Audio-Class System education

Automating education to reach out-of-school adolescents with low technology access

The Colombian education system is struggling to support an unprecedented influx of students in the midst of a global pandemic. To respond to the crisis, the IRC created an innovative concept called the Audio-Class System (ACS) that can automatically share educational content to any device.
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Audio-Class System is at the Prototype stage

economic-wellbeing

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In Colombia where at least 4 million Venezuelans have crossed the border to seek refuge, the Colombian education system is struggling to support the unprecedented influx of students.  In 2019 alone, there was a 509% increase in school enrollment for Venezuelan students in the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing problems in the educational system, especially for youth. In Colombia, all in-person education programs have closed their doors to students since April 2020, and they are not expected to fully reopen until an undisclosed time in 2021. While the Colombian Ministry of Education quickly pivoted and digitized educational content to mitigate learning loss and ensure students are learning in the home, not all students have access to stable internet or laptops to continue their education. Children displaced from their homes and those still living in rural, crisis-affected areas are hit the hardest by the pandemic closures due to their lack of technology access, amplifying the effects of existing learning inequalities. In addition to poor educational outcomes, out-of-school children in Colombia have increased exposure to recruitment to armed forces, anti-personnel mines, gender-based violence, and exploitation. Existing flexible learning programming in Colombia are faced with the challenge of how to reach this vulnerable student population and keep them engaged. 

To respond to the crisis, the IRC created an innovative concept called the Audio-Class System (ACS) that can automatically share educational content to any device. The system uses audio as its main educational media because audio can be shared across all devices, be it radio, feature phone, smartphone or tablet. The ACS prototype provides interactive material through the use of gamified learning, automated chatbot interactions, engaging educational audio content, and a teacher dashboard. We believe this platform has the potential to bridge the educational gap by reaching children in rural and urban areas, augmenting access to quality educational materials, and providing interactive learning activities.

How does it work? 

Audio-Class uses automated systems such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) for feature phones and WhatsApp Chatbots for smartphones to deliver a range of educational content, including literacy, numeracy exercises, and creative storytelling homework. The system defaults to audio to cater to low-to-medium technology devices, instead of high-tech devices, such as computers that need strong internet connection. ACS is designed to meet the needs of children through: 

  • Creating interactive learning content that provides instant feedback. If a student is stuck or selects the wrong answer to a question, the system can reply with more information, guidance, and support. Using the dashboard, teachers can review and send customized feedback to each student, improving the important teacher-student learning relationship.
  • Sharing content that is motivating and exciting. The system is gamified and able to track points based on responses. We use audio storytelling to create educational content that is entertaining where children might have no internet, cable television or other forms of amusement while inside. 
  • Automated supportive messaging that can help caregivers and students, as well as teachers, ensure they are taking care of themselves during these trying times with the use of motivating and uplifting messaging. 
  • Automated lesson delivery that adapts to each device on its own. Teachers can now spend their time doing what they do best: teaching! They can follow up with their students and cater to their learning needs by looking at the student dashboard, instead of calling each one by one. 
What’s the potential?

Using automated technology, we can dramatically reach more children and actively create valuable at-home educational experiences. We will be designing the foundation of a system that can be used across various education programs, not only in Colombia, but in other countries as well. The system will be able to adapt different educational curriculum, both for formal and informal educational programming and for multiple users such as children, teachers, and caregivers. The Audio-Class System is not a technology-only solution, but is meant to support existing learning instruction such as learning at home after school and increasing engagement during remote learning.

An automated system that uses low-to-medium technology that is affordable and readily available to the population will increase access to continued learning at home and help maximize learning outcomes for students. Equally, the focus on a multi-channel approach will extend the reach to last-mile vulnerable learners in hard-to-access areas via the use of radio.

March 2021 | End of prototype

The system is designed and a foundation is built. 

December 2020 | Begin prototyping

The team will begin testing and adapting two weeks worth of curriculum content with 100 students and 4 teachers in both rural and urban areas of Colombia.

August 2020 | Partnership with Norwegian Refugee Council

Official partnership between the IRC and the NRC to design and build the Audio-Class System.

June 2020 | Design Sprint completed

  • The team completes research, prototypes and tests various ideas. The ACS concept is created and shared across organizations for buy-in.
Resource

The Airbel Impact Lab at IRC is a team of researchers, strategists and innovators committed to the accelerated design, rigorous evaluation and cost-effective scaling of the most impactful solutions supporting people affected by crisis.