Raising Awareness on eLearning
Actual Experience: eSkwela Project, Philippines
Contribution of Maria Melizza “Mel” Tan (eSkwela Project Manager)
to the eLDI 2008 November eJounrnal
The eSkwela Project aims to provide eLearning opportunities to Filipino out-of-school youth and adults who would like to finish their basic education. It is a flagship project of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), in partnership with the Department of Education’s Bureau of Alternative Learning System (DepEd-BALS).
The project covers various components including community-based center set-up and sustainability through community partnership, content and applications development, technical support, personnel training (for operations and instruction), and regular monitoring and evaluation. Starting out with four (4) pilot sites in major urban centers in early 2007, the project is currently on its rollout phase – slowly but surely gaining the desired attention and support from various stakeholders.
Raising public awareness for the project has not been easy, especially since the main focus of ICT in Education initiatives in the country has been on formal education, specifically public high schools. As such, the project team saw the need to ensure that the pilot run had a high probability of success by putting in place the following contributory factors:
- A good project design that used a multi-stakeholder collaborative approach
Selling this project to implementers and sponsors required that it had a sound design that looked into feasibility and sustainability as well. For this kind of community-based initiatives to succeed, it was also important to continually collaborate with various community stakeholders including the local government unit, the local education implementers, and related civic groups.
- Strong project champions
No matter how good a project design is, it would never fly if there are no advocates who will champion it to the stakeholders and the general public. For the eSkwela Project, CICT’s strategic leadership and dedicated project team, coupled with the strong support from DepEd-BALS, were crucial in convincing community stakeholders to invest on the project.
- Well-trained and empowered implementers
The eSkwela Project continues to rely on the centers’ field implementers for its successful execution. They have undergone training on the ICT-based instructional model that serves as the core component of the project. Since they serve as the frontliners, they have been encouraged to research, experiment, recommend, and train others on potential project enhancements. This sense of local ownership contributes to their dedication to reflective project enhancement and sustainability.
With these factors in place, the project team has undertaken the following activities to raise and sustain project awareness:
- Social Marketing activities
The project team conducts several meetings and presentations that target community awareness and stakeholders’ mobilization where discussions focus on the project implementation details, roles/responsibilities of stakeholders, handholding requirements, and other pertinent items. Stakeholders appreciate the fact that immediate and future benefits are enumerated, especially learner pathing beyond eSkwela – such as readiness for the Accreditation and Equivalency Exam, tie-up with local livelihood training centers, among others.
The team also recognizes the need to “walk the talk” by using ICTs to reach out to the public via the project wiki (http://eskwela.wikispaces.com), discussion forums, blogs, emails, video campaigns, and other communication/ collaboration tools; by engaging in and conducting various ICT4E initiatives like conferences, various elearning courses, and similar efforts geared toward further enhancing the project.
- Regular conduct of monitoring and evaluation activities
The team makes it a point to provide regular presence in the sites through site visits and constant communication aimed at continuous and timely project enhancement. Through such activities, field implementers see that the team is indeed serious about making things work and that the project is not a “fly-by-night” operation. This deepens the level of awareness and understanding of the project for both the team and the local stakeholders –“making them believe” in the project and consequently, take pride in as well as promote the project to their communities.
- Activities that value collaboration among project partners
Field implementers and other project stakeholders (i.e. DepEd-BALS, local government units, civic groups, ICT4E consultants, and content development teams that CICT has contracted) are regularly invited to get involved in efforts that look into project enhancements and sustainability. This is done through the conduct of project conferences and workshops that either a) ask them to provide feedback/insights to project plans and tools, b) train them on required competencies, or c) guide them through project evaluation and strategic planning.
This sense of belongingness in the project community propels these stakeholders to promote the project to other groups – professionals, students, potential sponsors – through the talks, presentations, and meetings that they attend thus providing the project additional mileage.
As can be seen, a project can attain the desired level of awareness and support by taking care of the network of advocates, implementers, and stakeholders that is built in the course of a project’s life. With this in place, a project has greater chances for success and prolonged sustainability.