The Shikkhok.com project aims to provide free online education and high-quality courses in Bengali language to rural and disadvantaged students in Bangladesh and India. The Shikkhok.com platform brings together educators and researchers from all over the world for to create free-of-cost content in Bengali language on both basic and advanced topics, to develop a model for ultra-low-cost online education for students in the developing world and to serve as an open, free, and cheaper alternative to traditional educational institutions.
Shikkhok.com currently has 31 courses ranging from school to university level, which have about 25,000 registered students and twice as many unregistered students (registration is not mandatory to access the free courses). Every day, 2000 students from Bangladesh and India access 6000 lectures on average. Since August 2012, Shikkhok has delivered 1.3 million video lectures to students. Everything developed by Shikkhok is completely free, and the Bengali language lectures are given away to all students.
Besides the online based dissemination scheme, Shikkhok.com has developed innovative methods to reach rural students with no access to the Internet. Shikkhok's rural village Bazaar based supply method involves releasing the course material to mobile phone shops, where rural students can load the streamlined and short videos on their low-end mobile phones. In addition, Shikkhok.com has developed a Raspberry Pi-based (credit card size computer) kit which is then loaded with course lecture videos and given to rural schools without internet access.
Finally, Shikkhok.com has demonstrated that successful Massive Online Open Course system (MOOC)s can be developed at ultra-low cost. Shikkhok.com has spent only $15, but yet reached 20,000+ students, at a cost of only US $0.00075/student (about 6 Bangladeshi paisa per student). This amazing low cost initiative has received multiple awards, including a 2013 Google RISE Award, and a 2013 Deutsche-Welle Best of Blogs and Online Innovation Award.
Students in rural Bangladesh and West Bengal (India) will benefit from the Shikkhok.com project because -
1) Students in rural schools do not have access to quality study material or teachers, and lag behind students in cities
2) There are not enough openings for higher education in colleges and universities, so many students drop out after school
3) Education in non-public institutions is expensive – not all students can afford it due to poverty
4) State of the art topics are hardly covered by many educational institutions
5) Existing e-learning projects are based almost invariably on English language, and the language barrier prevents students from benefitting from them.
6) Finally, almost all (if not all) the MOOCs use the Internet as their delivery mechanism, which may not work for rural students. Shikkhok provides an alternate supply chain mechanism to deliver it’s teachings.
In addition, we should note that:
1) Bengali is the 4th largest language in terms of native speakers (250-300 million speakers in Bangladesh and India)
2) Students in rural areas often do not have access to quality teachers, books, or good schools.
3) Higher education opportunities and content is scarce in Bangladesh and India -- Only 50,000 opening in Bangladeshi universities and colleges for incoming freshmen, while there are more than 300,000 eligible students
4) Many students drop out due to lack of cheap higher education opportunities or extreme poverty
To solve this problem, we initiated the Shikkhok.com project. We used the following intuition into solving the problem:
1) While regular computing devices are not common/affordable in rural areas, Mobile phones and hence Mobile internet have significantly high penetration in Bangladesh, even in rural areas (100 million mobile subscribers as of early 2013, in a 160 million population)
2) A mobile-optimized Bengali language MOOC can serve as an alternative education platform for rural and non-traditional students
3) And an innovative non-Internet based delivery mechanism can allow rural students with no internet access to get high quality education
While there are MOOCs such as Coursera.com and Khan Academy Bangla, they do not meet the requirements of reaching out to rural Bengali students. This is because:
1) Coursera.com has 208 courses, ALL provided in English language. The Khan Academy’s excellent online educational videos are also in English. Unfortunately, Bengali translation 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: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL58BD1F917975C9BE).
2) Anecdotal reasons include mismatch between the lessons and academic syllabus in Bangladesh/India, cultural mismatch/”lost in translation”/artificial and literal translation
As a comparison, Shikkhok.com’s Culinary arts course videos received an average of 300+ views within 1 week of publication (https://vimeo.com/user14642276/videos/sort:plays/format:thumbnail)
Therefore, we started the Shikkhok.com project with the following requirements in mind:
1) Education medium must be in Bengali
2) Content must be highly optimized for mobile phone browsers with limited and slow data plans
3) Lessons must be short, include both text and multimedia, and have easy-to-use student registration, feedback, and evaluation schemes
4) Must be highly-available, low access times even in Bangladesh and India
5) Must be designed, delivered, and publicized at a very low cost, and provided to students for free
6) Must not depend on the Internet to deliver content.
Shikkhok.com should win this award because -
1) Shikkhok.com has demonstrated that quality educational resources can be developed and made available for free to students at a very low cost (6 paisa per student or less).
2) Shikkhok.com is the first and largest educational platform for Bengali speaking students.
3) Shikkhok.com has developed innovative channels for disseminating lecture content to offline students, THEREBY bridging the Digital Divide.
1) Shikkhok.com is the first e-learning MOOC site in Bengali language, completely free and open for everyone. Students from rural Bangladesh and India regularly contact the founder to express their satisfaction:
“I wanted to study Computer Science, but had to drop out of school due to poverty. Shikkhok.com has given me the chance to enter the wonderful world of computer science once again” – testimony from a user from Jamalpur, Bangladesh
2) We demonstrated that localized strategies work better than globalized universal MOOCs (local language based and cultural context-aware content is more effective)
Unlike Khan Academy Bangla, we did not translate existing MOOCs, rather developed localized content from scratch, which turned out to be more useful to students. (our video lectures viewed many times more than the translated content)
3) We developed a set of tried-and-tested design principles for educational content delivery over mobile internet to rural students. We evaluated various site design and lecture content to determine the best possible strategy and content formats that serve the mobile-internet-using rural students
4) Our biggest contribution is the generalized set of design and evaluation principles for the development of a localized micro-lesson model that can be effectively used by e-learning systems in other languages in other parts of the developing world.
At a very high level, Shikkhok.com's goal is to answer the following question: How can we provide top-quality education at a very low cost to the millions of students in rural Bangladesh and India?
Education is a basic *Human Right*, and to this end, the goal of the Shikkhok.com project is to create a free Massive Online Open Content (MOOC) education site at an ultra-low cost, specifically for rural underprivileged students. In addition to the online delivery method, Shikkhok aims at reaching the rural and underprivileged students in Bangladesh and India who do not have Internet access.
Free and Open source technologies such as Wordpress, Linux. Free online tools such as Youtube, Vimeo, Slideshare, Camstudio, and free video editing tools. Free storage in Dropbox and Skydrive. Google Codes.
1) Develop school, college, and university level courses on various topic, in particular focusing on science, math, healthcare, and technology related courses.
2) Find, train, and organize prospective volunteer teachers and subject matter experts. Provide them with technical support to create course content.
3) Prepare a dissemination mechanism that allows deploying the videos to target audience using low cost technology such as mobile phones and cheap computing devices at a very low cost.
4) Use an innovative supply chain to make sure rural students without Internet access can get the lectures copied to low-end mobile phones at village mobile phone shops.
5) Develop an entire set of highschool level courses (class 6 to class 10) according to the national curriculum of Bangladeshi schools.
1) We have developed 31 courses with an enrollment of more than 25,000 students. Note that registration is not mandatory, and therefore, the actual number of students is twice that per site visit records.
2) Since August 2012, Shikkhok.com has delivered 1.2 million video lectures. Each day, almost 2000 to 3000 unique visitors watch 4000-6000 video lectures.
3) We have developed a successful deployment and supply chain mechanism to bridge the digital divide ... to reach rural students without any Internet access.
Created 200+ lectures for 31 courses. Each lecture comes with lecture notes, lecture videos, and supplementary material.
Everything in Shikkhok.com is given away for free to students.
Shikkhok's outreach is conducted via social network such as Facebook. Shikkhok's Facebook page has 10,000 fans http://www.facebook.com/shikkhok
1. 2013 Google RISE Award: Shikkhok.com is the recipient of the 2013 Google RISE Award in the Asia-Pacific Region. Only 2 projects in the entire Asia and Pacific area received the award in 2013. This is a prestigious International development award for enhancing science and technology education. 2. 2013 Deutsche-Welle The Best of Blogs and Online Activism Award (User prize in best Innovation category) from the German International Radio.