The Gorkha E-Learning Collaborative began in August of 2020, as the COVID-related closures of schools in Nepal seemed to be unending, and little support for distance learning was coming from government sources. It was evident that private schools were successfully conducting distance education in many parts of Nepal, but teachers in Gorkha had little direction as to how to start such a novel and complex undertaking, especially in government schools that serve marginalized communities.
Foundation: The Gorkha Foundation put out word to various schools that we were looking for partners to develop a distance learning program for teachers in community schools in Gorkha. One teacher, Surendra Devkota, responded to this idea with intense interest because he was also looking for ways to share his ICT expertise to help teachers in Gorkha start teaching remotely.
Six pilot schools were chosen to participate in this project based on interest from teachers and/or administration at the school. It was made clear that the Gorkha Foundation would not be providing teachers remuneration for participation in this project, that it was fully voluntary, and not required. This was done to ensure that participating teachers were highly motivated to be there through desire to learn the skills required to teach via distance learning modes. These six schools were:
Once schools were chosen, Surendra Devkota worked with Jo Anne Pandey, part of the Gorkha Foundation board, to create a 15 day training program for teachers focusing on the technical and pedagogical aspects of distance learning. Trainers from Kantipur Children’s Hospital provided training in children’s mental health issues during the pandemic as well. The training concluded with 3 days of virtual workshopping so that teachers could use their new skills to collaborate on producing shared content for their students.
Teachers enjoyed this collaborative process so much, that they requested another 3 days of workshopping together. After these 3 days, word spread and more teachers wanted to join the project. So another 15 day training was added. More teachers joined, and this time teachers who participated in the first part of the training led the second part of the training highlighting new apps or ideas that they had found that helped their distance teaching. Teachers also shared issues they were facing and helped each other to solve important problems.
Community of Inquiry:
The group had become a true Community of Inquiry, where each member is equal, having the opportunity to teach, lead, and learn. The teachers wanted to continue their community of inquiry going, so they decided to keep meeting weekly via Zoom on an ongoing basis.
Beyond the initial problem of getting distance learning off the ground, the Gorkha E-Learning Collaborative has helped teachers to solve problems as they develop in response to the changes taking place around them, such as changes in government regulations and the COVID situation.
Teachers helped each other to: