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Onu: Together at Home Interactive Learning

An integrated comprehensive LMS built around continuous social interactions and based on the flipped model for effective remote learning

Photo of Davon Baker
2 6

Written by

I am a.....

  • Parent/Caregiver
  • Computer Scientist/Gov't Official

Tell us about your idea

As the world was forced into a real-life experiment of distance learning across all levels, parents, teachers, and students were all coerced to contend with unprecedented circumstances. These brought with them many unexpected challenges. As a single parent of a child who turned 12 during this period, I have found that his greatest challenge was not so much of a technical nature. Instead, he explained his deepest difficulty to be centred around the sudden and indefinite disconnect from his friends, peers, and even teachers. He missed the social interaction with his friends. This added to the bewilderment introduced by the scare of COVID-19 - having to suddenly stay at home and content with lockdowns and curfew days.

Onu (“together” in Swahili) aims to resolve this by presenting an environment of virtual learning that keenly supports and demands social interactions, in spite of distance. The concept incorporates several key components and tools in an integrated learning management system (LMS) that will support learning and collaboration especially remotely, but also in a classroom setting. It will focus very much on delivering skills for problem solving, innovation and content creation.

Onu, building on the concept of togetherness, will focus, especially, on the entire learning community – students, teachers, parents. It will seek to ensure they are all suitably engaged in the process of teaching and learning. 

The main, broad components will be:

  • A virtual interactive synchronous classroom.
  • Parent-teacher engagement.

The system will pursue a flipped-classroom approach, delivering and preparing students to master classroom work by serving multimedia material, including video presentations and hands-on project work. The system, however, will even more so be focused on student collaboration and active (student-centric) learning. It will also incorporate gamification. To help make this most effective, the system will provide a function for parents to actively participate in the process.

Parents will be assigned a role in activities and assignments.  This allows parents to both keep abreast and to have parental involvement in the learning process. The system will allow for one-on-one parent-teacher engagement, as well as it will allow for group meetings and discussions. For example, students absorbing information through extension activities outside of the classroom in a flipped classroom model is one-way parents may be engaged and kept informed on the information to be learned.

The systems, for hands-on activities, will allow for pairing/grouping of students to work together and to be teammates for the gamification aspect of the learning exercises. Students will also be required to maintain records – journals – about the other person and how they are coping with the situation that requires distance. It may simply be anecdotes about interesting activities and experiences. Activities may also be collaborative content creation, and support/encourage the "buddying up" of students to explore areas of shared interests.

It will be moderated, and provide for break-out group sessions.

The key tools of the Onu system will be:

  • Integrated note-taking.
  • Chat – one-on-one with teacher or group chats
  • Interactive whiteboards
  • Screen sharing
  • File sharing – audio, video, documents, images, presentations, etc.
  • In-sync viewing
  • Student and parent journals
  • peer learning
  • Email or messaging service
  • Teacher announcements
  • Exit sessions may use games to seek to assess understanding and learning
  • Recording

Onu will be built to be web-based and also as mobile and desktop applications. The use of mobile devices will be key for content creation and uploading of on-the-spot user-generated material. This system may incorporate existing open solutions and build on them to fit the needs. A major part of Onu will be to develop future-ready students, and activities will be to present students with skills outside of academics and exam preparation – introduce them to basic STEAM activities and active learning. 

A modern LMS for collaborating and social learning - one that will encourage dynamic learning whether in a physical or virtual classroom! Preparing career-ready students is key, and it involved not just acquiring hard skills, but also developing soft, social capacities. This is what the Onu: Together at Home Interactive Learning will strive to accomplish by ensuring students, teachers, parents remain connected in spite of the existing circumstances.

Very importantly, Onu in its design should incorporate the spirit of island living and community engagement that is normal to the lives of students.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

To answer this I consulted with both my son and nephew. From my discussions, I think what emerged in both cases is the drudgery on theoretical, passive learning. The concentration of energies in preparing students to pass examinations. Both also complained of the persistent noisiness of the traditional brick and mortar school, and spoke of their appreciation of the peace and quiet that comes from completing given assignments from the comfort of home and own spaces. As a parent, I resented the approach to island education that was patterned after boot camps. It was more focused on passive learning, homework, exams...and punishment. There was a lot of emphasis on non-essential things, such as wearing a uniform. Too focused on mind control, as oposed to the encouragement of free thought and exploration. In addition, there was a lack of respect for, and active appreciation of, technology.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I am a parent - a father of two. I am also a computer scientist and one who believes firmly in the exploration of science and ideas for island advancement and development. My motivation to tackle this challenge and to submit an idea was as a direct result of the level of disrupting and frustration I witnessed with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. As island people, we were totally unprepared for this. Teachers were frustrated as they were now compelled to engage their students in a way they were certainly not prepared for. Students were frustrated because their young lives were suddenly disrupted - they had to try to learn on their own with minimal teacher support and without the social interactions that is integral to their growth and development. Parents suddenly became teachers, attempting to deliver what most did not understand. I think at the end of the day, our children stood to lose most.

What region are you located in?

  • Latin America and the Caribbean

Where are you located?

Carriacou is a 13 square mile island that is part of the country of Grenada. It is located in a chain of islands called the Grenadines, between Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Even if we recorded no confirmed COVID-19 cases on the island, our ways of life were still disrupted completely, and like all else, we seek ways to cope in this new world. Carriacou and its sister island, Petite Martinique are close-knit commuities and the COVID-19 required distancing has far reaching impacts.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dayle Clarke

Love this idea Davon. I think the impact of reduced social interaction has been tough for kids. I love that you've baked togetherness into the threads of how this would work. Thanks for sharing ☺️

Photo of Davon Baker

Thanks for commenting Dayle Clarke . Indeed, the social interaction has been a major, and perhaps much overlooked, isse. I'm glad you like the idea..