How to Organize Distance Education in These Exceptional Times: Three Points to Keep in Mind and One Proposition for a Solution

COVID-19 is a big threat to societies. The virus has proved to be very diffusive and there is a considerable risk that health sectors’ capacity will not be enough if the virus continues to spread freely. In these exceptional times, there is a need for isolating people as much as possible, while societal workforces keep working. In the education sector, this means that in many countries the practical solution is that school buildings are closed, pupils and students are ordered to stay home, and distance education is the only way to continue teaching. However, this situation poses several challenges for all stakeholders, especially teachers.

Firstly, it is rather common that teachers do not have access to suitable tools for remote education. Especially in basic education, most teachers prefer face-to-face classroom teaching and different kinds of e-learning apps are used mostly for supplementation and variation if used at all.

Secondly, the e-learning tools in use do not support school-level data generation. Rather often, there are several independent applications that do not communicate with each other. Consequently, teachers end up having to evaluate and mark all assignments and accomplishments manually and deliver the data to the next level. School principals and managers are not able to follow what students are doing and how they are progressing. In remote education, such tracking systems would be especially relevant to identify potential dropouts as early as possible and remediate the problem.

Thirdly, the technological knowledge of teachers varies a lot. Some teachers have already used different kinds of tools, but a big portion of teachers are not capable of taking any complicated e-learning platforms to use on such a tight schedule like now. One must consider that teachers have other challenges as well: they have to reschedule the whole semester in considerable short time and most probably they are living very stressful days in their own life as well. Teachers do not need any extra challenges at the moment. Therefore, educational tools better are as simple as possible. It is not the time for complex and mysterious features covering all possible whims of developers.

These three challenges have to be taken into account when distance education is planned in these exceptional times. It is essential to get teaching tools that are easy to take into use, which really help teachers work and are simple enough to be useful with minimal (or non-existent) training. These tools have to give a clear overall view for rectors, managers, and administration to follow how teaching is organized and how it is progressing. However, these tools are rare and the existing tools are designed for a totally different world situation.

We claim Formjack to be a tool like this. Formjack is based on Eduix’s existing education solutions tailored especially to this specific situation in mind. As a cloud-based solution with simplified registration procedures, Formjack is possible to take in use in two minutes. No student lists, group or class information must be typed in, students and teachers add the information as the application is used. Teachers do not have to give and collect assignments individually and combine results manually together, the tool supports teaching scaling and combines the results per assignment together automatically. Since it has a simplified user interface with only the essential features, Formjack is easy to learn and take into use even if the teacher does not have any previous experience in e-teaching. The system collects all school information together and management can easily follow what is the situation of the school, different classes, and specific students.

As Formjack is location independent, it is easy to take in the use in all schools needing effective e-teaching solutions rapidly. During this Coronavirus period, the basic version of Formjack is free for use for all teachers, which lowers the threshold to start to use it and also minimizes the bureaucracy and time needed for change into distance education.

https://forms.glowdom.com/

Remote teaching

Since the beginning of our partnership, Glowdom and Eduix are committed to leveraging the school system in Namibia by digitizing education processes. We want to create a school culture that facilitates managers’ tasks, empowers teachers and supports students in reaching their full potential. Such aims are even more crucial in critical times such as we are facing now. Therefore, during the Covid-19 pandemic, we want to help teachers, students, and parents while they are still working remotely amid school closure. 

Remote teaching demands different pedagogical resources and activities from in-classroom routines. Many teachers are learning from “trial and error” how to use digital tools for teaching. Others are already experts in using ICT. All, in both cases, are becoming pioneers in remote teaching now. 

Using familiar tools, such as laptops and phones, social media and meeting applications that the schools have already used previously, are the first steps towards remote teaching. The most important, however, is that teachers don’t start from scratch to plan and organize their remote teaching just because they are not in the classroom with their students anymore. Such a situation would be a complete waste of energy and time for everyone.

There are plenty of reliable educational resources out there that can support remote teaching. The teachers know their students best and their learning process. With this knowledge, teachers are the most capable to select the appropriate online resources to effectively reach students’ educational needs. In order to supplement teachers’ resources for remote teaching, Eduix in partnership with Glowdom launched the schools.eduix.fi website to support distance learning. 

We provide for teachers all around the world access to our Formjack electronic platform for free during this pandemic.

In terms of distance learning, our goal is to help teachers develop, share, and evaluate tasks. Teachers can send assignments to groups of students and their parents by sharing a single link. Specific sharing groups also facilitate personalized teaching. All responses obtained are stored in a single location, which facilitates task evaluation. The data is stored safely and can be exported to various file formats, such as Excel.

In case your organization already has a virtual platform that your teachers are using, it can still be beneficial to check the website to find new ideas and use the tools as part of your teaching resources.

Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about the Formjack platform and our other products in educational management, visit our website ahaa.glowdom.com. You can also contact us by email info@glowdom.com to discuss how your institution can benefit from our products.

We wish you a smooth passage through the pandemic and all the success for your remote teaching.

Meanwhile in Namibia

Digital transformation in education and mindset

The co-operation project with Haaga-Helia, Eduix Ltd and Glowdom has progressed to first concrete pilot tests. During February, Altti Lagstedt had a very busy time in Namibia, together with Sebulon David of Glowdom. They met interesting groups, refined the Ahaa-ecosystem model and planned the pilot tests of both FormJack and Wihi -products with education representatives. They also attended the Python conference “PyCon Namibia 2020”, where Altti was a keynote speaker and Sebulon had a “light talk” presentation.

One of the main achievements of the week was refining Ahaa-ecosystem. Since the software development cluster is still small inside Namibia, it has been typical that education systems have been acquired from abroad during the last decades, according to the model represented in Figure 1.


Figure 1. The traditional software implementation model

Even if this model is simple, it has shown to have certain structural challenges and problems: 

  • Purchased software has been taken in to use “as it is”, i.e. the software was not suited or tailored to local needs – nor during the implementation, neither later, during curriculum changes for instance.
  • There haven’t been local support or help desk to answer the questions and organizing training. There hasn’t been local maintenance either, so, if a software supplier abroad loses their interest (or goes bankrupt), the software has been abandoned and sooner or later something breaks and the system becomes useless.

To be a really useful and working ecosystem, it is vital to address such challenges and problems: systems have to be suited to local needs and maintained properly. There has to be someone local who is able to collect requirements from all stakeholders, do tailoring in the implementation phase, make changes whenever is needed (for example, when curriculum changes), and act as a helpdesk and train the users for the system. In addition, there has to be some guarantee for continuity: if the original company developing the software loses its interest or goes bankrupt, it has to be possible for the local company to continue to maintain, update and further develop the software. These considerations are represented in the Ahaa-ecosystem model (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. The Ahaa ecosystem

During this cooperation project, we concentrate on the products of Eduix Ltd, but the idea is that the ecosystem is open for other software developers as well, as long as they are ready to follow the same rules. This Ahaa-ecosystem is planned to be an efficient way to get rid of “project tourism”, i.e. projects done only for outside funding without any kind of economical or other kinds of sustainability. In Ahaa-ecosystem there is a local company, which benefits mainly from the maintenance and helpdesk -phase, and this brings a clear economic sustainability aspect to the ecosystem. In addition, when the localization and tailoring are the local company’s responsibility, it helps to grow the software development cluster in Namibia: Glowdom is not planning to do all by themselves, but they are actively looking for partners inside Namibia. Even though in this project we concentrate on the education sector, Ahaa-ecosystem is not bound to education solutions only, it can be applied in other sectors as well, for example in healthcare, agriculture, transportation, and governance.

Mr. Sebulon David, CEO, Glowdom
Dr. Altti Lagstedt, Senior lecturer, Haaga-Helia

Workshop and meeting with teachers at UTU Future Tech Lab

Glowdom developers from different regions across Namibia started a workshop in the morning where Sebulon introduced the participants to the Ahaa co-operation model and to the concept of using software development skills wisely focusing on solving the customers’ problems and achieving the goals with the best and simplest process management tool available.

Klaus explained the architecture and the philosophy behind the Peppi software ecosystem. We also had a quick tour of the core functions of the system and its role-based desktops.

After lunch, various EdTech enthusiasts comprised of teachers and principals from different schools around Windhoek looked at a digital service builder and shared their sense of urgency views to integrate digital tools in education to resolve critical challenges related to the scarcity of data for planning, development, and implementation. Both groups have strongly agreed that the power of greatness is when educators and software developers join forces to digitalize core education processes in Namibia.

UTU Future Tech lab is an abroad campus of Turku University. It is located at the University of Namibia (UNAM) in Windhoek. Many thanks to UTU for providing the facility for advancement of education in software engineering. Stay tuned.

Mr. Sebulon David, CEO, Glowdom
Mr. Klaus Nylamo, Senior Partner, Eduix Ltd

Glowdom and Eduix joint presentation

Sebulon and Klaus shared the stage today at the embassy of Finland’s education event in Windhoek. The purpose of the presentation was to present Glowdom and Eduix’s successful cooperation short and long-term goals, the progress made so far and steps taken in order to build a working model of Namibia-Finland cooperation to an audience comprised of local and international players from public and private educational organizations.

The two companies shared their cooperation philosophy which is primarily based on a Yin Yang concept in business where two forces complement each other to create win-win business benefits through a relationship based on trust and solid core values. Sebulon and Klaus explained how their memorandum of understanding is highly driven by the purpose of developing a society with software as well as creating real and tangible outcomes.

Over 412 teachers with a potential of impacting 12,000 learners in 10 out of 14 regions across Namibia have already interacted with the Eduix digital service environment and through case-by-case, local software developers and school principals are capacitated through knowledge transfer workshops on how to design and implement customized digital services for Namibian schools.

In the coming days, the work continues in the workshops where Glowdom and Eduix will evaluate the platforms and tools already installed. The goal is to – by migrating some chosen real-life manual processes in the digital environment – recognize suitable models to use as we proceed to help actual customers to overcome their digitalization challenges. Stay tuned.

Mr. Sebulon David, CEO, Glowdom
Mr. Klaus Nylamo, Senior Partner, Eduix Ltd

Glowdom and Eduix: Leveraging the digital ecosystem for Education in Namibia

Glowdom and Eduix have joined forces to provide a national-grade education digitalisation ecosystem for Namibia. Eduix has decades of experience in the education sector as well as a modern and modular platform which shortens the time it takes from development to delivery. Glowdom has in-depth knowledge about the pitfalls, caveats and possibilities in the market and a hands-on experience on delivering local solutions. 

We have now a year of discussions and preparations behind us and all the pieces are coming together. We currently provide:

  • The Peppi education process digitalisation platform
  • Scalable and secure server facilities
  • Modern software development and delivery facilities
  • On-site and off-site training of the system administration
  • On-site and off-site training of systems development, together with the programming schools initiatives

Our goal is to completely and rapidly change the way how school and student management and related services are done in Namibia. We pave the way for modern and simple to use digital platforms as genuine tools for self-leadership, where each stakeholder can enjoy up to date and highly accessible information and base their decisions on the facts they draw from that information.

Eduix is the leading software platform developer in Finland within the realm of education. Our digital contributions solve day-to-day problems and challenges and no challenge is neither too big nor too small for us to tackle.

Knowledge transfer is the essential scalability element in any context, but especially so in remote cooperation. Eduix has a full training programme to empower the current and future developers in Namibia and to take their skills to a whole new level.

We named our ecosystem in Namibia as Ahaa since it was those aha! moments that were a defining factor in our discussions. Heureka! would perhaps have been a bit of an overkill at this stage. In Finnish, Aha is written with two consecutive vowels, hence ahaa. We trust that you as a stakeholder will have the same kind of aha moments in the future. Stay tuned.

Best wishes,

  • Sebulon David, CEO and Founder, Glowdom
  • Rami Heinisuo, CEO and Founder, Eduix