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  1. 1.  -­‐  An  Altruist-­‐built,   Ultra-­‐Cheap  MOOC  Pla6orm:     Building  an  Open  Content  Educa?on  site  for  Rural   South  Asian  Students   Ragib  Hasan   Assistant  Professor   University  of  Alabama  at  Birmingham   and  Founder  –  The  project   2013  ISIF  Award  Winner  for   Innova?ons  in  Educa?on   BDNOG1:  May  24,  2014  
  2. 2. (pronounced  Shik-­‐khok),  is  a   Bengali  language  word  that   means,  literally,  “One  who   teaches/educates”  
  3. 3.  was  founded  by  Dr.  Ragib   Hasan,  a  computer  scien?st  and   professor  from  the  University  of   Alabama  at  Birmingham,  originally  from   Bangladesh.       Shikkhok’s  volunteer  teachers  include   researchers,  educators,  and   professionals/experts  in  various  fields,   who  are  spread  all  across  the  world.  
  4. 4. How  to  change  the  world  with  li5le  investment   (using  the  power  of  the  Internet  and  Crowds)?   Low-­‐income  and  rural  students  in  South  Asia  with  limited  knowledge  of   English  do  not  have  access  to  quality  educa?on.     How  can  we  provide  top-­‐quality  educaBon  at  a  very  low  cost  to  the   millions  of  students  in  rural  Bangladesh  and  India?      
  5. 5. Shikkhok’s  soluBon   •  Develop  a  highly  localized  MOOC  with  a   hybrid  Internet-­‐non  Internet-­‐based   dissemina?on  model   •  Use  the  crowdsourcing  model  for  both   content  development,  deployment,  and   marke?ng,  spending  as  li5le  as  possible  
  6. 6. Who  we  are?   Educators:  Volunteers  spread  all  around  the   world  who  are  passionate  about  sharing  their   knowledge  in  na?ve  languages       Students:  Underprivileged  students  facing   language  and  technological  barriers  
  7. 7. •  Bengali  is  the  4th  largest  language  in  terms  of  na?ve  speakers   (250-­‐300  million  speakers  in  Bangladesh  and  India)   •  Students  in  rural  areas  oeen  do  not  have  access  to  quality   teachers,  books,  or  good  schools.   •  Higher  educa?on  opportuni?es  and  content  is  scarce  in   Bangladesh  and  India   –  Only  50,000  opening  in  Bangladeshi  universi?es  and  colleges   for  incoming  freshmen,  while  there  are  more  than  300,000   eligible  students   –  Many  students  drop  out  due  to  lack  of  cheap  higher  educa?on   opportuni?es  or  extreme  poverty   Background  
  8. 8. Background:  InformaBon   Technology  to  the  rescue  …   •  While  regular  compu?ng  devices  are  not  common/ affordable  in  rural  areas,  Mobile  phones  and  hence   Mobile  internet  have  significantly  high  penetra?on  in   Bangladesh,  even  in  rural  areas  (100  million  mobile   subscribers  as  of  early  2013,  in  a  160  million  popula?on)   •  A  mobile-­‐op?mized  Bengali  language  MOOC  can  serve   as  an  alterna?ve  educa?on  pla6orm  for  rural  and  non-­‐ tradi?onal  students   •  And  an  innova?ve  non-­‐Internet  based  delivery   mechanism  can  allow  rural  students  with  no  internet   access  to  get  high  quality  educa?on  
  9. 9. Why  reinvent  the  wheel?  Because,   Exis?ng  MOOCs  are  not  enough   •  has  208  courses,  ALL  provided  in  English  language   •  The  Khan  Academy’s  excellent  online  educa?onal  videos  are  also  in   English   •  Unfortunately,  Bengali  transla?on  of  Khan  Academy’s  videos  are  not   popular  among  the  students  in  Bangladesh  and  India  (most  video   lessons  have  an  average  of  only  100-­‐120  views  in  1  year.  Example:  hkp://       •  Anecdotal  reasons  include  mismatch  between  the  lessons  and   academic  syllabus  in  Bangladesh/India,  cultural  mismatch/”lost  in   transla?on”/ar?ficial  and  literal  transla?on     –  As  a  comparison,’s  Culinary  arts  course  videos  received  an  average  of  300+  views  within  1   week  of  publica?on  (hkps://  
  10. 10. Project  Requirements   •  Educa?on  medium  must  be  in  Bengali   •  Content  must  be  highly  opBmized  for  mobile  phone  browsers   with  limited  and  slow  data  plans   •  Lessons  must  be  short,  include  both  text  and  mul?media,  and   have  easy-­‐to-­‐use  student  registra?on,  feedback,  and   evalua?on  schemes   •  Must  be  highly-­‐available,  low  access  ?mes  even  in  Bangladesh   and  India   •  Must  be  designed,  delivered,  and  publicized  at  a  very  low  cost,   and  provided  to  students  for  free   •  Must  not  depend  only  on  the  Internet  to  deliver  content.  
  11. 11. IdenBfying  the  Challenges   •  Technical:  Iden?fying  the  best  tools  and   design  principles   •  Team:  Organizing  and  coordina?ng  a   distributed  team   •  Stakeholder:  Gepng  effec?ve  feedback   and  aken?on  informa?on  from  the  users  
  12. 12. IdenBfying  the  Challenges   Cost:  Popular  MOOCs  such  as  have  millions  of  dollars   in  venture  capital  funding.     – Coursera  itself  has  $22  million  funding   – Such  funding  is  unlikely  for  educa?ng   rural  students  in  Bangladesh  and  India   – Marke?ng/adver?sing  such  a  site  to   the  masses  is  also  expensive.  
  13. 13. IdenBfying  the  Challenges?   •  Overcoming  the  language  barrier:  Students   with  limited  English  language  proficiency   cannot  u?lize  exis?ng  MOOCs  such  as  edX,   udacity,  or  Coursera,  so  how  do  we  ensure   maximum  impact  for  such  students?   •  Finding  teachers:  How  to  gather  teachers  with   the  right  exper?se  and  technical  know-­‐how?   •  Reaching  stakeholders:  How  to  publicize  and   deploy  content  to  the  intended  audience?  
  14. 14. The  Shikkhok  Solu?on   •  Explore  Human  Computer  InteracBon   principles  and  methods  to  effec?vely  reach   the  rural  students   •  Take  extreme  penny-­‐pinching  measures  to   develop  the  pla6orm  at  a  low  cost   •  Use  social  media  markeBng  strategies  to   publicize  the  service  to  the  target  audience   •  U?lize  non-­‐Internet  based  supply  chains  to   deliver  content  to  the  rural  students  
  15. 15. Design  Strategies   Design     –  Use  an  itera?ve  model  for  crea?ng  the  most   effec?ve  user  interface  which  has  to  be  mobile   friendly,  less-­‐graphics  intensive,  and  suitable  for   both  smart  and  non-­‐smart  cell-­‐phone  browsing   –  Follow  a  User  Centric  Design  methodology  by   constantly  evalua?ng  user  responses  to  lessons   and  modifying  teaching  tools  accordingly  
  16. 16. Design  Strategies   Development     –  Use  rapid  prototyping  and  design  methods  to   develop  courses  (lessons  and  lectures  augmented   per  user  feedback  and  view  counts)   –    Use  ultra-­‐low  cost  and  open  source  tools  in  a   crowdsourced  model   –  Use  Social  Media  marke?ng  for  free,  leverage  the   power  of  cloud  to  distribute  content  
  17. 17. Design  Strategies   Evalua?on:   –  For  evalua?on  of  lecture  style  and  content,   measure  user  responsiveness  and  aken?on  span  for   each  lecture  (use  webpage  stats  to  calculate  how   long  users  stayed  at  each  lecture  page,  how  many   users  came  back  to  view  further  lectures,  i.e.  user   reten?on)   –  Measure  user  engagement  by  correla?ng  lecture   views  with  par?cipa?on  in  quizzes  associated  with   lectures  
  18. 18. (Ultra-­‐cheaply)  Designing   •  Over  summer  2012,  we  rapidly  developed  pla6orm   •  Total  development  cost:  only  US  $15.00   •  Total  number  of  registered  students  (first  6  months)   =  20,000  (aeer  20  months,  =  70,000)   •  That  is,  cost  per  registered  student  =  US  $0.00075   only!   •  Total  number  of  courses  designed  =  55   •  5500  lecture  views  per  day,  from  4000  unique   visitors  
  19. 19. (Ultra-­‐cheaply)  Designing   •  To  minimize  development  costs  –   –  Adapted  open  source  CMS  (Wordpress)  to  provide   authoring  pla6orm   –  Mobile-­‐op?mized  front  end   –  Host  all  media/videos  on  free  online  repositories  such  as   Youtube,  Dropbox,  imgur   –  Use  Google  forms  and  embedded  scripts  to  automate   user  registra?on  and  MCQ  quiz  processing   •  Cost:  Domain  name:  $5/year,  100  MB  low-­‐cost  host:   $10/year  (Development  (mostly  wordpress  theme  tweaking)  done  by  one  volunteer  for   free)  
  20. 20. (Ultra-­‐cheaply)  Designing   Site  design  and  graphics:  Crowdsourced  via   Social  network  contacts  (received  5  submission   from  a  volunteer  within  a  few  hours  of  request   on  Facebook)  
  21. 21. Insight:  Social  Media  is  extremely   effecBve  GeVng  content  and  volunteers   To  gather  a  team  of  volunteer  teachers:   – I  posted  a  request  on  Facebook   – 10  volunteers  signed  up  in  1  day   – Two  courses  were  developed  by  day  2   – By  week  2,  5  courses  were  running   – By  week  8,  15  courses  were  started   – By  month  8,  25  courses  running,  with  5  courses   completed  
  22. 22. Design  principles  and  strategies  for  online   educaBon  via  a  mobile  phone   Plain  text  (not  mul?media)  is  s?ll  the  king  of   content   – Users  of  mobile  phones  have  to  pay  per-­‐KB,  so   less  images  is  beker   – For  videos,  youtube  based  low-­‐res  streams  and   downloadable  3gp  formats  work  the  best  
  23. 23. Reaching  rural  students:  An   InnovaBve  DistribuBon  Channel   •  A  major  challenge  was  to  create  a  non-­‐ Internet  based  distribuBon  channel  to  reach   rural  students  without  Internet  access   •  SoluBon:  Develop  innova?ve  distribu?on   channels.  
  24. 24. InnovaBve  DistribuBon  Channels:   Using  exisBng  Social  InteracBons   Our  Approach:   Approach  1:     •  Create  short  3gp  version  videos;  put  a  collec?on  of  courses  on   USB  s?cks,  give  out  to  phone  vendors/shops  in  rural  bazaars.     •  Students  visi?ng  the  bazaars  can  load  the  videos  on  their   phones  for  free  or  for  a  nominal  fee  (charged  by  the  vendors,   not  us)   •  (We  found  this  model  to  be  very  useful,  as  rural  bazaar  phone   shops  are  already  used  as  a  distribu?on  hub  for  music  videos/ songs,  and  people  are  used  to  going  there  to  load  videos  on   their  phones)  
  25. 25. InnovaBve  DistribuBon  Channels:  Cheap   compute  boards  for  Shikkhok  Kits   Approach  II   –  Use  ultra-­‐cheap  Raspberry  PI  computers   (Each  Pi  costs  only  $35)   –  We  put  a  large  number  of  courses  on  SD   cards  on  each  PI,  add  a  donated  keyboard,   mouse,  and  ship  this  to  rural  schools.  (No   internet  needed,  we  preload  everything   on  the  SD  cards,  and  make  a  kiosk-­‐like   interface  easy  for  even  non-­‐computer   users)   –  The  schools  can  hook  the  Pis  directly  with   regular  TVs,  and  have  the  video  lectures   delivered  to  students  
  26. 26. SoluBons  -­‐  User  engagement   strategies  that  work  …   To  engage  users  in  easy  discussion,  integra?on  with   exis?ng  social  networks  is  the  best  strategy:   –  Using  wordpress  na?ve  commen?ng:  about  2/3  comments   per  lecture   –  Using  Facebook  comments:  at  least  30  “like”  and  5-­‐10   comments,  ques?ons  per  lecture  
  27. 27. SoluBons  -­‐  MarkeBng  strategies:   uBlizing  social  media   Social  media  based  “free”  marke?ng  campaigns   worked  very  well   •  Did  not  use  regular  adver?sements,  rather  used   Facebook  and  Twiker  to  publicize  Shikkhok   •  Got  3000  fans  on  its  Facebook  page  within  a  few  days   •  Each  lecture  announcement  is  viewed  approx.  by  4200   people  within  one  hour  or  so  (stats  via  FB  Insight)   •  Total  fans  as  of  May  24,  2014:  24,579  
  28. 28. What  we  have  achieved   We  demonstrated  that  localized  strategies  work   beker  than  globalized  universal  MOOCs  (local   language  based  and  cultural  context-­‐aware   content  is  more  effec?ve)   •  E.g.,  Unlike  Khan  Academy  Bangla,  we  did  not  translate   exis?ng  MOOCs,  rather  developed  localized  content  from   scratch,  which  turned  out  to  be  more  useful  to  students.   (our  video  lectures  viewed  many  ?mes  more  than  the   translated  content)  
  29. 29. What  we  have  achieved   •  We  developed  a  set  of  tried-­‐and-­‐tested  design   principles  for  educa?onal  content  delivery  over   mobile  internet  to  rural  students   •  Evaluated  various  site  design  and  lecture  content  to   determine  the  best  possible  strategy  and  content  formats   that  serve  the  mobile-­‐internet-­‐using  rural  students  
  30. 30. What  we  have  achieved   •  Our  user  centric  design  and  constant  feedback/ evalua?on  loops  allowed  us  to  detect  strategies   that  work  (mobile  op?mized  video,  Facebook   Integra?on)  and  that  do  not  work  (e.g.  live   sessions  with  teachers  using  Google  HangOut)   •  Constant  user  engagement  strategy  allowed  us  to   improve  our  lecture  content  (lectures  with  lower   user  reten?on/aken?on  span  are  re-­‐wriken/ developed)  
  31. 31. What  we  have  achieved:  A  micro-­‐ lesson  model  that  YOU  can  use   Our  biggest  contribu?on  is  the  generalized  set   of  design  and  evalua?on  principles  for  the   development  of  a  localized  micro-­‐lesson  model   that  can  be  effec?vely  used  by  e-­‐learning   systems  in  other  languages  in  other  parts  of  the   developing  world.  
  32. 32. The  results?  Some  numbers  …  
  33. 33. Results  –  some  numbers  …   •  Since  it’s  start  on  August  1,  2012,  has   –  50  online  courses  on  diverse  topics  such  as   Bioinforma?cs,  Neuroscience,  Computer   Programming,  Finance  101,  Calculus,  Cloud   Compu?ng,  Cancer  Nanotechnology   –  Total  number  of  students  registered  for  all   courses:  70,000  (actual  student  count  larger   since  registra?on  isn’t  mandatory)   •  The  Computer  Security101  course  alone  has  3000   registered  students   –  Total  number  of  quizzes/tests  taken:  50,000+  
  34. 34. Results  –  some  numbers  …   •  Total  unique  visitor  count  in  in  20  months:  1  million   •  Total  lecture  views  in  20  months:  3  million   •  80%  visitors  are  from  rural  Bangladesh,  using   mobile  phone  browsers   •  is  gepng  5000-­‐6000  unique  visitors   a  day  
  35. 35. Quarterly  Visitor  data  as  for   2012-­‐2014  
  36. 36. Results,  that  ma5er   •  is  the  first  e-­‐learning  MOOC   site  in  Bengali  language,  completely  free  and   open  for  everyone   •  Students  from  rural  Bangladesh  and  India   regularly  contact  us  to  express  their   sa?sfac?on:   –  “I  wanted  to  study  Computer  Science,  but  had  to  drop   out  of  school  due  to  poverty.  has  given   me  the  chance  to  enter  the  wonderful  world  of   computer  science  once  again”  –  tes?mony  from  a  user   from  Jamalpur,  Bangladesh  
  37. 37.’s  Awards   Winner  of  2013  Google  RISE  Award     Winner  of  2013  Award  for   InnovaBon  in  Learning  and   LocalizaBon     Winner  of  2013  Deutsche  Welle  Best   of  Blogs  and  Online  InnovaBon   Award     Winner  of  2013  Internet  Society   Community  Grant    
  38. 38. Future  goals   •  To  create  a  complete  set  of  courses  for  grade  6-­‐10  of   Bangladeshi  school  curriculum   –  Project  ?meline:  Summer  2014   –  Technical  content  development  begins  from  May  2014   –  Content  distribu?on  and  pilot  studies  in  several  Bangladeshi   schools:  September-­‐October  2014.   •  To  create  a  complete  set  of  courses  for  grade  11-­‐12  of   Bangladeshi  highschool  and  college  curriculum  (Fall-­‐winter  2014)   •  Reach  at  least  200,000  students  and  100  schools  by  the  end  of   2014  
  39. 39. Summary:  What  did  we  learn  from   •  Lesson  1:  It  is  possible  to  design  successful  MOOC  e-­‐learning  sites  at   ultra-­‐cheap  cost  via  an  altruis?c  volunteer  model  (Shikkhok  cost  only   $15  to  develop  and  deploy  compared  to  $22  million  for  Coursera)   •  Lesson  2:  Aken?on  to  HCI  design  principles  such  as  user  centric  design   can  allow  beker  reten?on  of  users  and  improved  aken?on  to  content   •  Lesson  3:  To  reach  rural  students,  focus  should  be  more  on  non-­‐ Internet  based  textual  content  designed  for  low-­‐bandwidth  mobile   phone  browsers   •  Lesson  4:  Localized,  na?ve  language  educa?on  is  more  successful  than   the  one-­‐course-­‐fits-­‐all  approach  by  many  well-­‐known  MOOC  sites  
  40. 40. Ending  thought?  (My  X)     Educate  millions  using     ultra-­‐low-­‐cost  Technology   IS  possible  
  41. 41. To  view  in  ac?on   •  Please  visit:  hkp://  
  42. 42. Thank  You!       Ques?ons??