Open Digital Learning Labs

A program for educational & civic ICT access by tMinds, MUST & FAIR

Background

The following is a short introduction to a program for educational & civic ICT access which is run in two separate areas of Malawi, partnering with tMinds and Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) in each their region: The Northern Region and Southern Region, respectively.

What does it provide?

The program provides ICT equipment, such as desktop and laptop PCs, as well as maintenance, quality educational contents, training and take-back of e-waste.

Students, teachers and community members, can use the labs in order to practice basic ICT skills and access free interactive educational and knowledge resources. None of these activities require an internet connection.

How does it work?

A lab consists of 30 (recommended) desktop or laptop computers. It is setup as a learning environment with one or two students per computer, and facilities for a trainer to instruct using a projector.

Each computer is equipped with the latest Open Source software, including modern office suites, programming utilities, satisfying the requirements of the MSCE syllabus. Digital contents from the server can be accessed from each computer via the local network.

The contents vary from elementary level up to tertiary level. It can satisfy both a self-driven learning process, as well as supplementing curricular secondary school activities. Contents include interactive exercises, individual learning programs (without internet requirements), thousands of videos, documentary movies and general access to over 60,000 book titles and over 5 million encyclopedia entries. All contents and software come with a non-commercial license.

Each participating Lab pays an annual fee of MK 5,000 per computer. For a lab with 30 computers , this would be MK 150,000 per year. Initially, payment is made for the first 3 years. The combined cost for maintenance for the first 3 years is comparable to the cost of  a single new computer.

Roadmap

ICT equipment requires maintenance and upgrades to meet ever-improving standards. By participating in a program, rather than purchasing the equipment, the Lab will thus benefit from the maintenance services provided by the program. Participating Labs will be entitled to complete overhauls, once existing equipment is outdated. Updates to software and contents will be conducted on a frequent basis.

The Program will study its usage and impact and undergo continuous refinement. In addition, joint activities and training for Lab coaches, teachers and management will be provided to the extent that the economy of the Program and external actors supports this.

Who can participate?

The program targets secondary schools in the Northern Region, as well as non-profit community-oriented organizations. The program requires a furnished and secure physical space, electricity and a passion for using ICT to its full potential.

Who are we?

Maintenance and updates are provided by tMinds and MUST, both university-based associations working with community outreach, research, entrepreneurship and internship opportunities for ICT students from the universities. Equipment is refurbished and provided by FAIR Denmark, a Danish-based civic society working for better ICT access in Malawi.