Digital Library

Our solutions for increasing people's access to education

Our passion for education and finding new ways to make it accessible to all is reflected in our Xulendo projects: Our offline Xulendo Digital Libraries provide access to digital education, even for the blind spots on the internet map. Our Xulendo textbooks provide access to licence-free educational materials - adapted to the Malawian curriculum and the needs of schools. On this page you can learn more about the projects and their background.

By the way: "Xul" is a typical abbreviation for school in Malawi and "Ulendo" means journey or way. 

The need

Shortage of educational materials

An vielen Schulen im ländlichen Afrika herrscht ein grundlegender Mangel an Bildungsmaterialien.

The need

Teaching with 'Talk and Chalk'

Experiments or tests can only be explained at a theoretical level, knowledge is conveyed abstractly. For a long time, Mrs. Kanyika, a geography teacher at Chaminde School, relied on 'talk and chalk' - the blackboard and teacher's monologue - for her lessons. Vivid lessons look different.

The urgently needed access to education, which could support countries like Malawi with regards to development, is falling behind. The same is true in many other African countries. We are convinced that education is the key to the successful development of a nation and that it is the youth of today that will drive the development of tomorrow.

That's why solutions are needed that provide educational materials simply, effectively and affordably. We have developed such solutions. 

IMG_3337
IMG_3337

Problem 2

Teaching with 'Talk and Chalk'

E

Experiments or tests can only be explained at a theoretical level, knowledge is conveyed abstractly. For a long time, Mrs. Kanyika, a geography teacher at Chaminde School, relied on 'talk and chalk' - the blackboard and teacher's monologue - for her lessons. Vivid lessons look different.

The urgently needed access to education, which could support countries like Malawi with regards to development, is falling behind. The same is true in many other African countries. We are convinced that education is the key to the successful development of a nation and that it is the youth of today that will drive the development of tomorrow.

That's why solutions are needed that provide educational materials simply, effectively and affordably. We have developed such solutions. 

Our solution #1

Xulendo Digital Library

Students learning with the Xulendo Digital Library at Chaminade Secondary School

Easy offline access to curriculum-relevant educational materials

Our solution is simple: a robust miniserver that does not rely on the internet. Because it is already equipped with everything that is to be taught in the respective curricula. License-free, free of charge and offline. From Wikipedia to graphic representations or applications that make experiments comprehensible. Local school textbooks are also available. Together with our local partners, we put educational opportunities directly into the hands of local schools. Teachers get up-to-date teaching materials at their fingertips, pupils access the material during lessons or in the afternoon in computer or library rooms. They can better prepare for exams, lessons are more motivating, independent revision of the material becomes possible. With the Xulendo Digital Library, we are thus able to make education digital quickly and sustainably. 

Technology alone does not improve teaching!

Technology

The Xulendo Digital Library Server is the technical core of the project. It is a small mini- or laptop-server on which the educational content is stored and made available via a local network. In this way, pupils and teachers can easily access the educational materials using their own devices, such as mobile phones In the classroom, a whole class can easily work with the Xulendo Digital Library. The Xulendo Digital Libraries are now also used for adult education. At regular times in the afternoons, residents of neighbouring villages also take part in further education. In general, the operation of a Xulendo Digital Library mainly requires terminals, but - where available - centralised use, for example with beamers, is also very popular.

Workshops

Die Xulendo Digital Library ist als Hilfsmittel für den Unterricht zu verstehen und geht deshalb nicht mit einem neuen technologie-zentrierten pädagogischen Konzept einher. Der Mensch bleibt der wichtigste Vermittler von Wissen. Deshalb werden LehrerInnen in  intensiven Workshops mit der Technik vertraut gemacht, lernen die Benutzung von Computern und den Einsatz im Unterricht. Unsere Workshops bestehen aus insgesamt acht Modulen. Nach der Schulung der LehrerInnen folgen dann die Trainingseinheiten für die SchülerInnen. Diese werden von LehrerInnen vor Ort selbst durchgeführt. 

Social integration and Sustainability

A key objective of our approach is to jointly run projects with local partners and to promote effective and autonomous use of the technology. Thus, the project should be rooted locally, according to the concept of 'social embeddedness'. To achieve this, we always orient our work according to the specific needs and requirements of the people involved. Together with the local partners, accompanying social integration measures are then determined. These included planning workshops, clarifying local staff responsibilities, as well as regular activities with the community and meetings with the traditional authorities of the region to anchor the project in the community. All this is central to the sustainable impact of the project.

"The Xulendo Digital Library makes children from the poorest families access education in a way that at the moment is not possible. This is truly crucial for the students’ future, and that of their families."

Martin Mtumbuka
Bishop of the Diocese of Karonga (Malawi)

"The Xulendo Digital Library makes children from the poorest families access education in a way that at the moment is not possible. This is truly crucial for the students’ future, and that of their families."
Martin Tumbuka
Bishop of the Diocese of Karonga (Malawi)

Our solution #2:

Xulendo textbooks: Free Malawian textbooks

We are looking for authors!

 Together with authors from Malawi and South Africa, we produce textbooks that convey the topics of the Malawian curriculum in a modern and clear way, the Xulendo textbooks. The books are made freely(!) available throughout the country and are also distributed via WhatsApp. In places without internet, they are offered with our Xulendo Digital Library and can be printed out. Thus, the books are fundamentally different from the books of usual publishers, which can only be bought as a printed book and cannot be shared digitally. With the help of our Xulendo textbooks, education can help in all corners of Malawi.

Currently, we are still in the beginning stage of the project. By the end of 2023, we would like our Xulendo textbooks to cover eight subjects, covering the four years of the Malawian secondary school curriculum, and reach over 250,000 students across the country. To achieve this, we rely on further funding.

Evaluation

We are committed to impact and sustainability

Presentation of our work at the International Development Informatics Association (IDIA 2018) Conference in Johannesburg, South-Africa.

Evaluation and Impact

We want to continuously improve our approaches in order to be able to help more effectively. That is why we put a lot of attention on intensive scientific monitoring of our activities. With the help of evaluations, we want to gain insights into the benefits of our projects and identify possibilities for improvement. Two research papers have already been written in this context. Both were written during the fellowship of the two founders of Next Generation Africa at the Center for Advanced Internet Studies. One paper focuses on the aspect of sustainability, while the other evaluates the entire project. Both papers have contributed to improving the project.

Evaluation and Impact

We want to continuously improve our approaches in order to be able to help more effectively. That is why we put a lot of attention on intensive scientific monitoring of our activities. With the help of evaluations, we want to gain insights into the benefits of our projects and identify possibilities for improvement. Two research papers have already been written in this context. Both were written during the fellowship of the two founders of Next Generation Africa at the Center for Advanced Internet Studies. One paper focuses on the aspect of sustainability, while the other evaluates the entire project. Both papers have contributed to improving the project.

Presentation of our work at the International Development Informatics Association (IDIA 2018) Conference in Johannesburg, South-Africa.

Sustainability

At the Center for Advanced Internet Studies, a collaboration with our fellow Prof. Dr. Melih Kırlıdoğ has evolved. He supported us in the academic monitoring of the Digital Library Project. He travelled directly to Malawi to visit the three pilot schools. Together we wrote the paper "Revisiting Sustainability: Digital Libraries in Malawian Schools" (2018) and presented it at the International Development Informatics Association Conference (IDIA) in August 2018. It addresses the issue of sustainability of digital development and education projects. After a general overview of the literature in this field, the DLMP was analysed in terms of its sustainability prospects. Many factors speak for the sustainability of the DLMP. In particular, the provision of adequate training, the role of digital library experts and prefects as local leaders, the involvement of local qualified professionals and the high degree of social embedding were mentioned. The main challenges were the continuity of finances and the unstable power supply. In conclusion, ways should be found to ensure a stable power supply and mechanisms for the provision of sufficient financial resources should be explored. To this end, measures have already been taken.

Melih visiting St. Mary's Girls Secondray School in Karonga

Project evaluation

In addition to the scientific work on the topic of sustainability, the Digital Library Project was scientifically monitored and evaluated throughout the entire pilot phase (2017 to 2018). The time at CAIS served this evaluation in particular, with the aim of gaining insights into the benefits of the Digital Library Project (i.e. installation of the technology, its integration into the classroom as well as the teaching of computer skills) and identifying potential for improvement for a future expansion of the project. Data collection took place at various points throughout the project. Qualitative and quantitative survey instruments were used. The focus was on the retrospective teacher and pupil questionnaire surveys conducted in June 2018. The data collected was supported by a guided focus group with the school management and digital library experts from all pilot schools, by analyses of usage data and by standardised logbooks filled in by the teachers on a weekly basis. 

The accompanying studies of the DLMP, which we prepared within the context of CAIS Fellowships, clearly show where the project already meets the needs of the schools very well and where it can still be improved. The responses show, among other things, that the demand among students to use the digital library outside of class is very high. At the same time, however, there have been some organisational problems, which is why the use of the digital library outside of class requires a clear timetable. In some cases, there are still not enough terminals for the large number of pupils. Nevertheless, the DLMP is on a very good path: the evaluation has shown the benefits of the project and the enthusiasm of those involved on the ground. The digital libraries are used intensively at the schools and the demand for further expansion is high. Thus, the pilot project can be classified as clearly successful.

Project evaluation

In addition to the scientific work on the topic of sustainability, the Digital Library Project was scientifically monitored and evaluated throughout the entire pilot phase (2017 to 2018). The time at CAIS served this evaluation in particular, with the aim of gaining insights into the benefits of the Digital Library Project (i.e. installation of the technology, its integration into the classroom as well as the teaching of computer skills) and identifying potential for improvement for a future expansion of the project. Data collection took place at various points throughout the project. Qualitative and quantitative survey instruments were used. The focus was on the retrospective teacher and pupil questionnaire surveys conducted in June 2018. The data collected was supported by a guided focus group with the school management and digital library experts from all pilot schools, by analyses of usage data and by standardised logbooks filled in by the teachers on a weekly basis. 

The accompanying evaluation of our projects, which we carried out within the context of the CAIS Fellowships, clearly shows where the project is already meeting the needs of the schools efficiently and where it can still be improved. The responses show, among other things, that there is a great demand among students to use the digital library outside of class. At the same time, however, there have been organisational problems in some cases, which is why the use of the Digital Library outside of class requires a clear timetable and organisational efforts. In some cases, there are still not enough terminals for the large number of pupils. More content is also needed. Nevertheless, the DLMP is on a very good path: the evaluation has shown the benefits of the project and the enthusiasm of those involved on site. The digital libraries are used intensively at the schools and the demand for further expansion is high. Thus, the pilot project can be considered a clear success. We have taken the evaluation results to heart and actively worked on solutions. This is also how our Xulendo Textbook Project came into existence. With the licence-free textbooks, we not only address the shortcomings of our pilot project, but can also at the same time extend the reach of the project to even more teachers and students.