Problem and Background
Millions of children are out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In West Africa, Governments have followed best practice, discouraging large gatherings and shutting down schools. On March 19, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Education announced the immediate and indefinite closure of all schools (basic to tertiary institutions) in the country. Out of the over 39 million Nigerian students affected by this disruption, about 13.2 million are in secondary schools. One day later, the West African Examination Council, the body responsible for conducting the school leaving examinations announced that exams earlier scheduled for April 2020 have now been postponed indefinitely. Almost one month later, there appears to be no respite to the crisis and the likelihood of returning to the classrooms anytime soon remain low.
Solution summary in simple terms
Vilsquare has designed a STEM learning platform to support learning for out-of-school students in West Africa. The project will use the Volt Microscope as an educational tool and be championed by the students themselves. The platform will curate resource materials that support learning science in a fun, interesting and engaging way. The overall aim is to ensure that learning remains ongoing while translating textbook theoretical concepts taught in the classroom into real life applications /evidence.
The platform – VoltSchool will serve to give students a glimpse of the “big picture”, hopefully inspiring them to pursue further studies in STEM subjects. The course contents will be closely aligned with the current approved science subject curriculum of the West African Examination council. The courses will contain teaching videos on relevant subjects, recorded by students and supported by subject teachers from our existing teacher community. This project will support 50 students around Nigeria with the Volt Microscopes on their learning journey.
Solution summary in technical terms
The LMS will provide easy Management of Students registration, the enrolment processes (rolling basis), implementation of class discussions forum, a platform for submission of assignments, the overview of examination records and results, certificate generation and other learner/admin management processes.
State of advancement of the project
The VoltSchool is at design stage. Developers are currently working on UI/UX mock-ups for the platform and the team is engaging with stakeholders from Vilsquare’s network.
- Day 1 - 2 Project formalities / contract signing / inception
- Day 3 Production of animated video for competition open call
- Day 4 – 10 Call opens for junior scientists (10 to 18 years old)
Design and development of learning platform
- Day 11 – 12 Selection
- Day 13 – 16 Volt Microscopes are sent out to contributors.
- Day 17 Video call explaining Contributors’ role, tips for making video sessions, lighting requirements, etc.
- Day 18 – 24 Video contributions received and uploaded to learning platform
Alpha closed-group testing
Social media ads targeting parents and school teachers
- Day 25 #VoltSchool launches
Vilsquare community galvanizes users for #VoltSchool
- Day 26 – 39 Platform maintenance - maintaining server uptime, security, monitoring analytics, debugging, continuous content upload, responding to technical issues, etc.
Continuous advertisement on community platforms
Continuous project monitoring
Conduct customer satisfaction survey
- Day 40 – Project Phase Closeout
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 will be 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:
- Contribute to providing students in secondary schools with educational resources that will mitigate against the disruptive effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Provide an avenue for learning sciences and peer-to-peer knowledge exchange, while stimulating the structured environment of a classroom.
- Provide teachers within our 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.
The project methodology covers participants requirement, curriculum development and the digital platform.
- Open Call for Expression of Interest to contribute
An animated video describing the project and requesting for interested contributors to express their interest to contribute content to the VoltSchool will be produced. It will be disseminated within Vilsquare’s network of communities, through word-of-mouth and through an aggressive social media campaign. A EOIs from minors will be expected to be accompanied with a signed parental consent form.
EOIs received will be reviewed by the project team & other members of the Vilsquare community. Selected EOIs will receive a response, containing a Volt Microscope. Each Volt comes with a resource kit containing glass slides, cutters, syringes and gloves. The kit will also contain on-boarding instructions to the project, a list of relevant topics, guidelines to content creation and other useful information.
- Content creation and review for the VoltSchool
Students from each of the six secondary school classes will create and share original video content from their experiments using the Volt. These alongside teachers’ videos on the topic, 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.
- Volt Microscope
The Volt Microscope is a low-cost digital microscope that magnifies samples over 1000x. Volt is manufactured in Abuja, Nigeria by Vilsquare. Closed user group tests have been conducted with teachers and students of secondary schools in Abuja, in Dec 2019. Findings from these tests show that Volt is a useful tool for learning science subjects especially biology.
- The VoltSchool Learning Management System
The LMS will be built on Moodle Infrastructure. The licensing to be obtained will ensure that the platform is designed as a secure and robust LMS, capable of handling multiple active users simultaneously. It will allow 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 will allow project managers to track lean analytics on user behaviour, collecting feedback to support internal decision making.