acquire, learning resources that fit their needs and interests either on their own or in self-organized groups;
3) Ratings and comments from the Library users about the resources and courses they are using useful for selecting quality materials;
4) A significant reduction in the aggregated costs of content collection and creation for organizations in several countries that are providing educational services to young Syrian refugees; and
5) A demonstration of the effectiveness of library networks that could be used to stimulate such sharing in other countries and other segments of the population.
All of the materials in the SELN will be covered by a Creative Commons license. Organizations will be able to create and share specialized collections of resources that are of particular interest. For example there could be a collection for “Early Elementary Syrian Learners” or for “Village Health Workers” or “Turkish as a Second Language.”
The SELN will greatly reduce the redundancy that characterizes current education efforts where multiple organizations are creating learning resources for similar purposes. With Learner ratings built into the network, visitors will be assisted in selecting resources and courses that have been given high marks and comments by others. As with Amazon, each rater’s history and pattern of ratings will be available, enabling visitors to understand the framework of each rater.
What actions do you propose to realize your stated goals?
We envision piloting the system with programs involving Syrian refugees in four countries: Bulgaria, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Ideally the pilot will involve both formal school settings and informal community centers with a focus on adolescents and young adults. In its pilot form it will involve sharing several thousand resources in Arabic and Arabic language course with no less than 10,000 uses of these resources over the course of twelve months.
Once the pilot has been completed and evidence has been gathered concerning its effectiveness and areas for improvement, the SELN can be scaled to an unlimited number of individuals and organizations anywhere Syrian refugees are in need of continuing their education.
Since our inception a decade ago, OLE has focused primarily in basic education in schools. However, over the past two years we have been working with adolescent Syrian refugees at Za’atari, a UNHCR run refugee camp in Jordan and in community learning centers at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. It is worth noting that funding is already available to launch a program in Turkey and SOLVE is supporting a similar effort for refugees in Bulgaria. Therefore, much of the program infrastructure required to demonstrate the effectiveness of the SELN is in place.
OLE will build the SELN on top of PLANET, a software platform that has been developed and used over the past decade. PLANET currently provides learners and administrators the following functions:
1) Name and password for each Learner;
2) Personalized dashboard for each Learner including:
a. Personal bookshelf;
b. Enrolled courses;
c. Calendar of events;
d. Badges earned;
e. Internal email;
f. Resource and course Feedback;
3) Library of resources and collections of resources and tools for adding resources;
4) List of courses, course management and course development tools; and
5) Tracking, by gender and other personal characteristics of total visits, total resources opened, most frequently opened resources, highest and lowest rated resources.
The PLANET organizational structure includes multiple levels, beginning with Learners.
1) Learners. each with their own personal dashboard
2) Teams. small groups learning with each other
3) Communities. a school or community which includes a group of Learners;
4) Regions, a sub-national structure for managing education
5) Nations: A group of Regions and/or Communities, often within the boundaries of a nation.
6) Earth: A Group of Nations, sharing resources with each other. Earth may have a content specialization, such as Early Education or Public Health, or may comprise a comprehensive collection of learning resources.
The SELN is an instance of Level 6 (Earth) in that is comprises multiple organizations from multiple nations committed to sharing their learning resources with each other.
OLE proposes the following actions:
1) Complete the specifications for the functions and form of the SELN.
2) Build the software for a beta test with one SELN member organization. (Release 1)
3) Collect resources from all members for uploading into the SELN server.
4) Field test the processes, categorizing and uploading resources into the SELN server
5) Field test the user experience involved in downloading these resources to partner organizations and to volunteer individuals
6) Obtain qualitative and quantitative feedback from users.
7) Use feedback to revise the software and procedures (Release 2).
8) Conduct second beta to test the effectiveness of Release 2.
9) Use feedback to make build Release 3 for public launch.
10) Announce publicly the availability of the SELN for all users.
11) Publicize, promote and assist in implementation of the SELN
The SELN Advisory Council, with a representative from each member organization, will have its inaugural meeting within one month of the award of this program. The frequency and timing of subsequent meetings will be decided by the Advisory Council members. However, it is assumed that council meetings during the first year will meet at least quarterly.
The cost of this project will almost be entirely for personnel. We anticipate this process will involve close to one person-year: six person-months of software development and six person-months of project management, piloting, evaluation, marketing and promotion.
Who will take these actions?
1) Fernando Reimers, Professor of International Education, Harvard University,, will convene the first council meeting with representative from Bulgaria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. They will review, possibly revise, and approve the specifications and timetable for the SELN program. (1 month)
2) Dr. Richard Rowe, Ph.D., Founder and Chair of OLE will be the program director.
3) Stefan Unterhauser, OLE’s CTO, Leonard Mensa , OLE’s Senior Software Designer, based in Accra Ghana and OLE’s software development team in Kathmandu, Nepal will be responsible for Steps 2, 7 and 9. (4 months)
4) Rory Phimister, OLE’s Global Program Director will be responsible for Steps 3 through 6, 8 and 10. (4 months aggregated)
5) OLE’s Director of Investments and Communications – TBA will be responsible for Step 11 (24+months)
Total time between start and public launch: 36 months.
The proposed SELN Pilot will focus on young Syrian adolescents and young adults under 24 years of age who are participants in one of the programs supported by the partners in Bulgaria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. All of these have a major and parallel need for high quality Arabic language resources and courses to enable young Syrian refugees to continue their education and prepare for a meaningful and fruitful life. However, insofar as possible, the SELN itself will be designed and built to serve Syrian refugees who are in need of a library with rich resources in Arabic and English regardless of their location or affiliation. It is assumed that once its basic functionality is built, tested, and deployed it will be relatively easy to open SELN for a wide range of organizations interested in openly sharing and using learning resources.
What do you expect are the costs associated with piloting and implementing the solution, and what is your business model?
Development. We estimate that this will take up to six person months of a highly qualified software developer to complete the development of the software, including any revisions identified during the first field test. This will include some of OLE’s CTO time for user experience design, software coding, and QA prior to field testing.
(6 months) $35,000
Field Testing. This will involve working with teams in four countries where hundreds of thousands of young Syrian refugees are living. This will involve both quantitative and qualitative assessment of the downloading, use and uploading of resources. We will on two occasions beta test the effectiveness of SELN in both formal and informal learning settings, the second test coming after an initial revision based on the first beta test results. (8 months) $30,000
Implementation. This phase of the Program will involve making the SELN Arabic Syrian repository widely available among organizations working with Syrian refugees but also making the SELN widely recognized in each of the pilot countries as a resource that individuals can also use. Once it is well established the plan is for the maintenance costs of the program will be supported by voluntary organizational contributions and crowd sourcing. (24 months) $35,000
Estimated total cost over three years: $100,000.
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OLE is not aware of any services that provide a collaborative multi-national repository of Arabic learning resources for young Syrians. We plan to contact some of the major academic libraries that we already have a relationship with to find on interested in sponsoring and hosting on a permanent basis SELN Syrian Education Library
The Internet Archive is one obvious related solution. It is focused however on developing an archive of the world’s knowledge more than customizing it for a particular use. The Internet Archive comprises many petabytes of digitized materials, largely collected from university and public libraries around the world. It includes “WayBack”, a snapshots of the appearances of online web pages going “way back”. OLE uses the Internet Archive as a repository of some of its resources and Brewster Kahle, founder and CEO of Internet Archive has agreed to serve as an Advisor for this Project.
How can we improve learning outcomes for refugee and displaced young people under 24?