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Education Project in Rwanda Combines Online Classes, Local Help

From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

A new experimental program using MOOCs or massive open online courses opened recently in Kigali, Rwanda. The Kepler project is designed for people in the developing world. It uses MOOCs provided by foreign universities. It combines these online classes with help from local instructors and an internship program.

A business foundation is helping to finance the first four years of the project. The students in the Kepler project pay no tuition. Fifty students are taking part in the first class in Rwanda. Canadian educational consultant Tony Bates praises the Kepler program for giving students a way to earn college credits. Students can earn academic credit through the Kepler project's agreement with Southern New Hampshire University in the United States.

Mr. Bates also praises Kepler for providing local support and tutoring in Rwanda. But he says a lack of technology limits the usefulness of such a system in Africa. He says developing countries lack enough Internet service outside major cities. Students may have mobile phones, but usually with very low bandwidth. Mr. Bates says it costs one American dollar to watch an eight-minute YouTube video on a low-cost handset. That is about the same as many Africans earn in a day.

Tony Bates says streaming long video lectures would be too expensive for at least the next five to 10 years. He says using materials designed for mobile devices may be better. He notes examples like math videos from the Khan Academy and courses from the Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative. He says these materials are designed for distance learning and are more interactive.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.