UNESCO guide on distance learning solutions to mitigate COVID-19 school closures

(12 Mar 2020) In response to school closures caused by COVID-19, UNESCO recommends the use of distance learning programmes to limit the disruption of education.

Below is a list of open educational applications and platforms to help schools and teachers facilitate student learning and provide social caring and interaction. While these solutions do not carry UNESCO’s explicit endorsement, they tend to have wide reach, a strong user-base and evidence of impact. Several support multiple languages.

Open educational applications and platforms

  • ClassDojo – A free app that connects teachers with students and parents to build classroom communities. Teachers can bring parents into the classroom experience by sharing photos, videos, announcements and instant messages with parents. ClassDojo is used in the Colégio Monte Flor primary school in Portugal and featured in the UNESCO-Fazheng case study series. It supports more than 20 languages including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Italian, Korean.
  • Edraak– An open educational resource in Arabic for school learners and teachers (k-12 education). Arabic and some classes in English.
  • EdX – Access to free online courses from leading educational institutions worldwide. English
  • EkStep – An open learning platform with a collection of learning resources in literacy & numeracy. English
  • Global Digital Library  – A digital library that promotes early-grade literacy worldwide by offering digital storybooks and other reading materials available in multiple languages. UNESCO is working together with Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) to promote the Global Digital Library for digital early grade reading worldwide. The GDL collects existing high quality open educational reading resources, and makes them available on web, mobile and for print. The GDL currently offers resources in 43 languages (including Arabic, English and French), and by end 2020 the goal is to provide 100 languages. The platform also facilitates translation and localization of GDL-resources to more than 300 languages.
  • ICT in Education Toolkit provides education policy makers, planners and practitioners with a systematic process to formulate, plan and evaluate education development programs enhanced by Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). English
  • Khan Academy– Nonprofit organization that offers free online courses, lessons and practice. English
  • LabXchange– An online platform which brings together high-quality content from a variety of sources including videos, assessments, and simulations. In association with Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences that is part of the UNESCO Chair on Life Sciences and Social Innovation. English
  • Lezioni sul sofà – A website that has been created by Italian children’s book writers for schoolchildren who are studying from home due to the virus. It includes videos discussing books and different topics of interest surrounding art and literature for students of different ages. Italian.
  • Mindspark– An adaptive online tutoring system that helps students practice and learn mathematics. The system was shortlisted for the 2018 ICT in Education Prize. English
  • Nafham – Free Arabic language online learning platform that hosts educational video lessons that correspond to the Egyptian and Syrian curricula. Arabic
  • One Billion – Child focused application provided by a nonprofit organization to deliver reading, writing and numeracy education. English
  • Seesaw – A digital portfolio for students to store their work and for teachers and parents to see their progress. The app can be used in over 55 languages. Multiple languages
  • Siyavula– An open educational resource offering online mathematics and physical sciences education aligned with the South African curriculum. English
  • Study Saply – An online platform for middle school students. Free until the end of March. Japanese.
  • Ubongo – A multi-platform education media which uses entertainment, mass media, and the connectivity of mobile devices to deliver effective and localized learning to African families. The media is low cost, small scale and provided by a nonprofit social enterprise. English

Applications and platforms to support live-streaming classes

  • Dingtalk – DingTalk is a free communication and collaboration platform, which includes video conferencing, task and calendar management, attendance management and instant messages. Available in English and Chinese, but used in countries worldwide.
  • Lark – A collaboration suite that offers service to schools free of charge without time limit of service. The one-stop suite include services of 200G free storage spaces and video conferencing to support synchronous classes, messenger for connection, online interactive and collaborative document processing for project collaboration, calendar for syncing up the syllabus, and workplace to integrate third-party applications.  Available in English, Japanese and Chinese, used in countries worldwide.
  • Other well-known free and private platforms for teachers and learners can be found on the internet.

Applications to support production of video lessons, MOOCs and asynchronous classes

  • Edpuzzle – Edpuzzle is an easy-to-use platform allowing teachers to engage with all students, one video at a time (more than 8 million lessons and more than 20 million students). English.
  • Icourses – An MOOC platform for universities in China. Chinese.
  • Mosoteach – An app which provides cloud classes. Chinese.
  • Thinglink – A digital poster editor that enriches images with notes, links or video clips. This project was a laureate of the 2018 UNESCO ICT in Education Prize. Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Italian.

Applications and platforms in low tech environments

  • Can’t wait to Learn – Can’t Wait to Learn, an innovative programme providing education to children affected by conflict, was awarded the 2018 UNESCO ICT in education prize. The programme teaches children how to read, write and count by playing educational games on tablet devices, online and offline. The programme is available in both Arabic and English. French is currently being developed.
  • Kolibri – A free offline resource with over 80,000 pieces of content from UNHCR partners at Learning Equality. English

Assessment tools for e-schools

  • SELFIE: Self-reflection tool & mentoring scheme for schools – SELFIE (Self-reflection on Effective Learning by Fostering the use of Innovative Educational Technologies) developed by the European Commission, it is a tool designed to help schools embed digital technologies into teaching, learning and student assessment. It can highlight what is working well, where improvement is needed and what the priorities should be. The tool is currently available in the 24 official languages of the European Union with more languages to be added over time. Multiple languages

Applications to support communication between students, teachers and parents

  • Teacher Aide Pro – A free teacher assistant app in Iran’s android website that offers parents the chance to follow their children’s progress. It includes group messages, curriculum progress, and the option to save lessons. Farsi, English.
  • ClassDojo – please see above.

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