UCSD Alumni Create Free Offline Education Software

Learning Equality, a nonprofit working out of the UCSD Cognitive Science Building’s offices, is currently developing software that will bring free online learning programs to people without Internet access. The nonprofit is set to release its new software, called Kolibri, in September of this year.

A group of graduate and undergraduate students founded the organization in April 2013 after successfully creating KA Lite, a tool that gives offline access to the free learning material provided by Khan Academy on the Internet, in December 2012. The offline version of Khan Academy includes over 7,000 educational videos and 20,000 interactive exercises.

Richard Tibbles, a software developer for Learning Equality and a doctoral student in the Cognitive Science department at UCSD, told the UCSD Guardian that they derived the idea for KA Lite from a desire to provide free high-quality education to those who need it the most.

“Out of an intrinsic belief in the value and transformative power of education, we set about making a tool to give access to the free learning materials that Khan Academy was providing online to those who had little or no Internet access,” Tibbles said.

The software can be installed on low-cost devices such as the Raspberry Pi, a $25 computer that a UK-based nonprofit released in 2012, and used as a local server. Since the software’s release in December 2012, KA Lite has been installed in over 160 countries and reached an estimated 2.1 million learners in various contexts including orphanages, refugee camps, rural schools, homes and prisons.

Thurgood Marshall College senior Josef Goodyear, a former research and implementations intern for Learning Equality, told the UCSD Guardian that the importance of the nonprofit lies in its aim to bridge the gap between populations who have Internet and those who do not.

“There are so many free educational resources out there (Khan Academy, Coursera, etc.) but they aren’t accessible to a majority of the population because [roughly] 60 percent of the world doesn’t have Internet access,” Goodyear explained.

The nonprofit recently received a sponsorhip from Google’s GlobalEDU.org, an organization dedicated to making quality education more accessible through technological innovation. GlobalEDU.org granted Learning Equality a $400,000 sponsorship last November, which the nonprofit plans to put toward developing its new software — Kolibri.

According to Tibbles, Kolibri will build on KA Lite by opening up access to more content and allowing users to create their own curriculum.

“It will allow for remixing of content, [which will] allow users to repurpose content to be more relevant for their local languages, cultures and contexts,” Tibbles said.

Kolibri will see an early release with a few of Learning Equality’s partners before its public debut in September.