The South African country of Lesotho is currently piloting a start-up that allows pupils to receive their homework via mobile phones.
As reported in UK newspaper The Guardian, Lesotho is using Sterio.me, which claims to send homework lessons and quizzes to basic phones with limited access to data, which are said to have more than 86% penetration in the country.
A number of local schools are participating in trials of the scheme before a full roll out with support from the Vodacom Foundation, the ministry of education and the local teachers’ union.
During the trial period, the Foundation is paying for the airtime so the system is free for students.
“We originally saw the potential to use something as simple as a mobile phone to deliver powerful information, especially across literacy, Internet access and device barriers,” claimed Christopher Pruijsen, Sterio.me CEO and one of its founders.
“We also wanted to make sure that the experience was simple and effective for teachers, by saving them time creating, distributing and marking homework,” he added.
Sterio.me generates homework and quizzes for teachers on topics relevant to what students will be learning in the following term.
Teachers are able to approve content before the start of the school year and the curriculum currently covers math, geography, English and agriculture.
During the programme, students will receive a call covering the day’s work and a text-to-speech programme reads out several multiple-choice questions that the pupil can answer using the phone’s keypad.
The start-up claims its collected data is used to improve learning outcomes, teaching methods and the curriculum.
Teachers are able to see data in real time, including which pupils have completed assignments and their progress.
The government can also access the data.
“With any type of out-of-classroom or remote form of learning and quizzing, there is a risk of cheating – paper-based homework is the same,” claimed Pruijsen.
“We believe that with the wealth of data we will gather via mobile engagement of students, both via voice and SMS, we have use big data analysis to filter for ‘high risk of cheating’ scenarios, such as when students who normally take a longer time to respond suddenly take 0.1 seconds to input the correct answer.
“We can also scramble the order of correct answers, so that the correct answer foe one student might be the ‘1’ key on a given multiple choice quiz and for another student it would be option ‘3.’”