(Modified from Commonwealth Connections "InFocus", February 2009)
The Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) is a regional service of COL based in New Delhi, India. CEMCA’s purpose is to promote the meaningful, relevant and appropriate use of information and communication technology (ICT) to serve the educational and training needs of Commonwealth member states in Asia.
Working in partnership with COL, other international agencies, educational institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), CEMCA is effectively expanding the use of open and distance learning (ODL) for development through a number of innovative initiatives, for example the "EasyNow" and “Science for Women” projects.
CEMCA’s EasyNow is a platform that brings together easy-to-use technologies that enable teachers to create learning materials in an array of delivery modes. What makes EasyNow special is that it allows multiple deliverables from a single electronic source. For instance, a classroom lecture captured on video can be re-packaged and delivered in multiple forms including:
• A video lesson,
• An enriched video incorporating graphics,
• An audio lesson,
• A print-based output using text-to-speech tools,
• A slide show using PowerPoint or other presentation packages, and
• A print-based format.
EasyNow also integrates into formats for learners with visual impairments. EasyNow offers fast downloads, which is particularly important for those with low bandwidth Internet connections.
CEMCA has successfully demonstrated the efficacy of EasyNow in several ODL institutions in India, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. In five-day training workshops, participants working in groups master the simple technologies, record their lessons and deliver them in web-enabled ODL and other formats. Since EasyNow is based on a basket of open source technologies, CEMCA can easily add on features to meet the institution’s need, demand and thrust area.
Science for Women
“Science for Women: Health and Nutrition” is a programme that provides illiterate women in resource-poor settings with access to learning about important health issues through community radio.
Initiated by the Indian Department of Science and Technology and implemented by CEMCA, Science for Women is an interactive radio series currently involving 12 community radio stations. This is a participatory process that includes the students and listening communities – the women learn radio production skills and create relevant content using information provided by university partners.
The focus is on health and nutrition, which addresses a significant challenge. While women traditionally bear primary responsibility for the well-being of their families, they are often denied access to education, health care services, job training, and the freedom to use health and family planning services. Women are also often discriminated against as consumers of services, which can lead to neglect of their own heath and well being. The overarching goal of “Science for Women” is behavioural change; an increase in the knowledge, awareness and practice of women towards health and nutrition for themselves and their families.
Every day a 15- to 30-minute “Science for Women” programme is broadcast on the community radio stations with a reach estimated at 12,000 women (and inevitably many men as well) across India. CEMCA is launching a second phase with participation being expanded to 20 community radio stations.
In addition to providing valuable health information, “Science for Women” is creating a bank of content that can be re-used. It is helping women gain skills as announcers, interviewers, writers and programme contributors, while also providing alternate means of livelihood for the community. And it is helping community radio stations gain an identity, an audience and a purpose.