Skills2Learn releases SA-first e-learning program for World Aids Day

November 17, 2003

Skills2Learn is to release a South African first to coincide with World Aids Day on December 1 – an e-learning program that educates people about AIDS in an engaging and interactive storyline format. The program is available in eight African languages.

The story format was chosen as it is a powerful teaching tool in Africa, and is used as a means to pass on culture and traditions from generation to generation. “For centuries, people have been learning by listening to stories,” says Frank Keery, chairman of Skills2Learn. The company has patented the multiple choice story format for its e-learning course.

There are multiple outcomes, different venues and different timings in the program, depending on the choices the user makes, but regardless of where they end up, there are four review sections with eight questions each. Here, the lessons are reinforced by questioning the trainee on key issues. Even if they get the answers right, there is still amplification on the most important concepts.

Keery says the program deals with tribal values. There are dream sequences where a warrior appears to the hero reinforcing or speaking against choices that the learner has made in the program.

“We show the causality between choice and consequence. One of the insidious things about this disease is that HIV infection through unsafe sex may only affect a person in five to 10 years’ time. If that person were to become sick immediately after sex, it would have a much bigger impact on everyone’s thinking. The more time that passes, the more the brain can rationalise and discount the consequences of one’s actions. We want people to identify with the character. Instead of making the wrong choices in life, we want them to learn about the right choices on the computer.”

While conducting its investigations into the epidemic, Skills2Learn discovered there were two market segments most at risk: Young people and blue-collar, poorly or uneducated people working for corporate South Africa. The initial program has been designed for the second group.

Keery says: “We met with HIV/Aids trainers and the human resources department of companies throughout South Africa to see what they were doing, or not doing, in the prevention area. Some were making meagre attempts, such as handouts from trainers, perhaps slides, and these were usually available only in English.

“Knowing the power of e-learning – we have been in the market for 10 years, 18 months of which we have been operating in South Africa – we realised it was the perfect solution to educate people about HIV/Aids.”

Skills2Learn met with industrial psychologists, consultants and “all other representatives we could get our hands on” from United Nations conferences and world study groups.

“We believe we have an in-depth understanding of the problem, down to the latest information, which has all been incorporated into the program. We designed the program as a total solution to HIV/Aids prevention training. All the content and support material that is needed for an integrated HIV/AIDS programme are included.

“It goes beyond teaching the rudiments, while still using basic tools and symbols to describe, for example, the body’s immune system, which can be potentially confusing to the uninformed. The program also dispels myths such as the common belief that one can catch Aids from a toilet seat; that having sex with a virgin will cure Aids; and that fat people are less likely to contract Aids. Ignorance creates a stigma around people with Aids – even their families don’t want to touch them.”Keery says Uganda has been a leader in Africa and has shown an appreciable decrease in the country’s new infection rate over the past five to 10 years. It has achieved this through advocating abstinence as the only means to prevent Aids; being faithful to only one partner to reduce the chance of infection; and using a condom as a last resort, should a person not adhere to the first two.

The e-learning progra deals with important subjects in a variety of scenarios. For example, in three different venues, groups talk and interact about important HIV/AIDS subjects – men and women, men and men, and women and women. “It address behavioural issues in multiple sequences,” says Keery.

“It does not just educate, but imparts knowledge dealing with behaviour modification. People may know how to use a condom, but when they leave a training room they may not necessarily change their behaviour. This program gets people to the point where they start thinking about changing their behaviour when it comes to sex.”

Keery says: “We have shown a demo of the program to a number of Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), mining houses, retailers, and other groups – all gave us very good feedback.” The program can be deployed in three ways:

    ·On an individual computer with user schedules.
    · With two to three users per computer, encouraging peer interaction, perhaps with a facilitator.
    · Projected on a screen for groups of 20-30, with a trainer walking the group through the program and encouraging and leading group discussion.

It is available on CD, which can be run from a single computer, over a LAN, WAN or intranet. There is no Internet version available, as there is a significant amount of voice and graphics, which are bandwidth-intensive.

The interface has been made simple enough for even the most computer-illiterate person to operate, says Keery. It is wholly mouse-driven, and walks the user through each step. A short mouse tutorial is included in the beginning of the program. Mouse navigation is prompted on screen by a flashing hand indicating in which direction the user should move. The concurrent benefit is that a computer-illiterate person becomes more confident using a computer.

The e-learning course is fully customisable. The demo model uses a mining scenario, but the characters and story line can be adapted to suit any industry, such as a security firm, for example. A company’s name, logo and other distinguishing features can be easily integrated into the program to bring the learner closer to their real work situation. The workers’ clothing can be changed to match a specific job function.

The program comes with a learning content management system (LCMS) tracker, with an administration code that gives details by learner, sub-group, total group and exhibits test results, percentage completion, time spent, and individual learner participation. This allows an organisation the ability to monitor and control the total HIV/AIDS learning process with positive feedback and even proof of use to facilitate Skills Levy training refunds.

The program is available in English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Seswati, Setswana, Sepedi and Sotho.

Pricing ranges from R5-R12 per user per month, or R60-R120 per user per year, depending upon the number of users. An installation fee of R2 500 is applicable in greater Johannesburg. For other areas, installation costs include travel expenses. A pre launch discount of 10% is available for purchases made before December 1.

Skills2Learn also provides “train-the-trainer” programmes for companies which have bought the application. It will supply trainers with material and training to assist them in deploying and using the program to maximise the benefits of their purchase.

Frank Keery,
Skills2Learn, (011) 666-0000,
Rashmika Jeewa, FHC Strategic Communications, (011) 608-1228,