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• Failing students improve scores to pass National Senior Certificate Maths Literacy and Pure Maths
• eTutor SA project moves beyond pilot phase to fully converged implementation plan
• Vodacom converged satellite and mobile business solutions delivers the goods via the cloud
It's no secret that South Africa has severe challenges when it comes to delivering education equally to all learners across the country. Many of our schools are in rural areas, and are in need of infrastructure - both physical and technological - and resources, including suitably trained teachers, text books, and extra tuition.
eTutor SA, from Cape Town-based IT Business Campus (ITBC), is a teacher mediated, curriculum-driven platform produced in multi-media format which encourages learners to learn the curriculum, study, monitor their performance and plan for exams.
96 Grade 12 learners from disadvantaged areas were selected for the pilot phase and attended the ITBC lab in Claremont. Most of the learners did not have access to a computer lab, dedicated mathematics teacher or extra tuition. Some were failing the subject but eager to learn.
Each student was given unlimited access to eTutor in the initial lab at Claremont and put on a learning schedule of three hours a week and accessed their learning, prepared for the exams and familiarised themselves with the examination environment and time requirements.
100% of the learners in the pilot phase passed their Mathematics Literacy and Pure Mathematics. "The results have exceeded expectations and we now have a framework that we can build on," says Cavanagh. "The next two labs are already being set up with a 60 terminal lab at Groenvlei and another 60 terminal lab at Groenberg Hoorskool."
The costs of this programme are extremely affordable for those parents who can afford the R895.00 for full access for one year per child. Otherwise the Department of Education is providing subsidies for those who can't afford this sum so that all Grade 12s in the vicinity can have access.
"We want to move eTutor to be available all the way down from Grade 12 to Grade 7 for supplemental maths teaching, and eventually for numeracy and literacy from Grade 6 down," says Cavanagh. "We have to give all kids the same opportunities, and the fact that satellite technology allows us to deliver virtually anywhere in the country, especially in rural areas, means we'll be able to deliver on that promise no matter where these kids are."
eTutor SA is built on the Moodle platform (open source learning) noted for its usability and intuitive interface, and it supports various automated personalised services that are easy for faculty and learners to access, create, deliver and present. eTutor SA adopts the SAVI accelerated learning model. SAVI is the acronym for;
Somatic - Learning by Doing
Audio - Learning by Hearing
Visual - Learning by Seeing
Intellectual - Learning by Thinking
The SAVI methodology allows learners to use all their senses during the learning experience. Simply put, following the approved curriculum and text books, learners, experience the lessons in a virtual classroom, test themselves and repeat lessons until they feel competent. The platform is live and interactive. Also, teachers and administrators can check up on each learner's progress constantly by accessing the saved information hosted in the Vodacom Business data centre, via satellite Cloud computing.
eTutor recognised that both learners and educators in South Africa need access to high quality education in other formats, such as a multi-media format that uses and enhances existing ICT technology in schools. They also recognised that new delivery mechanisms were required and would have to use a medium that is effective, sustainable and widely acceptable.
Examining the current formats for education delivery across the country, eTutor's primary objectives were to:
• Enhance educator aptitude and efficiency
• Dramatically improve the quality of learning in the classroom
• Improve the Senior Certificate and FETS results
• Increase the number of learners taking mathematics and science
• ‘de-mystify' mathematics and science by introducing assessments, rubrics and a Learner Management System
• Upgrade existing technology in schools
• Empower educators and school administrators
• Harness technology to deliver curriculum content
All satellite connectivity was provided by Vodacom and used to assist ITBC to deliver their eTutor Grade 12 Mathematics modules to the 32 terminals at the Claremont centre. "We felt that Vodacom was the ideal provider for us due to their national coverage via different media and the strength of their business satellite solutions and mobile applications," says Toni Cavanagh, General Manager, IT Business Campus (Pty) Ltd. "The relationship has grown as their Public Sector team has an excellent understanding of educations shortcomings and needs."
Sean Victor, Principal Specialist - Converged Satellite , at Vodacom Business Services, says, "Satellite technology inherently supports multicasting of information very efficiently. This makes it ideal for distance education solutions where quality of service and quality in delivery of the same content, at the same time, across the country (not only in rural areas) is a requirement. This ensures equal opportunity in terms of access to the content/curricula for all schools and educational institutions - regardless of type and geographic location. Satellite technology enables both an efficient push and pull mode - for example for multicasting of content to sites on a store-and-forward basis, as well as for live multicast of lessons, on-line examinations or live lesson interaction as well as IPTV sessions can be made available when required. This in turn allows for content collaboration among educators, authors etc."
Vodacom assisted ITBC with key areas to ensure a successful project implementation:
• Project Management and Administration
• Needs Analysis
• Educator Education
• Technology Deployment
• Project Staffing
• Project Funding
Some of the most remarkable results and some comments from the learners speak for themselves:
Lilian: Starting mark - 29%
Pass (NSC) - 47%
"It was like having my own private teacher, I learnt better than I ever learnt in class"
Hadley: Starting mark - 38%
Pass (NSC) - 52%
"I wasn't shy to go back and learn again when I didn't understand, no-one knew I was doing the work over so no-one laughed at me. It was great."
All South African learners and educators are ready to embrace learning in a digital era.