How to break blended learning paradigms

Sebastián Pulido
13/09/17
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Mexico City, Mexico

Mexican firm Enova seeks to overcome preconceptions about technology and new ways of learning. With the help of Moodle and other tools, it is trying to ensure that its more than 1.4 million users are part of the information society, regardless of their age or economic situation.

blended learning

Designing and applying telecommunications technology and practices to improve the learning experience: this is the goal and vision that today drives Enova, a Mexican company that designs, administers and operates education technology solutions and digital content.

Luis Antonio Galindo and Raúl Maldonado spoke with E-Learn about their innovative vision and how it’s put into practice with the help of Moodle and Mako®, their education technology platform. Raúl is the firm’s CEO, and therefore knows all the details of its operations, while Luis Antonio, as Technology Director, is in charge of technological administration and support of the various digital inclusion centers the company manages for a number of their clients, including the Innovation and Learning Network (RIA), a success story, in providing basic education in IT skills and other complementary fields for a vast portion of the population in Mexico City and other parts of the country.

Raúl Maldonado, Enova CEO & Product Strategist and Luis Antonio Galindo, Enova Director of Education Technology at Enova offices in Mexico City. Photo: AFP Bernardo Montoya.
Raúl Maldonado, Enova CEO & Product Strategist and Luis Antonio Galindo, Enova Director of Education Technology at Enova offices in Mexico City. Photo: AFP Bernardo Montoya.

The Innovation and Learning Network

This is a Proacceso Foundation project, with the collaboration of three major sectors (government, and public and private institutions), for which Enova provides academic administration, and content and technological support services, as it does for other projects and clients.

The RIA project, for example, is a network of 70 centers in 34 towns in the State of Mexico. Each center has around 80 computers and offers training programs for diverse groups of children, youth, and adults. Initially, most students complete a basic computer course before moving on to more advanced programming or robotics classes. They can also branch out to other areas, such as entrepreneurship, personal finance or English. The duration of each module varies according to what Enova calls a ‘learning route,’ which is defined according to user needs and interests.

These centers are located in less privileged areas, and their goal is to bring Internet access to more people. Anyone wishing to gain access to these types of technological and educational resources can visit a center to enroll.

The vast majority of students are only able to cover, at most, 20% of the course operating costs. The three-sector cooperation nevertheless means that activities can be carried out through subsidies from public institutions and private entity donations, including scholarships that cover between 80% and 95% of the total cost.

The figures show that out of those surveyed who don’t know how to use a computer, 40% don’t imagine ever using one in their life.

To give an idea of the project’s impact, Raúl quotes from a study about people’s willingness to adopt new technology, conducted by Enova. The figures show that out of those surveyed who don’t know how to use a computer, 40% don’t imagine ever using one in their life. It is necessary, therefore, the need to break paradigms in order to bring technology to them and to increase self-study and blended-content pedagogical practices.

When viewed in the context of the more than 1.4 million users enrolled at centers operated by Enova, of whom 40% are under the age of 25, while 20% are between 25 and 30 years of age, and the remaining 40% are housewives or adults, it is easier to see how this kind of initiative can potentially have a positive influence in terms of education and social mobility, on the people who need it the most.

The role of Moodle

The open-source platform has played a big part in this project since it offers great flexibility when it comes to modifying the interfaces and managing the databases that Enova works with. Financial viability is also unquestionably something that Moodle offers, especially for large-scale projects.

With open-source software, the capacity for content production also increases. For Enova’s Content Factory, the department responsible for producing pedagogical materials, Moodle is the easiest and fastest alternative to execute a big roll-out.

Mako®

Basic courses are embedded in Moodle using an interface for administering interactive content and analyzing learning patterns. This interface is the education technology platform developed internally by Enova, called Mako. It simply acts as a planning and control module for students, with a statistics system that helps monitor learning patterns.

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As for the lessons learned from this experience, Raúl and Luis Antonio sum them up into the following three tips:

1. Identify needs and opportunities for improvement

Understanding the importance of data analysis is fundamental because it provides an overall view of operations and can point to problem areas or provide important information about facilitators, students, and content.

2. Develop systemic thinking and take advantage of system flexibility

This helps to gain an understanding of user functions and the connections between them and contents. It means that the learning process can be ‘mapped’ without missing an important step and that everything has a specific function. Facilitators, for example, will always have the necessary resources at hand and will know when and how to use them in the students’ pedagogical process.

3. Be close to the community

Access www.moodle.org at any time to solve any problems or doubts. With Moodle 1.9, for example, Enova documented the integration with its LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) with the help of Iñaki Arenaza, an important member of the Moodle community. He also helped them document data usage to generate the first version of student progress graphs.

Fortunately, according to Luis Antonio and Raúl, new versions of Moodle have been more user-friendly and stable, making it possible for them to solve almost all challenges they’ve experienced internally.

Raúl Maldonado, Enova CEO & Product Strategist and Luis Antonio Galindo, Enova Director of Education Technology. Photo: AFP Bernardo Montoya.

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