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What is onecourse?
Andrew Ashe, CEO, onebillion
In developing countries, lack of funding can mean understaffed schools and under qualified teachers. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a rapidly increasing school-age population means that almost 69 million new teachers need to be trained by 2030. Classes tend to be very large, with the average class in Malawi containing 70 children, meaning children must share textbooks as well as the attention of the teacher. This impacts a child’s education and life chances.
onebillion is a non-profit organisation with the goal of bringing quality maths and literacy education to one billion children in need worldwide.
The innovation – onecourse – is modular, giving the child a personalized and comprehensive learning experience. The child learns at their own pace, building the literacy and numeracy skills gradually.
onecourse was recently announced joint winner of the Elon Musk sponsored $15 million Global Learning XPRIZE, a competition designed to challenge teams from around the world to develop a learning solution which allows children to teach themselves to read, write and do basic arithmetic. The competition involved a 15-month testing phase which saw 2,000 children from 141 rural villages in Tanzania using the finalists’ software until April 2019.
Research conducted by UNESCO and the World Food Program found that "at the beginning of the Global Learning XPRIZE field test, less than 10% of the participating children could read a single world in Swahili. After the field test, 45% of these children could read a word, with 30% reading full sentences."
The onecourse numeracy material is currently available in over 50 languages and starts from the very beginning with exercises such as sorting and matching. The carefully structured material is packed with colorful and engaging activities, which are designed to give practice in core math concepts. With guidance and instant feedback, children can progress through the next concepts and revise difficult topics.
The onecourse literacy material is ambitious, working towards children teaching themselves to read from the very beginning, gradually progressing to a point where they are able to read with comprehension. It is currently available in 3 languages – Swahili, English, and Chichewa – with more in the pipeline. The software is modular, meaning the course is well structured and the difficulty level is built up slowly in line with the child’s ability. Key learning units are also re-presented so children are able to repeat important lessons they struggle with.
One of the central goals is to instill a love of reading, so onecourse includes a graded library of stories suitable for different reading abilities. Stories from local authors also feature, to ensure a mix of tales from around the world.
Children with learning difficulties or memory issues can also benefit from onecourse, as it facilitates as much repetition and practice as they need.
Recent academic research also showed that boys and girls in Malawi learn maths equally well through onebillion's app, countering a global trend of gender differences.
onebillion has also developed onetab – a dedicated learning device that offers reading, writing and numeracy in one simple package. It is robust and comes in a durable protective case with an optional solar charger. It boots straight into onecourse, in the correct language, and gives extra tuition on tablet usage for first time users. onetab is already being implemented at scale in Malawi, Tanzania and the United States to keep children learning during the COVID-related school closures.
onebillion is now working with partners on strategies to scale onetab exponentially to reach children across the world, empowering them to learn autonomously whether they have access to formal schooling or not.
Apps tend to focus on one topic, for example learning timetables of phonics. Onebillion apps are a full, coherent course, starting right at the beginning and going step by step at the pace of the child. Many schools where the app is used have no textbooks and no access to any other training facilities. One billion apps means the teachers suddenly have the tools to meet the students' maths and literacy needs.Impact
In Malawi, Dr Nicola Pitchfork from the University of Nottingham, UK conducted a randomized control trial of the improvements to children’s maths ability after using the apps for 30 minutes per day for 8 weeks. The study showed significant gains in the children’s learning compared to the control group. In 2014, BBC Click reported from Malawi, that the maths apps helped children to, in just six weeks, make the same progress in maths as expected after 12-18 months of teaching. onebillion has recently been announced as one of the 5 finalists of the Global Learning XPRIZE (GLEXP). There are more than 100,000 users of the numeracy app.Scalability
The apps are mainly used in Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Cambodia and the UK. The literacy course is currently available in English, Swahili and Chichewa, while the maths course is available in over 50 languages. The tablet is designed to be intuitive so that children who have not used technology before can learn in a matter of minutes.