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Star Schools goes mobile

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At the heart of the education crisis in SA is the non-delivery of quality educational content to the majority of school learners. Traditional contact environments are reaching capacity and many learners are missing out on content through inefficient distribution of resources and overcrowded classrooms. Star Schools does however have a solution.

Now Star Schools, under the leadership of CEO Atul Patel, has come up with a practical, cost-efficient solution. It is a content-sharing platform that can be accessed via a mobile phone. Learners will now have the capacity to manage their own learning process and will be able to access content ‚anytime, anyplace, anywhere’.

‚Education can be interactive and universally accessible.‚ says Atul Patel. ‚We want to provide low cost education to every learner in South Africa.‚ This has become possible because, as mobile phones have become increasingly ‚commoditised’, cost of use has steadily dropped as ownership and accessibility has increased.

Paper remains the cornerstone of the educational environment. The question is how to make paper part of an interactive environment.

Star Schools developed a tagging solution that allows them to build into the illustrations a paper tag which, when read with a mobile phone camera, activates a wide range of functional mobile phone-based options. For example, a teacher ‚Avatar’ can be streamed to the phone and execute a lesson as it would be taught in a classroom. An assessment is then activated to test the learner, and support is supplied through technologies such as MixIt.

The learner can purchase only the subject units they require support with, and it works on a pay-as-you-go scenario. This combination of technology, content and interaction has replaced the need for a computer and Internet access.

Curriculum content, developed in association with the Department of Education, is available for Mathematics, Physical Science and Accounting for grades 10, 11 and 12. The interactive card was developed to provide easier access to quality content, for both learners and educators.

The interactive card consists of an A3 page that folds down to a credit card and contains an entire topic of a particular subject, ie,

1. Learning outcomes

2. Theory with illustrations

3. Exercises and activities

4. An additional pool of questions

5. Study assignments

6. Glossary of terms

The Star Schools ‚mystar’ mobile platform has now been officially launched. With regard to scalability, this is almost infinite. Currently, the system resides on a 350 Terabyte server, which can be expanded as and when required. The mobile functionality is further supported by a bespoke technology called the ‚Interactive Elastic Cloud’. What this means is that should a learner be accessing their profile from a computer (via internet caf√©, or school multimedia lab), their session is captured at the point of logout. If the learner then accesses the system from a mobile phone, the session resumes from the logout point, providing a seamless content experience from any access point.

Much is being done by education departments, but change is happening slowly. Thirteen years ago, approximately 1,5 million learners enrolled in Grade 1 nationally. In 2009, a little over a third of that number wrote their Grade 12 final examinations. Of those, just 300,000 achieved a pass and only around 80,000 a university exemption.

Innovation and the effective application of technology are critical to addressing these issues.

Star Schools is mobilising education in South Africa. Atul Patel’s vision of every learner having access to quality education is one step closer to being realised. The interactive card forms part of a multi-layered content delivery approach that includes the Star Schools contact education environment and the ‚my star’ e-learning platform.

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