Expanding the Impact of Practical Scientific Concepts for Low-literate Learners through an Inclusive and Participatory Virtual Knowledge Ecosystem

By Julia Bello-Bravo, Ricardo Diaz, Srinivas Venugopal, Madhu Viswanathan and Barry R. Pittendrigh.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Extension materials for low-literate learners are often developed as part of specialized projects for specific regions or groups. In some cases these materials are inaccessible to other development organizations during the project’s life or are lost at the end of the project. More recently, such development materials are typically placed on individual websites for the purpose of preserving the content beyond the scope of any given project. However, such materials are (i) often challenging to find and (ii) those individuals that are able to find and adapt these materials for local use cannot return these local adaptations to the World Wide Web without creating new, often separate, websites. We propose an Internet-based virtual knowledge sharing system for development materials for low-literate learners that allows users to easily access the materials and to contribute their local adaptations and local solutions. The site we envision is similar to a “wikipedia” in terms of ease of use but contains materials that will be peer-reviewed before publication. The site also will allow for post-publication online reviews and updates as mechanisms to assist in the improvement of content and to facilitate the localized adaptation of content.

Keywords: Extension Documents, Developing Nations, Low-literate Learners

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.147-164. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.909MB).

Dr. Julia Bello-Bravo

Extension Specialist, Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, Univesity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA

Dr. Bello is part of an international team of educators and scientists focused on developing novel extension strategies for developing nations. Dr. Bello’s current work focuses on issues in Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Mali as they relate to specialty crops. She also works on issues of how to increase inclusiveness of under-represented people in educational networks and systems.

Ricardo Diaz

Hispanic Outreach Office, Office of Extension and Outreach, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA

Ricardo Diaz presently works for the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in the Office of Extension. His specific duties include developing outreach models to Spanish speaking communities, grant writing, helping county offices strengthen their presence and programs amongst Latinos, and developing software to disseminate key projects in developing countries. Until recently he served as an independent research consultant in fields that benefit and learn from Latino Communities in the U.S. He held contracts with Congreso de Latinos Unidos, the Educational Testing Service, and the Certified Contractors Network. He is principal at Xpenn Consulting and president of Superior Language Inc.

Srinivas Venugopal

MBA student, Business School, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA

Srinivas Venugopal has a background in social entrepreneurship and is currently pursuing his MBA at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. Prior his MBA, he was leading a technology-based social venture focused on delivering education services to low income consumers in rural Tamil Nadu, India. His venture was acquired by a USD 3 billion business house in December 2008. He is the founder-president of a non-governmental-organization called “Diya” (http://diya.org.in) which focuses on providing supplementary education in the urban slums of Chennai, India. At the University of Illinois, Srinivas is engaged in a number of research projects under the “subsistence marketplace initiative” and is a teaching assistant for a module on “Sustainable Businesses for Subsistence Marketplaces” under Prof. Madhu Viswanathan. Srinivas is the co-curator of TEDxUIUC (www.TEDxUIUC.com).

Madhu Viswanathan

Professor, Business Administration, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA

Madhu Viswanathan is Professor of Business Administration at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he has been on the faculty since 1990. He earned a B. Tech in Mechanical Engineering (Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, 1985), and a PhD in Marketing (University of Minnesota, 1990). His research programs are in two areas; measurement and research methodology, and literacy, poverty, and subsistence marketplace behaviors. He has authored books in both areas: Measurement Error and Research Design (Sage, 2005), and Enabling Consumer and Entrepreneurial Literacy in Subsistence Marketplaces (Springer, 2008, in alliance with UNESCO). He directs the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative (www.business.illinois.edu/subsistence) and has created unique synergies between research, teaching, and social initiatives. He teaches courses on research methods and on subsistence and sustainability. He founded and directs the Marketplace Literacy Project (www.marketplaceliteracy.org), a non-profit organization, pioneering the design and delivery of marketplace literacy education to subsistence communities. He has received teaching, social entrepreneurship, humanitarian, and leadership awards.

Prof. Barry R. Pittendrigh

Professor, Department of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA

Dr. Pittendrigh is an Endowed Chair Professor in the Department of Entomology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has worked in the areas of international development and extension for the past six years. His work includes development of novel teaching tools for genomics and more recently he has been working on novel strategies for deployment of development messages for low literate learners in developing nations.

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