Business Impact Article - Posted 11/30/2012
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International Education Provider Uses Online Learning to Connect Students, Promote Better Outcomes
When Pamoja Education was founded to deliver online courses for the International Baccalaureate (IB), it needed to develop an online environment that would support students worldwide and meet rigorous IB
standards. Pamoja Education worked with Desire2Learn to develop a learning management system based on Microsoft technologies that would support online IB Diploma Programme courses and comprehensive student-teacher collaboration. Since 2009, more than 200 IB
World Schools in 55 countries have enrolled students in Pamoja Education online courses, and Pamoja expects to double enrollment in the 2012-2013 school year.
Founded in 2009 to help provide greater access to the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, Pamoja Education works directly with IB schools to provide high-school students with an opportunity to take IB Diploma courses online. Pamoja Education
needed to build an online learning environment that would support learners all over the globe and that met rigorous IB standards for both content and course delivery. “We had to design a learning experience that offered an array of tools and opportunities
for direct online collaboration between students and between teachers and students,” says Darren Hughes, Head of Online Course Development at Pamoja Education.
Pamoja Education worked with Desire2Learn to develop a Learning Management System (LMS) based on Microsoft technologies that would support online IB Diploma Programme courses. All course content meets rigorous IB academic standards and the Desire2Learn®
Learning Environment features discussion forums, blogs, podcasts, and wikis to connect teachers and students working asynchronously in different time zones, as well as paging, chat, voice, video, and other real-time collaboration tools. “Our students can collaborate
and engage with each other anyplace on the planet,” says Hughes. “It is a unique experience when a student in the United Kingdom and a student in Costa Rica can learn and discuss global issues together from their different local perspectives.”
Pamoja expects to double enrollment in the next academic year and continue to grow as it offers more courses. As it serves more IB students, Pamoja Education can also use the learning solution to collect and report information on student achievement and online
engagement and then analyze the data to inform course design, track program progress, and help ensure student success.
The Full Story
Need for Access to International Education
Pamoja Education was founded in 2009 to expand access to the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme by offering courses online. If an IB World School does not offer a course on campus or if there are scheduling conflicts or a student is transferring
from one school to another, Pamoja Education works directly with the school to enable students to take IB courses online. “We extend subject choice and bring broader access to IB courses for students worldwide,” says Ed Lawless, Principal at Pamoja Education.
||By powering our online International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme courses with Microsoft technology, we brought together the tools we needed to connect students, enable learning, and enhance educational outcomes.
| Ed Lawless
Principal, Pamoja Education
Pamoja Education needed an online learning environment that would reliably support learners all over the globe and offer courses that met rigorous IB standards for both content and delivery, such as a required 150 to 240 hours of course engagement and direct
interaction between instructors and students in all two-year courses. “We had to design a learning experience that offered an array of tools and opportunities for direct online collaboration between students and between teachers and students,” says Darren
Hughes, Head of Online Course Development at Pamoja Education.
Pamoja Education wanted to begin developing its own courses in 2010. The organization needed a solution that was easy to deploy and maintain, and flexible enough to work with other tools, so it could stay focused on developing high quality courses and student
achievement, not IT management.
A Rigorous, Flexible Learning Environment
In 2010, Pamoja Education began working with Desire2Learn—a leading provider of online learning solutions—to develop a Learning Management System (LMS) that would support online IB Diploma Programme courses. By June 2011, Desire2Learn had helped Pamoja Education
build a centralized learning portal with a simple, intuitive interface (Figure 1) that included course content, collaboration environments, and assessment tools. The learning solution is based on Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database
management software, and other Microsoft technology.
The Pamoja Education online portal offers 11 two-year courses. Students spend five to eight hours per week working on course content, interactive activities, and assessments. All content meets IB academic standards and each student has access to the same resources
as students on campus, with examinations conducted under supervised, controlled conditions. The online learning environment also includes discussion forums, blogs, podcasts, and wikis to connect teachers and students working in different time zones, as well
as paging, chat, voice, video, and other real-time, face-to-face collaboration features.
The Desire2Learn® Learning Environment was flexible enough to accommodate third-party tools that support blogs and wikis, or applications for specific courses, such as collaborative video-editing software. “By standardizing our solutions on Microsoft technology,
we give our partners the flexibility to choose the best of breed tools that they need to build the e-learning environment they want,” says George Kyriakis, Director of Partner Alliances at Desire2Learn.
System administrators can easily create and copy course content, assign appropriate levels of user access, and oversee student and instructor activities. They can also use the robust and insightful reporting capabilities in the Desire2Learn Learning Environment
to collect and report data that will help Pamoja Education refine course content and delivery, track program progress, analyze student engagement, and ultimately improve learning outcomes and the overall student experience. For example, “push” notifications
automatically generated by the Desire2Learn solution help keep students on track while also informing their site-based coordinators who provide vital support for students. Pamoja Education is developing an in-house system that will capture weekly student attendance,
engagement, and assignment-submission data that will help Pamoja Education staff, faculty, and school-based coordinators maintain a high degree of student oversight.
Connected Learning, Continued Education Focus
|Figure 1—Pamoja Education used the Desire2Learn Learning
Environment to develop a simple, online learning portal that
includes International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme course
content, collaboration environments, and assessment tools.
Pamoja Education currently delivers online International Baccalaureate courses to 170 schools in 35 countries. With easy access to collaborative tools, students can engage with one another, their teachers, and course content across widely separated geographies.
“Our students can collaborate and engage with each other anyplace on the planet,” says Hughes. “It is a unique experience when a student in the United Kingdom and a student in Costa Rica can learn and discuss global issues together from their different local
Principal Lawless points out that the International Baccalaureate offers the most globally recognized two-year program for university entrance, and that an IB education is distinguished from other curricula by its international perspective. “I can’t think
of a better environment than online learning to create a truly international learning opportunity for students,” says Lawless.
Pamoja Education is a social enterprise, and the organization aims to realize a good return on investment as it expands to reach new schools and more students. Any future returns from Pamoja Education will benefit the charitable McCall MacBain Foundation
(www.mccallmacbain.org), supporting its commitment to improve health and education in Sub-Saharan Africa.
With a stable, easy-to-manage environment, Pamoja Education can focus on adding more educational resources to its online program. Pamoja Education intends to broaden its course offerings over the next three years from 11 courses to more than 30, and to offer
a range of language courses to better support schools and the needs of students. With the Open World School Initiative, student enrollment in Pamoja Education online courses is expected to grow exponentially in the medium term. “We’ve laid a foundation to
enable significant growth,” says Hughes. “We will double enrollment by the 2012-2013 school year, and as we expand the number of courses we offer over the next two to five years, we will reach significantly more students.”
More Student Choice, Enhanced Analysis, Better Learning Outcomes
While Pamoja Education grows, it can offer more IB students the choice to study the courses that they want in a truly global classroom, where they can master the next generation learning skills and life skills that they will need to be successful in the university
and beyond in the twenty-first century.
“By powering our online International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme courses with Microsoft technology, we brought together the tools we needed to connect students, enable learning, and enhance educational outcomes,” says Lawless.
As it serves more IB students with more online courses, Pamoja Education will be able to use the Desire2Learn Learning Environment to collect internal assessments, term reports, and other information on student performance and online behavior, such as how
long students spend in collaborative environments. It can then analyze the data to measure student engagement, inform decisions about course design and delivery, and potentially try to predict outcomes based on student behaviors, so that educators can intervene
early to help ensure student success.
Microsoft Partners in Learning for Schools
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For more information about Microsoft Education, please go to:
Customer Success Stories
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