Page 14 - Campus Technology, October/November 2019
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ONLINE LEARNING dian schaffhauser Distance Learning Without Computers Arizona State University is finding out what refugee farmers in Uganda and online course creators have to teach each other about making do with very little. WHILE ONLINE COURSES can offer the promise of education to a worldwide audience, what happens when the students have neither computing devices nor an internet connec- tion? That’s the challenge that Education for Humanity faces in delivering access to higher education for refugees and displaced people. This Arizona State University initiative, run by EdPlus, has multiple arms: a global “fresh- man academy” that provides credit-bearing online university courses intended to serve as a bridge to enrollment at local universities in the student’s host country; modules to help people gain English language skills and professional competencies; and full access to ASU Online, with its 175 online degree and certificate programs. The work has taught the university how to do a lot with little — particularly in the case of a pilot program serving refugees in Uganda. Uganda hosts an estimated 1.1 million ref- ugees with “some of the most progressive refugee policies of anywhere in the world,” according to Nick Sabato, director of Educa- tion for Humanity. People have freedom of movement, access to health care and educa- tion, and they’re given a small plot of land to do subsistence agriculture. Working with the United Nations Refugee Agency and on-the-ground humanitarian agency Windle International, Arizona State developed a project plan to offer an agribusi- ness course in the Nakivale refugee settle- ment in southwest Uganda — a region well suited, Sabato said, for agriculture. Agribusiness 250, an introductory course that covers the economic principles of agri- culture, has been taught by Professor Jeff Englin for several years at the university. When Education for Humanity asked him to modify the course for refugee students, who had expressed a demand for this kind of training, he jumped at the chance. “It was an opportunity to pitch in and help these folks get some education to get a more productive life — and it seemed like a great thing to do,” he told an ASU reporter. However, there were a few challenges: fig- uring out how to deliver the course where internet was elusive and modifying the cur- riculum to work in the constraints of the pro- gram. A Course in a Backpack For course delivery, Education for Humanity turned to the Solar Powered Educational Learning Library (SolarSPELL), a solar-pow- ered, offline digital library that was invented by Laura Hosman, an associate professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in 14 CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | Oct/Nov 2019 Photos: Courtesy of Arizona State University 

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