In his state of the nation address given in February 2019, President Ramaphosa committed to digitising the public school education system over the next six years. Speaking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, he acknowledged that new technologies are continually emerging.
As part of the government’s ‘Framework for Skills for a Changing World’, educators and learners will receive training to help them confidently respond to and engage with emerging technologies for education.
To help schools grasp a better understanding of what this means to them, SchoolAdvisor chatted with Snapplify who have been preparing schools for this leap.
Q1: What does Ramaphosa’s statement mean for schools and what effect will it have on them?
Digital education is a great leveller, opening up learning opportunities for everyone. For all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, e-learning will equip them with essential skills for today’s changing world, allowing them to keep up with the rapid pace of digital development.
For schools that have been previously disadvantaged, the effects of this policy will be even greater. Schools that have battled with access to resources (as a result of location, poor infrastructure, or lack of funds) will now have thousands of ebooks available to them.
Another huge benefit for schools is a much easier procurement process. Ordering and buying physical textbooks can be difficult (deliveries take time, some titles go out of stock, and dealing with multiple providers can be cumbersome), but ebooks can be purchased (or borrowed from a digital library) with the click of a button. Plus, students will always have the most up-to-date editions of the book as publishers are able to review and update their ebooks with less hassle than traditional print textbooks that require printing, storage, transport, etc.
Q2: Why does Ramaphosa want to go digital? What are the benefits of e-learning versus traditional learning?
In 2019, one-third of the sub-Saharan African population owned smartphones. In some places, mobile phones are more ubiquitous than access to electricity. For many young people today, e-learning is not only an effective way to learn, but it is also how they want to learn.
In addition to meeting learners where they are already at, educational approaches must be adapted if the education system is to prepare students for today’s working world – a very different world to what it was 50 years ago. By giving students a full range of experiences with technology from a young age, e-learning allows them to develop ICT-related skills that are essential for the 21st-century workplace.
A wider range of content types – including notes, videos, worksheets, audio files and interactive media – also makes new information easier to digest, and allows for a more diverse approach to teaching as educators recognise that each student learns in their own unique way. All these factors work to improve educational outcomes.
Q3: What are the potential challenges that schools may face transitioning to e-learning?
In our work with over 1000 schools across Africa, we have sometimes seen resistance or reluctance from educators when it comes to using digital tools in their classrooms – most often from a lack of confidence regarding the technology. This hesitation is understandable and is why it’s particularly important that this skills gap is addressed.
Educators must receive the training and support they need to be able to adopt e-learning successfully in schools. Ultimately, our partner schools have found that embracing digital education is not as daunting as some initially believe it to be, especially if they are given the requisite support to take that step.
Q4: How are schools in southern Africa currently implementing e-learning on campus? Where do they begin?
Many schools are choosing to implement e-learning, but what this looks like differs from school to school, depending on resources and infrastructure. For example, one school may have tablets for each student to use; whereas another may offer digital education through a shared computer lab, which students access during specific lessons. Whatever a school’s ICT setup, e-learning is possible with a device (or devices) and access to the internet.
For schools with connectivity challenges, Snapplify’s Snappbox offers a way to bring e-learning to unconnected classrooms. The Snappbox, an award-winning hardware distribution solution for ebooks, can be preloaded with digital content. Students can then download locally stored ebooks directly from their school’s Snappbox, instead of the internet.
Earlier this year, we lowered the barrier to entry even further by launching Engage Basic – a free version of our Engage e-learning platform. This has allowed schools to sign up, explore the platform and use the core features without an upfront payment. Engage Basic comes with a variety of digital education tools, including 24/7 access to a digital library, which includes thousands of free ebooks, study resources and leisure reading books that students can begin to use immediately.
Q5: What is Snapplify’s experience with helping schools to transition into e-learning?
After you register, we get on the road or on the phone to discuss your school’s needs with you directly. Each school is different and should be aided to find the solution that fits them best.
According to Sunward Park High School’s Life Sciences, Physical Science and Natural Science Educator, Laurence Keulder, the ‘visual and interactive enhancement of lessons’ was a key motivating factor in the decision to transform their classrooms to include digital teaching.
Other schools are looking for digital tools that will specifically improve the experience of learning for special needs students. Oakley House, a remedial school in Cape Town, for example, uses the accessibility features of the Snapplify Reader app (text-to-speech, large-print and dyslexia fonts) to support learning: ‘The technology makes it a lot easier to target those needs,’ shared Oakley House teacher Chanica Gibhard.
Snapplify’s robust digital library gives students 24-hour access to free content, and schools can also grow their library collection by purchasing additional ebooks from leading local and international publishers. ‘I like how it is so simple to get a book and not have to go out to get one,’ remarked a Grade 6 learner at Curro Durbanville, while Charmaine Rossouw, Grade 5 Subject Specialist and Planner at the same school, uses the e-library in class to enhance her lessons – from comprehension and language concept activities to speaking, reading, and creative writing.
Ultimately, we’ve seen how technology can enhance the educational offering that educators are already giving. As more and more classrooms are transforming to include blended and digital learning, we’re working hard to provide high-quality e-learning tools that empower educators to do what they do best: teach.
Q6: What distinguishes Snapplify’s e-learning solutions?
Other solutions in the market offer access to either prescribed ebooks, or digital library solutions, but we are the only provider that enables access to a full range of solutions in one place. Other solutions are also often not built in ways that reduce the data and connectivity requirements of digital education in ways that are essential for South African and African schools.
Moreover, Snapplify’s solutions are industry celebrated and globally recognised for their innovation in technology. Snapplify has been recognised by the London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) as one of the Companies to Inspire Africa (2017 and 2019), and been the recipient of two prestigious awards at the 2019 Reimagine Education Conference in San Francisco. Earlier this year, Snapplify also took first place at the South African semi-finals for the Global EdTech Startups Awards.
Speaking about our Reimagine Education Award win, Nunzio Quacquarelli, CEO of QS Quacquarelli Symonds and co-founder of Reimagine Education said that the judges believed that ‘learners in Africa will benefit hugely – and in their millions – from Snapplify’s innovative approach to enhancing e-learning. It is user-friendly, learner-centric, and is doing admirable work to bring more and more schools into the digital age.’
With an established presence in the digital education market across Africa, Snapplify has been working with private and public schools to roll out e-learning solutions that fit a variety of needs. Snapplify also works with key stakeholders like the GDE and WCED to help bring technology and e-learning to public schools in line with the South African government’s goals for 2025.
If you would like to get in touch with Snapplify about any of their above-mentioned solutions for schools, please contact Sharon Lock on firstname.lastname@example.org