I am working for Dialog Axiata on a short term basis contract on Nenasa education channel. I was interested in newly launched Dialog service, Dialog eTeacher and thought of taking a course or two. I started from the basics. Rather than asking Dialog for a free ride, I myself subscribed to the eTeacher service paying the regular fee through my personal mobile phone and tested two courses, Ordinary Level Sinhala and English Literature. I tested with a Dialog dongle from the second floor of Dialog’s Dharmapala Mawatha office. The subscription and registration process for a course was not that complicated. But the instructions were only in English even for Sinhala subjects. I think instructions should be made trilingual to make it easier for the user.
I first took OL Sinhala course offered by popular (and controversial) tuition guru Mr. Upul Shantha Sannasgala as I too am interested in Sinhala language. I have a Distinction for it at OL and a B at AL. Sinhala was my favorite language but due to professional reasons, I have to use English more.
Price of the Sinhala course was 150 LKR, a reasonable fee, I think, for any student.
Downloading the video lessons took more time than expected. This was disappointing at the beginning but the quality of the video was excellent. This is the compromise one has to come when it comes to online video content. The faster the downloading, the poorer the quality; slower the downloading the richer the quality.
Video – As far as I think, camera angles of the videos should be more academic and static showing only head and shoulders. They shouldn’t have videoed in artistic methods like zooming in and zooming out, reflections on tables which can distract the student. Better to have the teacher seated or standing up in a more formal place than on a settee. Teacher should dress properly, not casually. Mind you, there are thousands who are against the discipline of the private tuition teachers and their dress codes and such sensitivities should be taken care of. Overall, lessons were done perfectly well given the short time period allocated for a video. Students will prefer the videos than any other format and the videos are not too long to bore the student.
Notes – Attached notes look comprehensive and yet simple. They will definitely inspire the student more than the text books as the presented format in the computer screen is new. The PDF files of the lessons did not have the common Unicode errors that contain when converting to PDF. Extensive examples on grammar rules are given and this would enhance the student’s knowledge further.
Audio – Audio lessons are very clear as expected. It gives more or less the same content in the video and the students who access the lessons with a slower connection can download the audio files instead. It would have been better if the audio and video files could be saved by the student but one cannot simply ignore the copyrights infringements that could obviously follow. You would see the Dialog content freely available in Pettah for a song.
I did have some trouble starting my second course OL English Literature and when I contacted the help line it was directed to Dialog’s regular hotline 077-7678678 and gave me the same options such as reporting about lost mobiles, billing information, etc. I think Dialog should customize eTeacher helpline only to serve its needs without the student having to wait till all the regular options are read out by the helpline for which the student has nothing to do with. However, the helpline girl helped me satisfactorily to start the second lesson.
The cost of English course was 375 LKR, more than twice the price of the Sinhala course.
English tutor is Ms. Dhunushka Medawatte and I hadn’t heard anything about her till I subscribed to the course. But when going through her credentials, I found that she is a lecturer in a reputed Sri Lankan university and possesses a Diploma in English and Literature plus DELF diplomas in French. She has a 2nd upper in LL.B (English Medium) and Diplomas in International Relations (Hons) and in Industrial Relations and Industrial Law (IPM.)
Notes – When going through her notes, one understands that she has thorough knowledge of her subject. Notes are clear and to the point. Lengthy notes are available where necessary with more information about the authors of respective literary work. (Keener students can go to Wikipedia and other sources independently of Dialog eTeacher and access more information about the authors and their work.)
Audio – No audio lessons were uploaded yet.
Video – Available lesson was ok but the sound quality was very poor. There was an unnecessary hum in the background.
In both the courses, Dialog has not uploaded the full course content yet. I think that would be done soon as the students have already paid for the full courses. Dialog SMSes the student whenever a new lesson is uploaded to the site but it would have been better to start a course with total number of text, audio and video files.
Dialog’s initiative is an innovative step to uplift education and bridge the Digital Divide in the island. I hope Dialog would make the courses available through mobiles as well in future by enabling mLearning too.
* Views expressed here are my own and not in any way endorsed, requested or influenced by Dialog.