Waterloo students support teachers in remote communities

Providing online resources for students in Pakistan

Any regular internet user knows what it’s like to search for something that never quite materializes. There’s no shortage of information online, but hours spent browsing won’t always yield what you’re looking for.

So while the internet has had a profound impact on learning, it’s far from equitable — and one byproduct of this is that teachers in remote areas need to be equipped with more interactive and interesting learning resources.

Now, a group of University of Waterloo graduate students is working to curate quality, online learning resources for teachers in remote communities in Pakistan.

Diana JaberDiana Jaber, a student in the Master of Management Science program, is one of the 180 students analyzing the learning objectives of the Pakistani curriculum. The research, done alongside Pakistan’s Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi Center of Education and Consciousness, will form the basis of a website to be launched soon with more than 3,700 quality learning resources. 

“We want to empower teachers. Remote areas of Pakistan are conservative, so we tried to find resources that match their curriculum learning objectives and are suitable for a specific age group,” says Jaber. “It might be a game. It might be a worksheet. We had to make sure it was from a trusted source that would be useful and reliable — because although a certain website might work today, you can’t guarantee it’ll work tomorrow.”

Their efforts landed them first prize at the 2018 Wideman Education Awards (Ontario), a competition that connects students and organizations to the world of project management. 

Compounding the problem for people in remote communities is that a reliable internet connection — and 24/7 electricity — isn’t a given, and access in schools and other shared places can be unreliable or restricted. 

“It’s a kind of injustice if only people from developed countries have access to the internet,” says Jaber. “It’s important to make sure everybody has access and the opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge.”

Even a decade ago, people in remote communities in Pakistan and elsewhere didn’t have access to resources like this. Ultimately, the hope is that the program will be expanded to other developing countries.

“This is a first step,” Jaber says. “There are many countries in need of the same thing.”