eFundi Move - Taking the LMS Offline
The North-West University in South Africa has successfully implemented and rolled out OPENCOLLAB’s Synthesis product (branded eFundi Move), allowing students continued access to resources on mobile devices wherever they are.
Since 2007, the North-West University (NWU) in South Africa has worked towards a solution to address the hindrances of using an online Learning Management System in an environment where power outages, the lack of internet availability, and expensive data costs remain insurmountable challenges.
Sakai SOLO, an off-line learning product dependent on a flash disk, was introduced to the Sakai community at the Sakai conference in Paris, France in 2008, and in 2009 feedback was given after the successful launch of the product to a small target group of students at the NWU. OPENCOLLAB, the Apereo commercial partner in Africa, developed SOLO to meet the requirements of the NWU; however this project had to be discontinued in 2011 when all support for Google Gears was suspended by Google.
Since the idiom of the day was mobile apps and the flash disk was slowly becoming old technology, the decision was taken in 2014 to develop a hybrid e-learning solution for the online / offline availability of resources to allow students, even in offline mode, to utilise resources effectively using multiple devices, including mobile.
The first step was to develop an export function for the NWU’s Sakai instance (eFundi), whereby Lessons could be exported in EPUB 3 format.
Secondly, the eFundi Move app was developed to allow a student access to content online when he / she has access to the Internet. The synchronisation of content is streamlined to enable offline access to the same content later on. The current Sakai functionalities that are available offline are Resources, Scheduling and Announcements. When an announcement is posted on the parent online LMS, a notification similar to a WhatsApp notification is sent to the mobile device. The app is currently available in the Google and Apple app stores and a desktop version for Mac and Windows is already in production. The Windows mobile version will be available soon.
According to Martilene Orffer, Managing Director of OPENCOLLAB, Synthesis contributes to OPENCOLLAB’s vision of affording students a much richer and seamless teaching and learning experience in an environment where access to the Internet remains challenging.
eFundi Move has been in production at the North-West University since January 2016. Demonstrations to lecturers have been held and the spontaneous take-up amongst students have been exceptional - more than 1000 downloads from the Google Play Store until the middle of February. Active marketing only commenced on the 22nd of February and a marketing campaign is underway to make this available to additional groups of students and lecturers in the second semester of 2016.
eFundi Move does not solve all the challenges with regards to pervasive online learning, but provides a solution for the next group of students who have intermittent access to the Internet.
Acknowledgements: ITC and Academic Support departments: North-West University
Contact OPENCOLLAB at info[at]opencollab.co[dot]za for more information about the Synthesis synchronisation engine and offline learning with Moodle and Sakai.
-- Elsabe Botha, Business Development Manager, OPENCOLLAB