How WinWin International created a groundbreaking offline learning solution for Africa
Here at WinWin International, part of our lives is consistently having a finger on the pulse of technology, particularly within the field of learning and development.
In recent years, and especially over the last twelve months, we’ve been thrilled to witness the massive growth the e-learning industry has seen. With people becoming more comfortable with the ‘new normal’ of working from home, we expect this growth to continue and foresee the global e-learning industry reaching hundreds of billions of dollars in value over the next few years. Considering benefits such as improved retention rates by up to 40% and reduced learning time by up to 60%, it’s obvious why most organisations are looking to digital learning as their primary training option.
Overcoming digital limits in Africa
There are few industries that can compete with this level of growth and that of course should be celebrated, but what is a company to do when the location of its learners is very remote, or where digital learning is not a viable option? Lack of infrastructure is one of the largest challenges facing the uptake of online learning throughout the African continent. With electricity and smartphone penetration at around 47% and 44% respectively, it’s easy to argue that going digital might not be the best solution for education in Africa. As a specialist learning and development consultancy, we knew we had to make a plan to address the challenges caused by these huge disparities.
Over the past 20 years, WinWin has worked with some of the continent’s largest organisations, helping them find creative solutions to learning and communication needs. Founded during the dotcom boom, taking learning online was a distant goal for the company but the desire to create engaging learning content, which showed a real-world impact, was very real. Over the years, the team focused on helping clients take big strategies and technical ideas and making them simple, engaging and accessible to all.
With the increased demand for digital learning in recent years, we set out to develop our own digital platform that created the same engaging learning experiences we had produced in the classroom. Thus, in 2017, we launched IWIN - Information When I Need. By using our unique card-based learning style, coupled with interactive learning media such as video, motion graphics, gamified assessments and virtual and augmented reality, we’ve been able to produce engaging learning experiences for over 35,000 corporate employees in 32 African countries. The card learning system provides learners with small chunks of information, with vernacular voiceovers in the learners' respective local languages. Through this system, we’ve created a learning platform that not only decreases the learning time required but increases retention rates.
While we were extremely proud of our success thus far, we knew we still faced a major challenge. How could we bring the same engaging learning content to all users, whether they were a C-Level executive in the heart of Johannesburg or a cane cutter on a rural plantation in Zambia? This was a common challenge amongst our clients with multiple sites throughout Africa, who wanted all employees (no matter their location) to be equipped with the same knowledge. Typically for rural sites, training was still paper-based and facilitator-lead, with long training times and manual processes for tracking learner progress. With many of our clients having strict SHEQ requirements, this lack of trackable training data created a major compliance risk.
WinWin understood that, in order to solve these challenges, we would have to build a solution which allowed for digital learning and assessments to take place with zero connectivity and limited access to electricity.
Proudly introducing IWIN Go
Combining new digital technologies, our award-winning LMS, IWIN, innumerable hours of creative thinking and copious amounts of coffee, our dream of creating a viable offline learning platform became a reality in the form of IWIN Go.
But how could it possibly work? The short answer is: very well! The long answer is as follows:
IWIN Go is a simple plug and play device that uses a local wireless network to allow for up to 30 devices to connect at a time. This means each user can go through training at their own pace and on their own device. Using the HDMI port, the device can just as easily be plugged into a projector or monitor to allow for classroom learning to take place. Using small battery packs and solar mats, the device can work for weeks or even months without access to power, making it the perfect solution for extremely rural training environments.
With up to 256 GB of onboard storage, entire learning academies (including video, motion graphics and AR) can be accessed without internet connectivity. All learning progress and assessment data is encrypted and locally stored on IWIN Go to ensure the client meets compliance standards without raising any concerns about loss of intellectual property. Once training has been completed and assessments passed, the device can be sent to an area with connectivity and all learning progress synced to IWIN’s cloud database. This allows for managers to have one source of truth for all learning progress through IWIN’s dashboard and reporting page.
While this project had been the idea of one of our instructional designers, Kevin Bracegirdle, for some time, it truly came to life during the first few months of 2020 when we were all adjusting to life under lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the disparities between rural and urban communities and this device is just one small step towards closing the gap. With an increased need for accurate information in zero-connectivity areas, we hope that IWIN Go will serve as a tool to bring these communities the learning information they need.
Our small IWIN Go team worked tirelessly during the second half of 2020 to transform the initial idea into a working product and tested it throughout the continent. By working closely with local partners, we were able to quickly produce samples of our device and begin testing in zero connectivity areas. While the project hasn’t come without its challenges, it’s been extremely rewarding to work on and we’re excited to see the product takeoff.
With IWIN Go and IWIN LMS, we’re sticking to our core promise of creating engaging learning experiences which are accessible to all, no matter their location or existing infrastructure. We hope that, through this technology, we’ll be able to expand IWIN’s reach to the most rural and remote communities of the continent to bring the adventure back into learning.