1. Who we are

In the fall of 2012, a group of graduate and undergraduate students at the University of California, San Diego created an offline-installable version of Khan Academy, KA Lite (see below). Soon after releasing KA Lite, it became clear that it was serving a very important need, and that it would be important to establish a group to continue to develop and support it. The Foundation for Learning Equality (FLE), formed by the team developing KA Lite, was incorporated on April 22, 2013, and is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in San Diego, California.

Learning Equality is dedicated to bridging the digital divide, through creating and supporting tools that enable access to high quality educational opportunities for the disconnected world. We build open-source software that allows communities with limited, expensive, or no Internet bandwidth to engage with high-quality digital learning resources on low-cost hardware.

Over 350 million children around the world are out of school, and another 250 million are in school but not learning. These populations also tend to fall into the 60% of the world that is not on the Internet, thus preventing them from leveraging alternative educational opportunities. Our strategy is to create innovative tools that leverage the convergence of two trends -- the proliferation of high quality open educational materials on the Internet, and rapidly dropping hardware prices, e.g. the Raspberry Pi and Android tablets -- to enable new learning opportunities in challenging contexts.

2. What we’ve done

We worked with Khan Academy to help bring their huge library (7000+ videos and thousands of exercises) of free K-12 (and college-level) educational content to disadvantaged communities, specifically those who are having trouble accessing it due to expensive, slow, or unavailable Internet access.

We launched KA Lite as an open source platform for viewing and interacting with Khan Academy content, allowing students to gain much of the experience of Khan Academy in offline settings - with progress tracking and instant feedback from exercises. KA Lite has been installed in over 160 countries, in contexts as varied as rural schools, orphanages, community centers, refugee camps, prisons, and homes. However, KA Lite is only the beginning of our mission to bring a world class education to those who most need it.

3. Our motivation

There is a lot of excitement around the “online learning revolution” that has been building in the last few years, fueled by the success of Khan Academy, the MOOC providers, and many other online platforms. One of the primary virtues extolled is the potential for ubiquitous access to high quality education. This emphasis on ubiquity is critical for any strategy that hopes to use education to level the global playing field, however, we run the risk of perpetuating the digital divide by inadvertently but specifically neglecting those disadvantaged and isolated populations that could benefit most from access to these educational resources.

One of the most challenging barriers to accessing online learning resources is the massive disparities in internet connectivity between developed and developing regions, with approximately 60% of the world still not classified as internet users, according to the World Development Indicators compiled by the World Bank.1 The countries with the least internet access are the same countries likely to have fewer educational resources, such as well-trained teachers and books, available to learners.

Hence the populations that could potentially most benefit from alternative educational resources are the same ones that are least able to access them. If we’re serious about achieving the online learning revolution’s mission of universal access, and don’t want to leave further generations of students behind by waiting for high-speed internet to reach everyone, then we need to explore solutions for distributing and hosting open educational resources via low-bandwidth and offline channels, taking advantage of low-cost or pre-existing infrastructure.

4. Where we’re headed

We’ve seen widespread demand for ways to allow for local curation, production, and distribution of content to meet the cultural, linguistic and curricular needs of particular regions and groups. Our broader vision is to meet this need by building a more general purpose offline learning platform/ecosystem that will empower local teachers to author their own content, make use of it within their communities, and share it with the rest of the world.

We have moved beyond the Khan Academy content to build a second generation platform, “Kolibri”, that will enable seamless authoring, peer-to-peer sharing, personalized content curation, and engaging interaction with locally relevant educational content, on any offline device.