Connected Higher Education in Crisis Contexts Webinar (July)

We are pleased to invite you to our monthly Connected Higher Education in Crisis contexts series, taking place online on Wednesday 20th July 2022, from 14:00 to 15:00 BST. The events are held by the Open University UK in collaboration with the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Presentation Title: How do we reach learners in environments with limited connectivity?

Dr Kris Stutchbury, Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Languages (WELS), The Open University
Dr Mark Gaved, Institute of Educational Technology (IET), The Open University

Digital and networked technologies can enhance teaching and learning, but not everybody is well connected. This is particularly true of learners in low- to middle-income countries and other marginalised learners who can experience technological, economic, social and even legal barriers to accessing resources and interacting with others online. However, there is widespread access to networked devices (principally smartphones).

In our presentation, we talk about two approaches that have enabled teachers and district officials in Zambia to use their networked devices to access digital resources, interact with peers and trainers, and engage in collaborative learning to enhance their professional development, and hence improve children’s education. The Zambian Education School Based Training programme (ZEST) has used battery powered networked hubs (Raspberry Pi computers running Moodle software) to enable educators to learn together and access digital materials where printing and distributing paper-based resources can be highly problematic, and internet connectivity and reliable electricity cannot be assured. We call this approach ‘offline networked learning’. Alongside this, WhatsApp, the phone messaging app, and Zoom videconferencing tool have been used to enable discussions, sharing best practice and professional reflections between educators when connectivity is possible.  We will discuss our experiences, challenges faced, and how this approach might be applied elsewhere.

ZEST is the Zambian Education School Based Training programme, led by the Open University alongside World Vision Zambia, funded by the Scottish Government and invited by the Zambian Ministry of General Education to enhance the provision of continuing professional development in response to a revised national curriculum, which emphasizes learner centred education and inclusivity.

Author bios:
Dr Kris Stutchbury is a Senior Lecturer in Education in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education, and Language Studies at The Open University. She worked as a Secondary Science teacher for 20 years before moving into Teacher Education. She teachers on the OU Masters in learning and Teaching, alongside being Academic Director for two development projects – Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA)  and Zambia Education School-based Training (ZEST). Her research covers various aspects of these projects, but is probably best conceptualised in terms of understanding implementation – what works in the field of pedagogical change and why?

Dr Mark Gaved is a lecturer in the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University. He has over 20 years of experience of exploring networked technologies to support community based learning and knowledge sharing, particularly in low resourced and marginalised contexts. He led the Open University team on a European funded project developing and trialling offline networking tools to support neighbourhood overcome sustainability challenges (, and brought this experience to support the ZEST project use of low cost digital networking to support teacher education.

Link to Part 1
Link to Part 2

For more information about this series of events please get in touch with Dr Koula Charitonos, Institute of Educational Technology, Open University at koula.charitonos at or Francis Randle, Division of Resilience and Solutions, UNHCR at RANDLE at

If you would like to be sent a meeting request for these events please contact Kristiina at openTEL at