Students to benefit from SunSPOT-WIFI without Internet

The device

Higher education students will now access learning materials using WI-FI that does not require an Internet  connection, thus removing the aspect of the need to buy data bundles.

This development comes following a four-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Strengthening Higher Education Access in Malawi Activity (SHEAMA) project being implemented by Arizona State University (ASU).

Its goal is to increase the number of skilled and employable workforce in Malawi by working with public universities to provide market driven programmes through quality Open Distance Learning (ODL).

Arizona State University on Monday started off by engaged lecturers, directors and librarians from five public universities – Llingwe University of Agriculture and National Resources (LUANAR), Mzuzu University (MZUNI), University of Malawi (UNIMA), Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) and Malawu University of Applied Business and Sciences (MUBAS) on the use of SunSPOT, a gadget that will be able to greatly improve student learning through Open Distance Learning (ODL).
 
The three day training is meant for the lecturers and directors to learn SunSPOT. It will equip the participants from the five universities with knowledge and skills on how to effectively configure, assemble and utilise the SunSPOT technology.

Dinganji
Dinganji explaining the SunSPOT

It is envisaged that the Universities will be able to build the gadgets right at the institutions here in Malawi.

These gadgets will be piloted in 10 sites under the SHEAMA partnered public universities in Malawi. 

Sam Diganji, Professor from Arizona State University and Program Director for SHEAMA said: "The device is an offline WIFI system that enables students to access educational content without charge and without the need or Internet connectivity."

Dinganji explained: "The advantage of the system is that it is open architecture, its open sources, there are no licensing fees and SHEAMA, the university partners will be able to manufacture and assemble their own devices and to distribute them, to configure them to meet their own needs.

"So the universities use this to meet the needs of their students is the location they need to provide access.

Matewere

Information Communication Technology officer responsible for promotion of innovation and creativity at Ministry of Education, Macferson Matewere, emphasised they are looking at making sure students have access to information.

"The coming in of SunSPOT will help us achieve access to information without reliance on the Internet."

He pointed out the issue of COVID-19 has made it difficult for people to meet regularly, creating demand for online learning.

'"Without good internet connecting that is becoming a challenge, with this we will be able to load in information, give them the gadget so that they are able to access the information," he said.

What is the SunSPOT

The SunSPOT

SunSPOT (Solar Powered Offline Teaching) technology is an innovation by ASU through which university students and lecturers will be able to access the Learning Management system i.e. Moodle thereby download/upload their course materials and assignments without using Internet.  
 
This technology is mostly aimed at benefiting the students who are in learning through ODL and can hardly afford to pay for internet charges as they will be able to download the course materials including course videos, upload the assignments using their digital device without using internet data bundles.  

Technicalities

SunSPOT is powered by Beekee and has storage of up to 256GB, a range of Wi-Fi network: ~40 meters  and accommodates 25 users simultaneously.

The battery life is 1.5 hours (internal); up to 16 hours (with external)  which is supplied. It is portable with a dimensions: 11.1 cm x 7.5 cm and is capable of 2-way synch between devices and remote staff with optional Beekee Hub • Capable of charging with solar panel