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PHL to roll out cloud-based e-learning project

February 7, 2012 1:04pm

Adopting a proposal from the private sector, the government has set into motion an ambitious cloud-based e-learning project that will see Filipino teachers and students tapping the Internet for collaborative education.

Luis Sison, executive program manager of Cloud Top

Codenamed “Cloud Top”, the initiative is being led by the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in partnership with US-based PhilDev Forum (formerly Ayala Foundation USA).

The revolutionary undertaking, which will make use of thin client PCs and servers, requires an initial budget of P270 million. Both the DepEd and the DOST are reportedly shouldering the cost with some contributions from the private sector.

The e-learning project was a product of the discussions conducted by Phildev, according to its chair Diosdado “Dado” Banatao, the Cagayan-born tech mogul based out of Silicon Valley.

At a preliminary meeting held recently at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pasig City, Banatao was also named by the DepEd and DOST as program director.

Luis Sison, a professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, was designated as executive program manager who will oversee the project’s overall implementation. He will report directly to Banatao.

Under the plan, teachers will primarily use “thin client PCs” to facilitate a “multi-grade and single-grade” blended learning approach.

A thin client, according to Wikipedia, is a computer or a computer program which depends heavily on some other computer (usually a server) to fulfill its traditional computational roles.

Unlike in “one-laptop-per-child” initiatives being implemented in other parts of the globe, Banatao said in an interview that the thin client model is more cost-effective and manageable since students and the teachers do not have to worry about the software and hardware upkeep of the units.

US-based tech titan Diosdado "Dado" Banatao (left) is seen here mapping out the project with DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro and DOST Secretary Mario Montejo

A pilot implementation is expected to last over two years involving 14 schools – both primary and secondary — in three batches. The UP Integrated School (UPIS) in Diliman and a “challenged” school will serve as testing sites in June of this year.

While the two schools will be using “off-the-shelf” components for the initial stage, Sison said in his presentation that they expect to produce “alpha prototypes” in six sites by November 2012 and “beta prototypes” in the other six sites by June 2013.

The “hardware suite” that will be deployed in a site includes: a projector, 20 thin clients, three school servers, cabling and switches, power and communications system, printer, and scanner.

The indicative cost of the equipment, according to Sison, are as follows: P2,500 to P3,000 for each thin client, P3,000 for LCD monitors, and P4,000 for Ethernet cabling. The speed of the Internet connection should not be less than 1Mbps, he added.

Sison said in his presentation that the cloud-based model has a more effective tutorial-style teaching, access to richer and appropriate content, allows for collaborative learning experience, and focuses on student-centered learning.

With Cloud Top, Sison said the ICT and content community will also have a new content delivery platform, a channel for technology transfer, and the chance to export higher value-added goods.

Sison also said the program, which is being implemented simultaneously with the government’s K12 program, will complement existing e-learning-related initiatives of the public and private sectors.

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