What we have learnt from designing and implementing tablet-based learning across the world

Written by Susan Colby (Imagine Worldwide) and Nicola Pitchford (University of Nottingham)

As COVID-19 has disrupted education worldwide, more organizations and governments are exploring using tablet-based learning models to provide children with flexible access to learning that can take place anywhere. When implemented well, tablet-based learning can empower learners to build skills and knowledge through the use of technology. Children are able to direct their own learning, using high-quality, research-based software curriculum on a tablet. 

Photo courtesy of Jjumba Martin from Imagine Worldwide.

At Imagine Worldwide, we know that designing and implementing tablet-based learning programs can be challenging. We partnered with Professor Nicola Pitchford (University of Nottingham), and Voluntary Service Overseas to develop a series of toolkits that provide in-depth guidance on how to get started on the design, preparation, launch, and monitoring of a tablet-based learning program. 

These toolkits were designed to provide practical help to non-governmental organizations and governments that are thinking about designing and implementing tablet-based learning programs. The guidance is based on our experiences implementing different tablet-based learning programs in various contexts (in-school, out-of-school, and refugee) in Bangladesh, Malawi, and the United Kingdom. The toolkits cover topics ranging from software selection to community engagement. Each toolkit is modular, so organizations can pick and choose sections to work through depending on their needs. 

Here are five crucial lessons for designing and implementing child-directed, tablet-based learning programs:

  1. Pick the right software: Software is critical to learners’ experiences and outcomes. With so many learning products available, it can be challenging to differentiate among them. Before selecting      software, make sure that you have an in-depth understanding of its curriculum, evidence, and features. Don’t forget to troubleshoot before launch!
  1. Implementation will trump strategy: For effective project delivery, plan in great detail, work with partners when you don’t have the expertise or capacity, and test in the field. All project logistics need to be ironed out and discussed with any stakeholder — from software partners to site facilitators — who will be regularly involved in the project.
  1. Engage in the community: Every implementation context is different. It is critical that the community wants and supports your project, and will own and sustain the project over time. In addition, cultural and religious norms typically shape project design and implementation. To launch an effective project, engaging community members throughout preparation and implementation is vital.
  1. Everything will take longer than expected – especially procurement: Procurement is one of the most time-consuming steps in preparation for delivering a tablet-based learning project. Delays can arise for a variety of reasons, so start procurement as early as possible and allow for extra time.
  1. Learn and improve: Throughout design and implementation, you will learn information that may cause you to change direction. That’s expected! Test your hypothesis and incorporate your learnings into the design to deliver a better project. After launching, use data and feedback to further improve the project.
Photo courtesy of Jjumba Martin from Imagine Worldwide.

These lessons, and more hard-earned insights from work on the ground, are contained in the toolkits. Our experience is valuable, but we believe that organizations need to develop programs that fit their own specific contexts and needs. With step-by-step guidance, these toolkits provide organizations with detailed support to design and deliver programs that improve learning outcomes for learners in their community and around the world.

These toolkits were authored by Imagine Worldwide, Professor Nicola Pitchford (University of Nottingham), and Voluntary Service Overseas.

Download the free toolkits here. For questions or comments, please email toolkits@imagineworldwide.org 

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