Discovering Digital Learning Platforms: Mapping Across 184 Countries
Why and how did we do this?
When countries had to close schools during the Covid-19 pandemic, governments and development partners turned to technology to ensure learning did not stop. This led to the rapid development of numerous digital learning platforms worldwide, aiming to enhance access and quality of education beyond traditional classroom settings.
To assess the reach and status of these digital learning platforms, UNICEF commissioned EdTech Hub to conduct a global mapping exercise of national digital learning platforms in 184 UNICEF programmes.
In this one-of-a-kind analysis, we identified a total of 471 platforms (based on eligibility criteria described in the full report) and grouped findings across three main domains: availability, usability, and inclusivity.
UNICEF provided the key research questions for the study, some of these questions are listed below to help guide the context for this study. The scope included platforms that were developed, owned and/or maintained by the national governments and designed and used for educational purposes by students and teachers.
As education systems move into a new phase of recovery, strengthening, and resilience, key
questions remain about the status of those digital learning platforms.
- How many platforms are still functional?
- How are they accessed (web-based or mobile-based)?
- Are they available offline?
- Do platforms have working links and updated content?
- Are platforms inclusive and accessible to children with disabilities?
Read on to see some of our key findings.
The list below includes salient findings from the mapping exercise. However, we encourage you to read the full report. Insights from our mapping exercise were also used to inform UNICEF’s “Pulse Check on Digital Learning”.
- One out of three of the identified platforms either no longer exist or have not been updated since 2020
- Eighty percent of platforms can be categorised as resource hubs, whereas 13% of the platforms function as learning management systems (LMS)
- Platforms that provided offline features were rare (30%).
- Only 33% of platforms analysed contained content that users could interact with (e.g., chatbots, forums, games).
- Sixty-eight per cent of the identified platforms could be accessed without creating an account. However, in some cases, the available content could be limited for users without accounts
- Eighty-five per cent of platforms can be accessed via a basic smartphone.
- Only 22% of the mapped platforms offered features that supported accessibility for people with disabilities (e.g., colour contrast, captions, audio content, text size adjustments, or any content for special education)
- Despite this limited offering, there were a select number of platforms that excelled in accessibility and inclusivity.
In the mapping exercise, we identified several macro-level trends and patterns. Apart from the many similarities that we observed, we were also struck by the diversity of offerings on the various platforms. The full report, mentioned above, highlights such insights, and we hope that digital learning stakeholders can learn from one another and develop a culture of knowledge sharing to enhance the quality and reach of digital learning around the globe.
The report features three case studies: Plan Ceibal from Uruguay, the E-Learning Portal from Egypt, and Jules from France. These case studies from different regions were selected to showcase platforms that perform well in terms of availability, usability, and inclusivity.
The mapping exercise highlighted many noteworthy efforts by governments and partners around the world to reach learners in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. It covers a diversity of regions and income levels, and in so doing presents rich data to better inform the ever-growing need for high-quality and equitable digital learning resources. The findings from this research are applicable to various stakeholders, ranging from teachers and administrators to researchers and policymakers. As education recovery and transformation efforts progress, it is vital to build on existing initiatives and lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, we must consider the evolutionary role of digital learning platforms. Whether they transition to being used as a supplementary classroom resource or a tool for teacher professional development, it is essential to find sustainable ways of keeping platforms up-to-date and relevant. Digital learning platforms remain critical for efforts to mitigate learning loss and reach a broader range of students and teachers. Most importantly, the design, implementation, and iteration of such platforms must consider the needs of marginalised learners, especially learners with special educational needs and/or disabilities and those with limited access to the internet. We believe that this research is only the beginning and has the potential to kick-start much-needed dialogue and knowledge sharing around best practices for digital learning platforms.