“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

COVID-19 is changing our society and our world. It is also changing the way we learn. Education systems are moving towards remote learning, but this requires a deep, cultural change. Campus IL is Israel’s national digital learning platform, based on the Open edX platform. We strive to leverage the opportunity of digital learning to promote social equality and economic growth. Campus IL offers learners a rich catalog of learning resources. Leading Israeli universities, colleges and government ministries created more than 230 online courses. Courses on our learning platform are all 100% free.

Staying at home seems to be the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19. This leads many to the online learning world, in search of solutions while practicing social distance. As a result, Campus IL experienced significant growth. We saw a 147% growth in unique learners, a 97% growth in learning sessions, and a 31% growth in time spent on the site. We also reached 2 million visits to our online platform and 60% of our learners during COVID-19 are new users. With online learning, learners are finding new pathways to knowledge and education. Below are five ways in which we are providing learning opportunities to those affected by the Coronavirus. 

#1: Learning together

Complying with social distancing practices is not easy. Israel in particular has a warm and friendly culture, making it even more challenging. Through learning, we are finding new ways to connect with one another. Our new live webinar series “The Masters”, brings top experts and researchers to our virtual living room. They discuss and share their insights with the general public, for free. We already featured world renowned experts such as behavioral economics expert Dan Ariely, futurist David Passig, Neuroscientist Liad Mudrik and Nobel laureate Aaron Ciechanover. On average, 10,000 learners actively participate in each session by asking questions, reacting and sharing.

We also created our first blended learning pilot. The pilot brings learning communities together based on popular courses on our platform. The goal is supporting students with tailored  learning  opportunities. To those participating, we offer small groups with expert facilitation. The groups meet in exclusive synchronous learning sessions. Each group has a dedicated community manager and communication channels. On average, participants rated the program at 4.75 out of 5. Engagement increased significantly in comparison with control groups, in some cases by more than 100%. Here is what one learner said about the initiative:

“Thank you all, you were excellent, sensitive, clear, and your support helped me gather the motivation and discipline I needed to learn, I strongly recommend it!”

#2: Learning needed skills with immediate relevance

Our society’s most pressing needs at these times required thinking out of the box. With our small but nimble team and strong partnerships, we created a “fast-track” MOOC production workflow. With this new process, we produced needed online courses in record time. Full online courses became available to learners in a matter of weeks, from concept to launch. Skills offered include: addressing stress and anxiety in adults and children; mindfulness: the art of developing self awareness; remote work skills; spoken Arabic for medical professionals and learning about viruses from the biological perspective.

#3: Gaining new skills in a changing job market

Many have lost their jobs or have been sent home on extended unpaid leave during COVID-19. We offer concrete learning opportunities to those who need to adapt. We provide micro credentials for teacher training, programming courses, management skills, and more.

The growing needs for skilled high-tech workers, also led us to a new partnership. The Ministry of Labor, Digital Israel and Start Up Nation Central partnered with us to make the high-tech industry more accessible. In this learning program, job seekers receive tailored professional development and needed skills. The programs are designed to promote diversity and inclusion in high-tech. They provide a pathway to those who do not always have access to quality training programs. The learning programs include tracks such as full stack and front-end engineering, UX/UI and data analysis.

#4: Learning how to learn

The most important skill of our time is the learning skill. To help our learners gain this skill, we created a unique Telegram channel (a cloud-based instant messaging platform). In this channel we post daily tips for independent learning and online education. The tips are practical and research based. The goal is helping learners harness the power of learning to their advantage. Tips focus on simple, practical actions anyone can use, especially at home.  Nearly 3000 new members joined the channel in the first few weeks. We also led a flash-production of our first “Learning how to Learn in the digital world” online course in Hebrew. The course provides the basics of online learning for all.

#5: Preparing learners for higher education 

COVID-19 has brought about much uncertainty. School closures have changed the way schools and universities operate. It is still unclear what the next school year will be like. Addressing this uncertainty, we are helping high school students prepare for higher education. On Campus IL, learners can take a wide range of academic courses from leading universities and colleges in Israel. These courses provide the actual skills needed to succeed in university. Some courses even offer a direct admissions pathway with recognized academic credit. Soon we plan to offer secure online exams for credit. Our first proctored exam pilot with Tel Aviv University will take place in June 2020.

Access to higher education in Israel is dependent on the psychometric exam (similar to the American SAT). We recently launched an online preparation course for the psychometric exam. This course provides a high quality alternative to expensive offerings in the market. It is 100% free for everyone. Revolutionizing the admissions pathways into higher education means more access. Our prep course and credit-bearing content provide more opportunities to those with less access. Anna, a Campus IL learner, shared her experience with us:

“I searched for a psychometric course in many places, and the prices ranged between 5-6 thousand shekels. They were also very far from my hometown. When I saw an online course that was completely free on the Campus IL website, I got really excited, but also suspicious. I enrolled, and learned that the fact that it’s free doesn’t say anything about the quality, on the contrary. It means Israel wants to advance people that don’t have the money to pay for high quality courses.” – Anna, Campus IL learner

We look forward to continuing to leverage the power of digital learning for the benefit of society. 

View the video below to learn more about Campus IL during COVID-19
from the Open edX Community remote meetup on May 14, 2020.