SA Foundation Proves that Free, Offline Apps Make a Big Impact in Rural Classrooms

Good Work Foundation’s Open Learning Academy continues to demonstrate that an affordable blended learning model for South African primary schools can support rural classrooms, using free apps to improve exposure to ‘deep learning’ that improves language, literacy and critical thinking.

At Good Work Foundation’s Hazyview Digital Learning Campus, interim results from the Open Learning Academy show a seven percent mathematics improvement and a 12 percent English improvement for the period January to June 2016 for grade four learners from seven participating schools.

Four of those schools have shown a 10 percent or more improvement in mathematics and three of them have shown a 10 percent or more improvement in English. This is measured against the foundation’s internal target of an average 20 percent annual improvement in English and mathematics, which is above the average performance of schools in the area.

Results

“We are extremely excited about the results being produced in the Open Learning Academy,” said Good Work Foundation CEO, Kate Groch. “The programme continues to demonstrate that careful aggregation of offline free apps, together with passionate facilitators in a strategically-planned learning environment, impact a child’s ability to grasp and interact with concepts that are key to the future of their learning.”

The Open Learning Academy takes place in a large open space where children are arranged into self-organised learning environments of up to ten children and one digital facilitator per environment. All facilitators are recruited from the local community and trained in blended learning using digital tools.

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The Open Learning Academy at Hazyview Digital Learning Campus.

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Game-based learning at the Open Learning Academy.

Each learning environment focuses on key developmental needs, from language and numeracy to critical thinking and the environment. The foundation uses Mecer tablets and Apple iPads and learning takes place at their digital learning campuses and also at the participating schools, where a charging trolley becomes a mobile digital learning class on wheels. Additional subjects include coding, music and even trips into the Kruger National Park (more than 600 participating learners have been into the Kruger National Park in 2016).

The foundation works in Mpumalanga and the Free State and the programme was started in 2013. The cost varies depending on the number of participating learners per school but can be as little as R250 or $20 per learner per year.

The pre- and interim tests are designed and administered by the foundation and a third end-year test will be conducted in November 2016. The end-year test will include two control groups of learners that have not attended the Open Learning Academy in 2016 (we have tried twice before to set up control groups, but the ‘controls’ keep joining the programme).

These results will be added to in-school tests and compared against performance from previous years. End of year results will include scores from two participating schools at the foundation’s Justicia Digital Learning Campus as well as results from the grade five and grade six participating learners. A full 2016 report will be made available in February 2017. To learn more email info@goodworkfoundation.org.

Good Work Foundation acknowledges the following funders and supporters of the Open Learning Academy programme: Rand Water Foundation, Konica Minolta South Africa, the All Heart Fund, Investec Rhino Lifeline, Ms. Jenifer Westphal and the Majik Foundation, Londolozi Private Game Reserve, the esiDulini Community Trust, Rhino Africa, Mr. Ofri Kahlon, Charities Unlimited and RFS Holdings.

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