E-Learning for Kids (efK) is a global nonprofit foundation whose mission is to be “the source for childhood learning on the Internet, available from anywhere and without charge”.
efK produces and distributes online courses aimed primarily at children between 5 and 12 years of age. At the moment, most content is only available in English, but the Foundation always welcomes translators for other languages. This year only, children from all over the world followed 1.5 million efK courses. The feedback has been good enough that the foundation is now working hard to expand operation until they can reach 20 millions children. The program has several interesting characteristics which I discussed with efK member Hans-Jaap Moes.
Stop: Hans, 1.5 million courses is a lot! What do you feel the reason is?
Stop: Generally speaking, there’s a huge need in the world for e-learning. I like to think that the usage of eFK goes up because it is available to every student for free and something more democratic than this is not possible!
Stop: How are your courses structured, and why?
Hans: Each of our courses consists of one interactive module focused on one topic. The duration of a module is around 20 minutes. We chose to produce modules compatible with the International Baccalaureate curriculum (IB) for several reasons. One is acceptance: some critics see IB as some “primary education for the rich” but reality is that IB is already accepted and respected in 140 countries. Another reason for using IB is to send just the message that it’s time to put an end to such distinctions, that everybody deserves the best educational material available, not leftovers or imitations.
Stop: What’s your first priority now that you want to reach more children?
Hans: To reach those without online broadband access. A Cd-rom is available just for this case: we want to partner with other organizations to test, localize and distribute it worldwide.
Stop: What do teacher think of your courses? Do they feel threatened by them?
Hans: We have indeed met, in some cases, a fear that we want to replace teachers, and there will surely be others. But this is not the case. eFK wants to help teachers, not make them obsolete. We sure are convinced that schools should NOT disappear. We also provide to teachers tutorials on how to use our courses in the most effective way.
Stop: Would you like to share some positive feedback you got from teachers using eFK courses for their students?
Hans: Some teachers told me that they feel even more important now. They feel that their effectiveness increases just because of the help from these tools, which eventually help them to grow professionally. Teachers with very large classes (up to 75 children) also told me that, just thanks to this kind of support, they are more able than before to focus on individual children. Of course, you need a minimum infrastructure to use the courses.
Stop: Are your courses only used by children? Couldn’t they be a valid tool for adult education or children with special needs?
Hans: They certainly could! There are deaf teenagers using them with great satisfaction. We also already have many adult users, both in very common and unusual scenarios!
Stop: What do you mean by “unusual scenario”?
Hans: Some time ago the director of a prison told me that they are using eFK software. The reason is that many inmates, being illiterate, could not use normal textbooks. They could, however use eFK courses to at least learn to read and write, alone or in groups, according to their skills. Even in less extreme settings, however, eFK courses have already helped adult students.
Stop: All in all, eFK looks another example of what we saw with the JumPC: computers do have a place in primary education, when used with proper software and committed teachers.