Here at the Saylor Foundation, we pride ourselves on providing access to high quality, openly licensed, college level courses and education. We use our resources to distribute our information to countless people around the world at absolutely no cost. Over the past few years, we have created over 300 online courses for individuals in every walk of life and in any stage of their education. It has been — and will always be — our mission to get our educational content to anyone who wants to learn. I love telling people about our site, informing them that, so long as they have access to the Internet, they can take any of our courses for free. However, over the past couple of months, I’ve been thinking more about people who have limited web access.
How could we get our educational content to people who have little or no access to the Internet but who want to learn?
There are millions of people who lack what I have taken for granted for most of my life: the ability to use the Internet whenever I want. Recently, we have set some of our best minds to look into getting our content to anyone who wants to learn – even absent regular Internet access.
I am proud – – and very excited — to announce that The Saylor Foundation is able to offer English Composition II: ENGL002 as a downloadable course for completely offline use. The file download includes every piece of instruction and content that the online version of the course uses, less the final exam and mobile apps, for anyone who has a computer.
But will you still need Internet to use this course?
This is a several-part answer: 1. You will only need to use the Internet to download the course. 2. Once downloaded onto a computer, you will have the entire set of ENGL002 course resources/content and the complete course syllabus. The syllabus acts as the actual course itself: the document includes clickable hyperlinks which will automatically pull the specific file from the folder downloaded on your computer –- there is absolutely no need to be connected to WiFi or an Ethernet cable! 3. If you want to attempt the final exam, for now, you’ll need to access the online version of the course. However, we are working on creating an offline exam to include with the course download.
Not just for individual learners
The open-licensed resources used in this course allow for re-use and re-distribution (although not always commercially). Working within the licenses, most anyone can put these files on a disc, drive, or local network server and share them more widely. Many projects — sponsored by individuals, organizations, and governments alike — have sprung up to easily, cheaply create local network servers for low-electricity and low-network areas. A few examples:
- PirateBox (David Darts) – “PirateBox is a self-contained mobile communication and file sharing device. Simply turn it on to transform any space into a free and open communications and file sharing network.”
- “LibraryBox (Jason Griffey) – LibraryBox is a digital distribution tool for education, libraries, healthcare, and emergency response. Anywhere there is a lack of open internet access, LibraryBox can bridge the gap of information delivery.”
- Raspberry Pi LAN (University of Michigan Medical School) – “Raspberry Pi as a potential solution to common challenges in resource-constrained areas, such as high technology cost, limited technology availability (equipment, understaffed dept.), and unpredictable infrastructure.”
- Commotion (Open Technology Institute) – “Commotion is an open-source communication tool that uses mobile phones, computers, and other wireless devices to create decentralized mesh networks” and which can “provide a platform for building community wireless networks and hosting local applications.”
- Internet in a Box (Braddock Gaskill, et al.) – Not a server, but a curated, well-organized, terrabyte of offline information containing ” Wikipedia in 40 languages, a library of 40,000 e-books, most of the world’s open source software and source code, hundreds of hours of instructional videos, and world-wide mapping down to street level.”
This has been one of the most gratifying projects I have worked on at Saylor in the year that I have been here. I am so excited to be able to tell everyone that we offer our free online courses offline. We’re expanding the impact of our overall mission –- to make education free and freely available –- on and offline.