Supporting out-of-school students with STEM education banner
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Supporting out-of-school students with STEM education

About reviewed project
Digital platform to support STEM learning for students in Africa whose studies were disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. VoltSchool is hosted at https://voltschool.com/ and supports over 10,000 students.

PROJECT SUMMARY


A. Include the name of the slack channel for your project within the OpenCovid19 slack. If you don’t have one, please create one following the syntax.

 

#proj-voltschool


B. Include links to any other spaces related to your project such as a github link, a website, a google doc, a discourse, a social media account.


https://voltschool.com/


C. Problem and Background (200 words max)


Scarcity of schools in relation to population, inadequate supply of specialist teachers & cost of teaching & learning materials are issues bedevilling secondary school education in Africa. In rural areas, it is more likely that girls will be denied education due to economic needs and cultural barriers. The COVID-19 pandemic and the issues that have arisen in the educational sector have revealed a glaring need to rethink the way learning is delivered & accessed. Thus, the option to further leverage solutions on technology drivers, by complementing traditional face-to-face learning methods with online/virtual learning cannot be overemphasized.


D. Solution summary in simple terms (150 words max)


VoltSchool is a digital learning platform that is contributing to promoting quality education (SDG4) in Africa by providing high quality secondary school level learning materials in a fun, engaging and interesting way. It supports asynchronous learning making it easier for students to study at their own pace and convenience.  


It can be accessed on digital devices of all screen sizes including desktops, laptops, tablets and phones. The videos are light and can be accessed on mobile networks with a minimum of 2G connectivity. Materials have been adapted for deaf & visually impaired students. Other features include assessments & a chat forum that allows for interactions between students & teachers in a safe space, free of cyber-bullying and abuse. 


VoltSchool is currently available in English language & conforms to the approved curriculum of the West African Examination Council. There are registered learners from 11 African countries on it, as at March 2021.


E. Solution summary in technical terms (200 words max)


The Learning Management System is built in PHP 5.5.12v for the server side, and the web client in Javascript, CSS and HTML. Required disk space is 50 GB, 2.6 GHz processor, 5 GB Memory. A production server of LAMP stack is used and periodic git commits and pulls are done to Github. The reproducible code base is currently being documented on a GitHub repository and task/project monitoring on Trello board. 


Automated testing/error support plugs into internal slack where message outputs from the LMS architecture are received in a selected Slack channel. The connection initiation is via the Slack button, which uses the OAuth 2.0 protocol in Slack. The cloud deployment is on a shared server for both the database and the front-end. The database (MySQL) contains video resources, made by teachers and the graphics team; account logs of users; and account credentials of all users.  


The LMS provides for easy Management of Students registration, the enrolment processes (rolling basis), implementation of class discussions forum, a platform for submission of assignments / tests, the overview of examination records and results, certificate generation and other learner/admin management processes.


F. State of advancement of the project (100 words max)


Alpha I testing lasted through June 17 to June 30 2020. Alpha II began July 1 to 8th . The project Beta phase began July 9th 2020 till date. Project is currently focused on increasing the rate of students adoption, strengthening new market entry, while producing educational content that meets acceptable quality standards. Vilsquare has also partnered with 2 Nigerian Universities to deploy their already existing virtual science labs on VoltSchool, thus deepening the resources available to learners.


G. Team composition: (be sure to have all your team members included in the project)


Obasegun Ayodele – Technical Lead

Obialunanma Nnaobi – Project Manager

Patricia N. Azubike – Curriculum Adviser

Chidinma Umebido – Monitoring & Evaluation Adviser

Deborah T. Daminbo - Microbiologist & Content Creator

Chukwuemeka Nwora – Environmental Microbiologist & Content Creator


H. Project Timeline. Please provide a projected project timeline in bullet point form (we will prioritize projects that can deliver in a short term period)


• Week 1 -  Project phase III inception

Virtual (Zoom) conference with team members and resource contributors – Teachers / subject matter experts, curriculum advisory team, Graphic designers, technical team (UI/UX, backend engineers), communications team, programme managers, M&E unit, Quality Assurance unit, etc.  


• Week 2 – 10

Content Creation Continues 

Teachers -  Draft lesson notes

           Create learning materials

           Record audio files of teaching materials

           Produce test questions corresponding to topic learning objective and learning level

           Submits to QA team.


QA team -  Reviews teachers’ materials

           Materials that pass QA are forwarded to Technical Team

           Rejected materials are returned to the subject teachers’ group with comments and recommendations for 

           improvement.


Technical team -  Graphics designing for learning materials

     Adaptation of materials to audio-visual format

     Low band-width compatibility compression

     QA testing for accessibility compliance

     Upload material to platform.



Continuous Platform Maintenance maintaining server up-time, security, monitoring analytics, debugging, continuous content upload, responding to technical issues, etc.



Project Management Activities

Monitoring and Evaluation - Continuous project monitoring

                                Conduct video Interviews with parents/guardians, School teachers and learners.


Communications -   Continuous communication on community platforms

                          Press releases / statements

                          Published articles, etc.

                          Interviews with teachers and users – students and parents.

                          Social media content generation and posts

 Production of short HD video to highlight the benefits of VoltSchool from the users’ perspective.


User Acquisition and Retention Engagement with schools, community leaders, NGOs, Faith Based Organisations, Government Agencies, etc.

       

• Week 11 - Launch of Short Video on VoltSchool from Users’ perspective

Dissemination on social media, etc.


• Week 12 – Project Phase close-out activities and Reporting.



1.0 INTRODUCTION

 

1.1 Problem and Background (200 words max)


Scarcity of schools in relation to population, inadequate supply of specialist teachers & cost of teaching & learning materials are issues bedevilling secondary school education in Africa. In rural areas, it is more likely that girls will be denied education due to economic needs and cultural barriers. The COVID-19 pandemic and the issues that have arisen in the educational sector have revealed a glaring need to rethink the way learning is delivered & accessed. Thus, the option to further leverage solutions on technology drivers, by complementing traditional face-to-face learning methods with online/virtual learning cannot be overemphasized.


1.2 Solution summary in simple terms (150 words max)


VoltSchool is a digital learning platform that is contributing to promoting quality education (SDG4) in Africa by providing high quality secondary school level learning materials in a fun, engaging and interesting way. It supports asynchronous learning making it easier for students to study at their own pace and convenience.  

 

It can be accessed on digital devices of all screen sizes including desktops, laptops, tablets and phones. The videos are light and can be accessed on mobile networks with a minimum of 2G connectivity. Materials have been adapted for deaf & visually impaired students. Other features include assessments & a chat forum that allows for interactions between students & teachers in a safe space, free of cyber-bullying and abuse. 

 

VoltSchool is currently available in English language & conforms to the approved curriculum of the West African Examination Council, although there are also students from other countries studying on the platform. 


1.3 Solution summary in technical terms (200 words max)


The Learning Management System is built in PHP 5.5.12v for server side, and the web client in Javascript, CSS and HTML. Required disk space is 50 GB, 2.6 GHz processor, 5 GB Memory. A production server of LAMP stack is used and periodic git commits and pulls are done to Github. The reproducible code base is currently being documented on a GitHub repository and task/project monitoring on Trello board.

 

Automated testing/error support plugs into internal slack where message outputs from the LMS architecture are received in a selected Slack channel. The connection initiation is via the Slack button, which uses the OAuth 2.0 protocol in Slack. The cloud deployment is on a shared server for both the database and the front-end. The database (MySQL) contains video resources, made by teachers and the graphics team; account logs of users; and account credentials of all users.

  

The LMS provides for easy Management of Students registration, the enrollment processes (rolling basis), implementation of class discussions forum, a platform for submission of assignments / tests, the overview of examination records and results, certificate generation and other learner/admin management processes. 


1.4 State of advancement of the project (100 words max)


Alpha I testing lasted through June 17 to June 30 2020. Alpha II began July 1 to 8th . The project Beta phase began July 9th 2020 till date. Project is currently focused on increasing the rate of students adoption, strengthening new market entry, while producing educational content that meets acceptable quality standards. Vilsquare has also partnered with 2 Nigerian Universities to deploy their already existing virtual science labs on VoltSchool, thus deepening the resources available to learners.


1.5 Project Timeline - Please provide a projected project timeline in bullet point form (we will prioritize projects that can deliver in a short term period)


• Week 1 -  Project phase III inception

Virtual (Zoom) conference with team members and resource contributors – Teachers / subject matter experts, curriculum advisory team, Graphic designers, technical team (UI/UX, backend engineers), communications team, programme managers, M&E unit, Quality Assurance unit, etc.  


• Week 2 – 10

Content Creation Continues 

Teachers -  Draft lesson notes

           Create learning materials

           Record audio files of teaching materials

           Produce test questions corresponding to topic learning objective and learning level

           Submits to QA team.


QA team -  Reviews teachers’ materials

           Materials that pass QA are forwarded to Technical Team

           Rejected materials are returned to the subject teachers’ group with comments and recommendations for 

           improvement.


Technical team -  Graphics designing for learning materials

     Adaptation of materials to audio-visual format

     Low band-width compatibility compression

     QA testing for accessibility compliance

     Upload material to platform.



Continuous Platform Maintenance maintaining server up-time, security, monitoring analytics, debugging, continuous content upload, responding to technical issues, etc.



Project Management Activities

Monitoring and Evaluation - Continuous project monitoring

                                Conduct video Interviews with parents/guardians, School teachers and learners.


Communications -   Continuous communication on community platforms

                          Press releases / statements

                          Published articles, etc.

                          Interviews with teachers and users – students and parents.

                          Social media content generation and posts

 Production of short HD video to highlight the benefits of VoltSchool from the users’ perspective.


User Acquisition and Retention Engagement with schools, community leaders, NGOs, Faith Based Organisations, Government Agencies, etc.

       

• Week 11 - Launch of Short Video on VoltSchool from Users’ perspective

Dissemination on social media, etc.


• Week 12 – Project Phase close-out activities and Reporting.


2.0 PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION


2.1 Solution, research, or intervention? (choose accordingly) (1000 words max)


The VoltSchool is an educational sector targeted intervention, to contribute to promoting quality education – SDG4. Expected beneficiaries are secondary school students, aged between 10 to 18 on average and their parents. The curriculum has been aligned to that of English speaking West Africa, for a start. The overall goal is to provide students with interesting and engaging learning materials which would make science more interesting and hopefully contribute to having more young people pursue careers in the STEMs. 

 

Specific objectives are:

i. Contribute to providing students in secondary schools with educational resources that will mitigate against the disruptive effect of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other more deep rooted challenges in the educational sector within Africa.

ii. Provide an avenue for learning sciences and peer-to-peer knowledge exchange, while stimulating the structured environment of a classroom.

iii. Provide teachers within and outside the Vilsquare Research network with the opportunity to continue to transfer knowledge by creating and sharing curriculum targeted resource materials and providing feedback to students on the platform.



2.2 Methodology (500 words max) - Description of tools and methods used. The methodology must allow the full reproduction of the results


The project methodology covers curriculum development and the development and adaptation of the digital platform.


Curriculum Development 


• Content creation and review for VoltSchool 

Content creation on VoltSchool covers teachers’ class preparation notes, learning materials, audio recordings of topics and class exercises will form part of the content for that subject. The Curriculum advisory team will evaluate the content provided to assure that it is age appropriate and meets the standard for WAEC examinations. The Quality Assurance team assesses the material to check for accuracy, technical acceptability, and if it qualifies, passes it on to the technical and graphics team. This last stage is where the materials are designed and adapted into lite videos, compatible with computer accessibility technologies to support visual and audio impaired learners.


Digital Platform


• The VoltSchool Learning Management System

The LMS is built on Moodle Infrastructure. The platform is designed as a secure and robust LMS, capable of handling multiple active users simultaneously. It allows all registered students to contribute to the e-classroom discussion boards, access the content of the course, undertake assessments, submit exercises and also regularly track their progress (independently or with their parents). It allows project managers to track lean analytics on user behaviour, collecting feedback to support internal decision making.


• Communication and dissemination

Project information, including milestones reached are communicated through its social media handles and within the community.


• Monitoring & Evaluation

Monitoring will be continuous through project life cycle. Although long term data collection for measuring outcomes will be difficult to obtain in this phase, an evaluation at a later stage and from the broader science outreach project will seek to measure the effectiveness, efficiency, economy and impact of the project on beneficiaries.


2.3 Results/Expected results (500 words max)


3.0 SAFETY, QUALITY ASSURANCE AND REGULATION


3.1 What steps have you taken to ensure your solution’s safety? How advanced are you in this process (if applicable)? Please check the Biosafety and Biosecurity guideline of OpenCovid19


N/A


3.2 Have you planned the conduct of your manufacturing process that ensures quality, what are the steps you have taken? How advanced are you in this (if applicable)?


N/A


3.3 Will you need assistance with the regulation system? If not, which regulatory system do you plan on using to distribute the product? Please elaborate (please see: Regulatory-Strategies) (if applicable)


N/A


3.4 Have you talked to medical staff about the feasibility of your project? What did they say?  


N/A


3.5 Have you planned the testing, verification and validation of your solution? How advanced are you? (if applicable)


The project methodology provides for closed user group Alpha testing during the project life span. The group will include teachers and students users from across the 6 secondary school classes and from a wide geo-graphical spread. The group will continuously test for usability, functionality and security.



4.0 IMPACT, ISSUES AND RISKS


4.1 What impact do you feel your project could have? (100 words max)


In this time of uncertainty surrounding traditional face-to-face learning, the VoltSchool provided resources, stability and structure for thousands of students who are currently unsure of what happens with their education. Long term and post COVID-19, the team hopes to introduce a gamification approach to the platform, to support retention and improve understanding. The platform design also makes it relevant for revisions and for self-paced learning which is very useful for girls and young women who are most times deprived of formal education in rural Africa.


4.2 What do you think would make your project a success?(100 words max)



Vilsquare has assembled a highly qualified and experienced project team, who will be contributing their technical and professional experiences gained over several years and across diverse industries. The team is well experienced in delivering top-notch value-for-money intervention projects, efficiently and effectively. Finally, Vilsquare has a proven track record of delivering quality science education interventions that respond to needs of young people across the socio-economic spectrum, in collaboration with teachers in its community. Other indicators of success include:

  • Platform content is of high quality.
  • High user engagement rate on the platform
  • Diversity of content among subjects
  • Rate of user retention
  • Level of user satisfaction recorded
  • High levels of participation from students.


4.3 Please list the known issues, potential risks, grey-areas, etc in your project


  1. Due to its digital nature, the platform will only cater to young people who have access to the internet. This means that many students who live in rural areas may not benefit from this project. To mitigate against this, Vilsquare is collaborating with Meluibe Foundation and other NGOs to undertake community science outreach to schools in rural Africa. Thus, the output (learning materials) from this project / phase is expected to form input for the community outreach phase.
  2. The short time frame for project execution implies that any project evaluations will be at output results level, as it would be too soon to measure outcomes and impact. Although the proposed project runs for 8 weeks (plus 6 weeks from the previous phase), the platform is envisaged to keep running in perpetuity. Thus, impact evaluations will be carried out at the end of year 3 and shared with JOGL.
  3. Risk of low adoption among parents and students. This will be mitigated by first working with communities (parents and teachers) where Vilsquare is already well known and accepted. The project will also adopt an aggressive social media marketing drive, to bring the project to the knowledge of the target audience as well as encourage participation. Also, engagement with schools, community leaders, Education focused NGOs, faith-based organisations will be given top priority in this phase.  

  iv. Having a curriculum adviser on the core team, assures that the project meets the current needs of school students, at this time.



5.0 ORIGINALITY


5.1 What other projects on JOGL are like yours? Search for them and Link them!


https://app.jogl.io/project/216/studentwebinars


5.2 Is this an innovative project? What makes this project different if it’s unique on JOGL?


VoltSchool’s uniqueness lies in:

 

Inclusion - compatible with Assistive Computer Technology for visually challenged and hearing impaired students. Asynchronous learning and self-paced studying for girls and other vulnerable persons.

 

Accessibility and affordability - works with any digital device and on networks from 2G. Each video is under 5MB, making it cheap to stream.

 

Scope of Utility - Students can learn, take tests, interact with each other and all on the same app. 

 

Measurement, Evaluations and Learnings - Backend Data capture and analysis to determine trends, identify gaps and proper solutions to teaching and learning challenges.


5.3 Is there already an open source version of this project?


N/A



6.0 TEAM EXPERIENCE


6.1 Please cite your team members and their roles in the project. (if applicable) If the project involves several locations or labs, list them too.

 

• Obasegun Ayodele, Technical Lead


Obasegun Ayodele is a peace activist, researcher and change-maker who has spent most of his career building diverse expert communities that are geared towards transforming the living conditions in Nigeria and Africa. As Co-founder and CTO at Vilsquare and Vilsquare Makers' Hub - a R&D center in Nigeria, he deploys mobile tech hubs in conflict and non-conflict areas (across all geo-political zones) in Nigeria. At each of these mobile hubs, it assembles young diverse makers from all zones to build open source science and technology solutions to their community problems. He is passionate about building sustainable solutions to improve livelihoods of African communities. 


• Obialunanma Nnaobi, Project Manager


Obialunanma’s work combines elements of research, strategy and advocacy to support good governance causes, innovative use of technology and the empowerment of women and youth. At Vilsquare, she is involved with designing and coordinating the organisations’ overall strategy; programme design, implementation and management; and developing strong working relationships with organisations (State and Non-State actors) with similar thematic focus, and exploiting complementarities and synergies between them, where possible. In this role, she manages the implementation of the diverse programmes that use technology and the SDGs as a framework and contribute to: national unity and cohesion among young creatives; improving quality of education; and, promoting open and transparent government. 

Obialunanma holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accountancy from the University of Nigeria and a Master in International Business Management degree from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. She is a Fellow of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).


• Patricia Ngozi Azubike, Curriculum Advisor


Patricia’s research interests lie in the use of assistive technologies to remediate learning and promote independence for effective Montessori teaching. She began her career as a secondary school science teacher in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria. In 1998, she moved to the Kaduna Polytechnic where she rose to the rank of Chief Lecturer in the department of Rehabilitation Sciences. 


Patricia is a member of the Teachers Registration Council and Science Teachers Association of Nigeria. She has published several scholarly papers and has co-authored academic books on learning disabilities among children. She holds a first degree in Science Education and an M.Ed in Special Education from the University of Jos, Nigeria.  


• Mr Chukwuemeka Nwora, Content Creator


Chukwuemeka Nwora is an environmental microbiologist whose work involves aseptic microbiological procedures, clinical laboratory routine tests/ diagnosis and class room teachings. His research into the presence of and identification of pathogenic microorganisms from public door handles supports public hygiene programmes. Before becoming a Microbiologist, he taught Physics, Chemistry and Biology at a secondary school in Nigeria until 2015. 


He holds a HND in Microbiology from the Federal Polytechnic Bida, Niger state Nigeria.


• Deborah Tonte Daminabo, Content Creator


Deborah is a Microbiologist whose research spans across pollution control and environmental management; antibiotic resistance pattern of Vibrio species isolated from retailed periwinkles to clarify concerns regarding the cleanliness of these sea foods habitat. She has worked as a Medical Laboratory Technician in a Primary Health Care centre and as a care provider with Clinton Health Access Initiative on community awareness and assessment of postpartum family planning in rural North West Nigeria.

She volunteers for Nigerian Red cross Society and professionally certified in Occupational Health, Safety and Environment from National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria.


• Chidinma Umebido, Monitoring & Evaluation Advisor


Chidinma Umebido, a Public Health practitioner and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) expert has over nine (9) years technical experience in the public health and international development sector. She has extensive experience in designing and implementing activities for health (HIV/AIDS, TB) and Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) projects and developing effective strategies to improve quality of data and service delivery. She has a proven track record in the use of data to promote evidence-based learning and inform decision-making. She provides technical leadership in developing work plans, M&E plans, performance plans and budget. Throughout her career in public health, she has collaborated with various government and non-governmental stakeholders. 


Chidinma has a Bachelor of Science (BSc.) in Biological Sciences (Zoology) from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and obtained a Master of Public Health (MPH) in International Development from the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.



7.0 FUNDING AND COSTING


7.1 Please provide a costing of your project be as detailed as you can, all funding requests must be transparent and be for specific needs. The maximum grant is 2000 euros for new projects and 4000 euros for already established JOGL projects. Smaller grants are more likely to be funded. If no grant is required, request no funds in the form.


Below is a detailed budget for VoltSchool since inception. The required funding for this micro-grant is contained in 7.3 below.