Connecting the nation’s schools

Fun learning: Pupils from SK Selangor 1 testing out the Frog VLE.

OUR country is the first in the world to have all schools connected through a single, cloud-based learning platform and high-speed 4G Internet connectivity.

1BestariNet, an initiative by the Education Ministry, was set up to bridge the divide between rural and urban students.

As everything is “on the cloud” (stored on servers and accessible to students with an Internet connection), the same resources available to urban students will also be available to students in rural areas.

YTL Communications with Xchanging Malaysia provides the network, equipment and services that this immense project requires.

Depending on location, the organisation sets up different types of connectivity systems, says Xchanging Malaysia chief executive officer Murali Nadarajah.

“We provide a wide range of connectivity options, including fibre, 4G, microwave and Vsat,” he says, adding the option selected would depend on the location of the school.

He explains that because the whole virtual learning environment (VLE) “sits on the cloud”, new learning programmes and applications can be added to the environment very quickly.

“Normally, a vendor is needed to instal the programmes at every school. But with our approach, everything is here.

“You just need to provide connectivity and students from both rural and urban areas will all get the same content,” he says.

He adds that using the VLE, teachers could also create their own content and share it with other schools all over Malaysia.

“It now takes just weeks to roll out a new application. We no longer need years to do so,” he says.

Xchanging is an international company that has been in Malaysia since 2004 and in 2012, entered a joint venture with YTL Communications to develop and deliver the cloud-based hosting required for the 1BestariNet project.

Murali says that using technology in education would bring about a huge change in the way students are engaged in learning, and that information and communication technology (ICT) enables the concept of the “flipped classroom”.

“Everyone can now have a customised experience based on their ability to learn.

“With a ‘flipped classroom’, students do their homework in school and study at home.

“The teacher becomes a guide on the side, to help the students when they don’t understand something,” he says.

“After all, the time when you’re doing homework is when you need the most help.”

He adds that ICT allows students to have up-to-date knowledge.

“Publishing a textbook takes years and the moment you publish it, it’s obsolete,” he says.

With a nationwide network like 1BestariNet, students have access to constantly updated information.

Teachers would also be able to share their “curated content”.

“For example, a teacher may want to write a lesson plan on volcanoes. He or she looks for content, writes text, plans quizzes and adds references.

“The teacher could use a video and the students could watch the video a few times until they understand the material.

“Another teacher looks at it and maybe decides to create a different kind of plan, maybe using gamification. Students can look at all of these different lesson plans on the same topic and pick the one that they want,” says Murali.

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