e-Skills360° courses are accessed through ICWFD's technology platform. There are varying means by which students in developing countries can gain access to these courses via PCs and the Internet. Common access points include schools, universities, institutes, technology centers, cyber cafes, tele-centers, community-based organizations with shared-use computers, and government-sponsored shared-use centers. The ICWFD finds the optimal locations for access to the Internet in each country it works; the selected locations receive PIN codes, which they then distribute to students free of cost (PINs may also be used on home PCs).
ICWFD identifies National Program Coordinators (NPCs), and other course-distribution partners, in each country of this Commitment. NPCs develop and implement strategies, with a focus on gender equity, for the dissemination of PIN codes that serve the needs of local residents. The NPC function can be fulfilled by an NGO, company, government office, educational institution, individual with expertise in this domain, etc.
ICWFD will partner with funding sources that seek to advance the objectives and outcomes of this Commitment. Potential funding sources may include corporate social responsibility programs, foundations, governments, international organizations, NGOs, development banks, and individuals, and they may be global, regional, national, or local in scope. NPCs, funding partners, and outreach partners may be enfranchised to raise awareness of the e-Skills360° program in a beneficiary country, so that potential students may learn about the program and their opportunity to gain job skills for employment in the 21st century workforce.
The education systems of most developing countries face daunting challenges posed by an insufficient number of teachers and classrooms, inconsistent and inadequate curriculum standards, inadequate teacher training standards (to assure subject matter expertise) and accountability, insufficient educational tools and resources, and inadequate mechanisms to promote and ensure student educational achievements. The consequences of these and other shortcomings include an inability to provide education to many students, insufficiency of knowledge among students who do complete the curriculum, an absence of mechanisms for broad-based continuing education in job skills that are applicable to the local economy, and a wholesale disconnect between the education system and potential local employers. Traditional classroom settings are inherently impractical and limiting, as they are very expensive, cannot satisfy the demand for training among students and young adults, and do not adequately prepare learners with the job skills that are needed for employment. In light of fiscal constraints that are endemic in developing countries, traditional educational models do not provide sufficient value. They can neither accommodate the vast numbers of prospective learners who want and need training, nor provide the standardized state-of-the-art learning that is essential for learners to qualify for work in companies that participate in the global economy.
E-learning is increasingly recognized as a useful and cost-efficient solution to these pressures. The benefits of e-learning are numerous, including (a) the ubiquitous access to consistent, standardized, state-of-the-art curriculum, (b) the risk-free individualized pace of learning, enabling students to review or accelerate, without exposure to their peers, (c) the accessibility for girls and women who may face societal barriers to learning, (d) the use of an engaging, interactive experience which promotes student engagement and motivation, (e) the saving of cost and time by accessing training locally, without needing to travel substantial distances to a classroom, and (f) the establishment of a culture of continuous self-improvement via life-long learning.
The ICWFD's innovative e-Skills360° program leverages these benefits to e-learning, and solves additional challenges. Some e-learning programs need vast bandwidth to deliver courseware files, are susceptible to piracy, not monitored, and very expensive. In contrast, the e-Skills360° courses features proprietary compression technology that reduces bandwidth, and builds in an anti-piracy and learning management system for monitoring student usage and achievement. Access is controlled by PIN codes for easy use and monitoring. Whereas other courses are provided commercially for $100 and $150 per student/per course, e-Skills360° courses are available for no more than $8 per student/per course. The low cost of e-Skills360° courses, enabled by ICWFD's low-overhead non-profit business model, enables governments and funders to maximize the number of students to whom they provide job skills training.