Bridging digital divides in educational institutions

By Tebby Otieno

Education among students who struggle with internet connections may soon change in some of the country's educational institutions. That follows the recent relaunch of Learn Kernel, a video-like device that has piqued the interest of several scholars from private learning institutions in participating in the pilot project and using the device as a learning tool for a subset of their students.

Speaking during the launch at United States International University-Africa, Learn Kernel's Director of Business Development, Erica Potter, described the device as a tool that will empower and transform education by bridging the digital gap among learners who do not have access to computers or smartphones in their schools.

“Learn Kernel is a tool that local communities are able to use and have been asking for a long time to propel their transformative education content. There are programs to help the youth, women, children and men in Kenya to increase their livelihood, knowledge and knowhow,” Erica said.

The schools will load local informational content into the devices before distributing them to their students, who will learn by watching videos, bringing them closer to the digital world. The school administration will decide on the content.

According to Jeffrey Potter, Chief Executive Officer of Learn Kernel, a wealth of content is available for various groups interested in using the device to educate their members. He says the company can create content for those who request it and load content provided by respective institutions.

“For schools, students can self-load the next course work that they do every couple of weeks and we expect to create an ecosystem that allows that no child in our schools in Kenya is going to be left behind, they are all going to have access to the digital world,” he told Nation.

Learn Kernel has infinite chapters and can store up to 16 hours of video for learners to watch offline. He says the tool has the same learning effectiveness as tablets and the ability to spread throughout a community with an excellent snowball effect.

While the primary schools that will participate in the pilot project are private, the founders hope to work with the government in the future through the Ministry of Education. Two universities will also have their students participate in the pilot program as part of their certificate courses.

Apart from schools, the Learn Kernel device is used to train members in the agricultural, medical, innovative, and entrepreneurship industries, thanks to its audio and video combination feature, which enables effective communication of complex information.

In January 2018, Learn Kernel was launched in Kenya to educate people working with the World Food Programme in the country. During this time, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) learned about it, received 100 Learn Kernels devices, and began testing their effectiveness.

Saliou Niassy, Head Technology Transfer Unit TTU at ICIPE, says that since then, they have developed several cartoon and video tutorials on agriculture that they load into the devices and distribute to their farmers.

“Agricultural technologies especially those that are nature based are not easy to disseminate but these devises help farmers to have direct access to knowledge in a very fast way. We have used several versions for technology dissemination, learning and training and also contributed in shaping their functionalities to make them more convenient to the users,” he says.

Learn Kernel is partnering with Social Innovation Africa, a leading economic, social, cultural, and governance think tank. The duo is poised to have a transformative impact toward a more inclusive and digitally empowered Kenya. The collaboration also aims to close the digital divide while expanding access to education, promising a bright future for learners, particularly those previously digitally excluded.

“Part of the pilot program is that participating institutions will assess and see whether there is an improvement in the performance after a given period of time with the Learn Kernel and without it, “says the Social Innovation Africa, Regional Director Kenneth Baraza Mpyisi.

Apart from Kenya, the Learn Kernel device is used in Tanzania, Honduras, the Philippines, and Venezuela, with the founders claiming that the tool was the first digital device with which learners in most rural areas interacted in less than three years of its implementation in other African countries.

According to them, the tool has demonstrated efficiency, efficacy, functionality, usability, and feasibility. Learn Kernel, in collaboration with its partners, is running the "EducaVie" project in Africa this year to raise awareness and create projects that enable new learning opportunities throughout Africa to improve learners' educational roadmap.

Social Media