In addition to university course projects, there are a variety of distance learning resources that are working to reach the Third World. Websites that offer free lectures or learning videos, share learning resources and publish open textbooks that make education available to everyone in the world.
The Khan Academy boasts over 4 000 different videos covering topics from elementary mathematics to science, history and the humanities. This project was created by Salman Khan, who started the academy with a mission to create a free virtual school for the world.
“I see a world where literally anyone with access to a computer and the Internet will be able to go to the Khan Academy,” Khan says.
He expects that within the next decade, technology and bandwidth will be cheap and advanced enough to educate Third World countries for free with Khan Academy learning materials. For students who struggle with online connections, KA Lite offline desktop software is available.
In addition to online schools such as Khan Academy, educational lecture collections offer Third World students access to the world’s greatest thinkers. YouTube EDU shares educational videos, from academic lectures to inspiring speeches. Learners can find primary and secondary school resources, as well as university level learning. And through TED, students can watch speeches from some of the greatest speakers in the world, exploring talks that inform and stir curiosity.
But it is not just video learning that is available to Third World students online. There are a variety of textbook projects open to developing communities as well. Textbooks are often out of reach for students in the Third World, but free online texts make them available. The University of Georgia’s Global Text Project publishes electronic texts for the exclusive use of the developing world, partnering with authors to provide an electronic version of books. Many of them are translated into different languages, including Chinese and Spanish. Other projects that make textbooks available online for free include Wikibooks, The Open Textbook Challenge, and the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources.
Mobile learning makes educational resources more accessible, delivering OCW, MOOCs, distance learning, and open textbooks to the hands of learners in the developing world. Online educational resources and open textbooks are useful to Third World students, but only if they can reach them. Only 20 percent of homes in the developing world have a computer with Internet access, but 90 percent of the world has access to a cellular connection of 2G or greater speeds. Four out of every five worldwide mobile connections are in poor countries, making it possible for students around the world to engage in mobile learning opportunities.
Mobile video start-up Vuclip is in a unique position to share educational videos with the developing world. More than 25 million video views are served to consumers worldwide each day by Vuclip, and they have recently added educational videos to the mix as well. These videos are specifically optimised for the mobile experience, and will automatically adjust to the resolution and features available on the user’s network and device. This makes it easier for learners on low-end devices with poor connections to utilise the videos. Featuring videos from Khan Academy and MIT Open Courseware, Vuclip’s EDU video offerings are very useful for Third World learners.
Distance education has the power to change lives in the Third World. It holds the potential to spread life-changing, and life-saving, information to learners around the world, even in developing communities.
With the world’s knowledge at their hands, learners in the Third World can create better lives for their families, and contribute to their communities. This is what distance learning does, and it’s spreading.
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