Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is an intergovernmental organization created by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in 1987 to promote the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources, and technologies. It supports governments, educational institutions, and civil society organizations to leverage the power of online learning to improve access to quality education. During the period (2015–2021), within the framework of its strategic plan and activities of the technology-enabled learning initiative, it developed a program for imparting digital education skills for lifelong learning for secondary and post-secondary students and teachers in the Commonwealth.
COL had a conceptual framework and seven modules already available on the Moodle Learning Management System in place. To provide more personalized self-learning environment COL wanted to develop a single point entry for the learners with levels of certification/badging and also manage the system optimally for reporting.
COL approached Tesseract Learning to develop a digital education platform that uses the existing resources and help improving the capacities of students and teachers to understand digital identities, create digital artefacts for learning, and develop a personal learning network for sharing and caring.
COL’s digital education framework positioned digital education as digital literacy+. The focus was to develop digital education leaders who influence through action in their local environment. Thus, the Commonwealth Digital Education Leadership Training in Action (C-DELTA) platform was developed to support students, teachers, and education practitioners in ministries of education in the Commonwealth nations.
Tesseract Learning’s solution to transform COL’s C-DELTA programme won a Gold Brandon Hall HCM Excellence award in 2021.
The existing online platform was upgraded to a brand-new digital learning solution and transformed into a place to learn, share, and demonstrate Digital Education skills by users. The courses in the LMS are integrated into a personalized system based on the type of user and level of knowledge on digital education skills. The platform used the single-sign-on (SSO) technology to connect with LMS to launch the courses. The platform generates in-depth analytics to show the overall performance of learners in the course and detailed assessment leading to a certificate. Students, teachers, practitioners, and policymakers can see the performance of a learner at any point of time.
So, how was the design of the programme done? What were the key considerations and limitations for the content and design? We will look at the details next.
Design of the Program
The C-DELTA programme is an example of how the best of information and communication technologies (ICT) and content-knowledge were integrated in a seamless manner to create a good repository of knowledge that could be easily disseminated to its users.
The content for C-DELTA was developed by COL through expert consultation and research, and peer reviewed by an international advisory group before it was transformed into a digital/online environment. The pedagogy adopted was flexible and based on self-learning, reflection, and online tests. There are seven modules for practitioners and teachers, of which three modules are developed at the foundational level that could be used by the students.
Every user goes through a pre-test before having access to the course content. They can take the post-test many times to improve their grades/score. There are three types of certificates available: Beginner, Intermediate, and Fluent. On completion of each of the modules, the user also gets a badge. Technologically, the platform uses a single-sign-on system to integrate Moodle learning management system in the backend, and all the business logic is implemented using Python. At the same time, the front-end is developed using HTML5 and ReactJS. The platform provides a responsive design for access in different devices and has a robust admin dashboard for reporting purposes.
The dashboard provides a quick snapshot for the learners to see their progress and the courses that need to be taken.
For the admin, the platform can generate different types of reports, as shown below. The administrator can look at the number of total users and active users at any given point of time. There is also a provision to provide the access to be backend to local implementation partner of COL, where a local admin can see the progress of the learners and provide additional support needed.
Delivery of the Programme
After the programme was designed, it was delivered seamlessly. The programme was designed for self-learning. So, anyone can register for the programme and learn to improve digital education skills and receive a certificate from COL. However, considering the need of the Commonwealth countries, COL adopted a train-the-trainer model to ensure better visibility and use of the C-DELTA platform.
Whenever there is an interest from a ministry, educational institution, or civil society organization in the Commonwealth countries, COL conducts training of trainers’ programme for identified teachers. Normally, this was done through a 3-day face-to-face workshop before COVID-19. During the COVID-19, COL moved the 3-day training to online training for three weeks. These teachers then further provide training/orientation in their school and recruit students and teachers to the platform. Each cohort is monitored by a local manager in the system, who can monitor the progress of the registered individuals in that cohort.
The project was not without its share of challenges. So, how did we overcome those challenges? We will look at it next.
The idea of digital education skills took some time to be appreciated, as people think digital literacy is enough. Once the concept paper and the content were ready, the major challenge was to convert the content into the course on a tight budget. So, the use of the existing Moodle learning management system was considered a cost-effective measure. The front-end development was also taken up in a multi-phase manner following the incremental agile development approach. This proved an efficient way of change management based on the proof-of-concept and responded to the needs of the stakeholders.
COL evaluated the C-DELTA and found the following positive outcomes:
- The unique open license (CC BY-SA) nature of the course makes it available for anyone to join free of cost and allows them to adopt the same. The course has been adopted by a FutureLearn MOOC, and several other institutions are using the content in their pre-service and in-service teaching and training programmes.
- The availability of course materials in the PDF format has also helped adoption and increased downloads.
- Wide implementation in several countries, including in collaboration with Ministries of Education, shows the impact of the programme.
- Case studies of success stories from two countries (Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) showcased how the course can change student involvement, including material translation by learners and peer teaching.
- Measurable improvement in digital education skills as revealed by the post-tests.
- The platform provides a measure to index countries with different levels of digital education skills. Analysis shows, on average, there is about 20% improvement in post-test score after taking the self-learning on the C-DELTA platform.
The C-DELTA has become a flagship programme of COL and according to Education Specialist, eLearning, it will continue to be supported in the new strategic plan period (2021–2027). While the implementation in the countries that are currently using the platform will continue, COL plans to scale this to at least 12 more countries. From the implementation in different countries through different partners, it has been noticed that collaboration with the Ministries has a more significant impact. However, working with educational institutions to adopt C-DELTA as a non-credit course is helping increase the visibility of the programme and COL.
As of now, six educational institutions in four countries have adopted C-DELTA as a non-credit course, which will help learners in those institutions to show their scores received on the C-DELTA platform on their official transcript. This is one way that COL intends to focus in the coming years. Education Specialist, eLearning at COL says, while the content will be reviewed and updated as required, technology is the platform’s backbone to scale digital education skills training for large number of users, and thus, the platform will be continuously developed following agile practice.
The C-DELTA platform has been used in more than 50 countries. Now, the platform has over 17,000 users with 42% successfully receiving a certificate. The C-DELTA programme was amongst the finalists for the Falling Walls 2020 award in the Digital Education category. C-DELTA has received accreditation from the South African Council of Educators as equivalent to 35 continuous personal and professional teacher development (CPTD) points. Many institutions use C-DELTA as a resource for teacher training, and it has served the organizational mandate to promote equitable quality education for all.
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