One-line solution summary:
Accessible, high-quality learning resources for all families regardless of income by providing a free SMS/WhatsApp platform with curriculum-aligned interactive quizzes.
Which Challenge does your solution most closely address?Scalable Innovations for Blended Learning: How can evidence-based blended learning solutions be scaled in low-resource contexts?
Pitch your solution.
Pupils in low-income contexts lack access to quality remote digital learning opportunities. COVID-19 closures highlighted the magnitude and implications of this challenge; while distance-learning opportunities abound, many families were unable to use these programmes, which require devices, a reliable power source, and data to stream content (EdTech Hub, 2020).
To meet this challenge, NewGlobe developed a mobile quiz platform which offers access to thousands of 5-question quizzes via two-way SMS or WhatsApp. This solution provides high-quality, contextualised, curriculum-aligned practice opportunities for pupils via low-tech channels already in use among our parent communities. Rather than downloading a new app, parents and pupils can use the most popular global messaging tools (WhatsApp or SMS) in order to access hundreds of hours of interactive, engaging practice opportunities.
Since the platform launched in July 2020, users have taken roughly 325,000 mobile quizzes across 43,000 users in 5 countries. But after initial spikes in user engagement, quiz completion declined. We propose to invest in solutions that result in a more scalable, accessible, user-friendly, high-impact, and engaging product. Specifically, we will improve navigation through deep linking, engagement through gameification and push notifications, learning impact through strengthened feedback, and scale through contextualisation and improved content management.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?London, UK
Our solution's stage of development:Growth
Is this a new solution, an existing solution, or an adaptation of an existing solution?Existing solution
How does your solution incorporate research?
The design of the quiz platform taps into low-tech principles of learning science:
Frequent Quizzing: Studies (McDermott et al., 2013; McDaniel et al., 2011; Butler, 2010; Karpicke and Blunt, 2011) have highlighted the effects of frequent quizzing on content acquisition and retention. Quizzes provide opportunities for memory recall, which leads to long-term learning.
Proximity of Feedback: One limitation of at-home learning is the lack of proximal feedback from a teacher; this is also true for in-person learning in a large class size. Immediate feedback has been found to be more effective than delayed feedback (Kehrer, Kelly, & Heffernan, 2013; Singh et al., 2011). Feedback is also shown to improve content mastery (Hattie, 2017; Curry, 2004). Mobile quizzing provides immediate feedback after each response, and a summative score at the end of each quiz.
Personalised Learning: Personalised learning has a robust evidence base (Pane et al., 2013; Pane et al., 2015). In the quiz platform, users determine their pacing and select quizzes on topics where they need additional practice. The platform also provides nudges to ensure that users are taking quizzes at the appropriate level.
Access to Practice Material: Mobile quizzes provide extensive access to practice opportunities and digital mock-school leaving exams, significantly expanding access to invaluable test prep resources (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006).
The quiz platform also provides data on user engagement (quizzes taken) and performance (answer accuracy). We will use this ongoing data to evaluate the effects of platform changes, outreach, and the success of the platform more broadly. We will also rely on this data to optimise future design changes using A/B testing. Finally, we will explore associations between engagement, quiz performance, and academic outcomes to better understand the learning impact of quizzes.
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
What makes your solution innovative?
The current trend in education technology is to create new educational apps accessible by tablet, computer, or smartphone. But these new platforms offer limited accessibility for low-income families. Families with smartphones must download the app and use large amounts of data to engage online. Families without smartphones cannot access any digital learning opportunities.
We offer a low-tech, high-quality digital learning experience available to anyone with a phone. We innovate within existing platforms (WhatsApp or two-way SMS), which are widely-used and which have minimal data consumption. This ensures that parents (1) already know how to navigate the platform and (2) do not need to download additional apps.
We also provide a system that (1) designed for the country in which it will be used and (2) can be easily contextualised to new contexts. Many learning apps focus on foundational literacy and numeracy skills. The mobile quiz platform targets curriculum-aligned subjects and topics in a given country, making it an invaluable tool to prepare pupils for academic success. In addition, while customising learning apps to new country contexts can be challenging, we have designed a platform that can be easily tailored to new contexts through a process of (1) content-borrowing where possible and (2) customised content design where needed.
Finally, while personalised learning is not new, personalised learning in a low-tech space is novel. We tap into learning science research on memory recall and personalised learning, but we ensure that all families are able to benefit from these exciting approaches to learning.
What is your theory of change?
Problem: Low-income families in developing contexts lack access to low-tech digital learning opportunities. This lack of access is compounded when in-person learning is suspended, either in emergency contexts or during COVID-19 closures.
Output: A strengthened mobile quiz platform accessible via WhatsApp or two-way SMS; can be used on smartphones or analog phones and requires minimal data consumption. Platform improvements include:
- gameification: 'streaks' to incentivise engagement and user-retention; 'medals' to recognise performance and usage
- deep linking: improved navigation allowing assignment of and linking to specific quizzes via platform or SMS
- enhanced feedback: movement from binary (correct/incorrect) to diagnostic (explanatory) feedback on wrong answers
- push notifications: reminders to maintain 'streaks' or return to the platform
Short-Term Outcomes: A strengthened mobile quiz platform will result in:
- increased completion of high-quality, curriculum-aligned practice opportunities as homework, supplementary practice during term-breaks, or distance-learning opportunity during school closures
- increased pupil/parent cooperation. Because parents have the smartphone, pupils and parents will work together on quizzes, creating a collaborative and engaging learning experience
Long-Term Outcomes: Completion of mobile quizzes will result in:
- improved performance on curriculum-aligned midterm and endterm exams
- gains in foundational literacy and numeracy skills
- improved outcomes on high-stakes tests
Behavioural Change: Successful deployment of the mobile quizzing platform requires:
- (during in-person learning) willingness of parents to engage in their children's at-home learning (including homework and supplementary mobile quizzes)
- (during remote learning) openness among parents to lead or support at-home instruction
- willingness and ability to provide the child with the smartphone or analog phone for mobile quiz completion
Incentives: The behavioural changes will be incentivised through:
- streaks: a daily, cumulative record of engagement
- medals: recognition for continued usage or strong quiz performance
- messaging: a targeted marketing campaign to advertise the academic benefits of quiz completion
- school integration: assignment of mobile quizzes as homework via push notification/SMS
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries do you plan to be operating within the next year?
What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?
At present, we have reached 43,000 primary-school learners across 5 countries, who in turn have taken over 325,000 mobile quizzes using WhatsApp or two-way SMS.
To expand the impact of this platform, we will increase access in three main domains:
- Increased availability of two-way SMS: At present, the primary way to access mobile quizzes is via WhatsApp. Learners in Kenya and Liberia can also access quizzes via two-way SMS, ensuring broader access among parents without smartphones. We will expand two-way SMS access within current operational countries, and also in new countries, by obtaining additional short codes through telecom providers.
- Expansion to new countries: The platform is currently available in 5 countries: Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia, Uganda, and India. We will work via partners, including Global Schools Forum members and education ministries, in order to expand access to new countries where NewGlobe does not operate. We will facilitate contextualisation of the platform to new, local curricula by creating a more effective content management system.
- Retention of existing users: We currently have 43,000 active users. We will more effectively engage and retain those and future users through investments in the platform, including gameification, improved navigation, push notifications, and deep integration into school-based learning.
These improvements will ensure that in 1 year, we will have expanded to 3 new countries, added 200,000 additional users, and recorded over 2 million quizzes taken.
In 5 years, we will have expanded to an additional 15 countries, added 5 million new users, and recorded 40 million quizzes taken.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
There are four major barriers to achieving our 1-year and 5-year impact objectives:
- Financial: We require additional funding to invest in platform coding and design, user experience, content management, content development, contextualization, and marketing. While improvements to the platform design and user experience will be an up-front cost, content creation needs will increase relative to the number of new countries in which the platform is introduced. New countries mean new curricula and also new local languages.
- Technical: Upgrades to the platform must be made within WhatsApp and/or SMS. This requires flexible and creative thinking and design in order to ensure that any changes are compatible with WhatsApp or SMS operating systems. This will also require extensive piloting and customer research to evaluate new technical changes.
- Market barriers (1): Access to short-codes (for two-way SMS) can be difficult to obtain. Telecom providers are gatekeepers to short codes, and the process to obtain one can be political, bureaucratic, and time-consuming. In addition, short-code allocation is at the telecom-provider level, not at the country level. In countries with fragmented telecom providers, obtaining short codes from each individual provider will be challenging.
- Market barriers (2): Access to WhatsApp operating licenses must be obtained by registered entities in a specific country. For countries in which NewGlobe operates, this is not a problem. But in countries where we will deploy the platform via partner organisations, that partner organisation will need to obtain the license themselves. This will require close collaboration between NewGlobe and the partner organisation.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
With effective partnerships and support, we are confident that we can overcome each of these barriers.
- Financial: funding from the Jacobs Foundation will ensure that we can invest staffing and time into the design and programming of the updated platform. This funding will also be used to create new content, adapt content to local languages, and explore new content management systems. NewGlobe will also continue to invest staffing where possible.
- Technical: This same funding will help us to solve any technical barriers posed by programming and coding within WhatsApp or for two-way SMS. This will be achieved by allocating additional staff time, or recruiting new expertise, to work within these constraints.
- Market barriers (1): In some cases, two-way SMS may not be feasible. But with this funding, we could recruit local consultants to navigate the bureaucratic process and obtain short-codes. This funding would also cover the marginal costs of existing short-code subscriptions and WhatsApp licenses.
- Market barriers (2): Partnerships with Global Schools Forum, Jacobs Foundation, and others will help us to identify licensing partners in new country contexts. These partners will ensure that the content can be made available via WhatsApp (in addition to two-way SMS). These partnerships will also help us to contextualise the content and market the platform to communities in countries in which NewGlobe does not operate. These partner organisations, particularly education providers and ministries, also have invaluable community networks. These networks may include parent contact numbers, allowing for the dissemination of the platform via SMS.