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La Sierra University Enactus Jamaica eLibrary project lands team in national spotlight.

La Sierra University Enactus Jamaica eLibrary project lands team in national spotlight.

The eLibrary project team from La Sierra University Enactus (left to right) includes Mesaley Alemseged, Samuel Carvajal, Jonathan Thomas, Patrina Jamieson, Sherika Moulton, Ebubechi Idika, Jodi Wilson. [Photo provided by La Sierra University]

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As La Sierra University Enactus teammates Patrina Jamieson and Sherika Moulton watched from the floor of the cavernous Kansas City Convention Center on May 7, 2019, an emcee blared final results of the Enactus national championship, a competition of college and university humanitarian entrepreneurial initiatives. 

The final round of a two-day competition had just concluded. Student teams from La Sierra University and three universities in Utah, Missouri, and Hawaii had just completed slick, multi-media presentations on the impact of their teams' projects. A judging panel of executives from some of the nation's largest corporations had rendered their verdict on the national champion and runners up.

In the end, La Sierra’s team nabbed third place in the U.S. following presentations by students Alex Tran, Brandon Singh, Minji Oh, Ariana Marquez, Teia Campbell, and David Ramirez who represented the work of the broader team. La Sierra University Enactus bested 85 other schools around the country on the effects of one project, a revolutionary flash drive-based program called the eLibrary, which is making significant impacts on the educational system of Jamieson and Moulton’s home country, Jamaica.

“To see the project presentation on the national stage for all to hear warmed my heart. It validates the work and thought that went into the project,” said Jamieson, eLibrary project co-director for the La Sierra Enactus team and a doctoral student with La Sierra’s School of Education. 

“I was very emotional because I know the capabilities of the project and how it can transform lives,” said Moulton, a masters in accountancy student at the Zapara School of Business and the Enactus team’s vice president of finance. She is also involved in assessment of the eLibrary initiative. “I watched a lot of schools presenting and they had amazing projects sometimes. It was a very happy moment for our team.”

Samuel Carvajal, an accounting and finance major from Colombia helped research the eLibrary project and ready the flash drives. “I always knew I was going to create and develop a project like this, but never thought I could do it during my college years,” he said. “Us coming in third place will give us more exposure so more people are aware of this project.”

“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t hoping for first,” said Los Angeles resident Mesaley Alemseged, a business and psychology major who handles social media and marketing for the team. “But I’m overjoyed to know that from the whole nation, our work put us in the top three. For me personally, this project has reminded me of the joy of changing the world, just by providing some basic things.”

“I was so proud to be a part of the Enactus team this year,” said eLibraryteam co-director Jonathan Thomas, son of John Thomas, dean of La Sierra’s Zapara School of Business where the interdisciplinary Enactus team is based. Jonathan spearheaded the project three years ago along with Jamieson and two other teammates. 

He graduated June 16 with a Master of Business Administration will attend the Loma Linda University School of Medicine this August aiming for a career as a robotics surgeon. “Everything that [the presentation team] talked about we did,” Jonathan said. “We are impacting over 200,000 Jamaican students, we do have outstanding survey results, we do have full Jamaican government support, and we will be expanding and sustaining this project. That integrity and dedication is the best part of this team and that is why placing third makes me so proud.”

The third-place win follows the team’s second-place in the final four round in 2017, and a national championship win in 2016 which allowed La Sierra Enactus to represent the United States in World Cup competition in Toronto that fall.

No Internet? No Problem.

The eLibrary project consists of 1,200 flash drives purchased in bulk from Flashbay.com and can be pre-loaded with 40,000 textbooks and more than 1,000 educational videos. The drives use micro compression technology developed by Enactus partners Ron Zane and Mark Gaspar through their organization, Global Education Ministries. 

Jonathan Thomas guided the team in selecting the thumb drive, or USB delivery method for the educational content due to the drives’ cost effectiveness and ease of use. He and other team members spent hundreds of hours downloading content. “Thanks to Mark Gaspar’s compression techniques we were able to fit more content onto the drives, with the possibility of up to four times more content than what would be available on a regular USB drive,” he said.

The drives plug into any computer or tablet. Digital textbooks from CK-12, an open source free textbook creator, instructional videos from the popular Khan Academy and JPL open source library, and thousands of content-checked topic pages from Wikipedia School Edition rapidly and smoothly download to individual devices, or to school-wide computer servers accessed by multiple computers. Users download a Firefox web browser from the flash drive which opens the eLibrary and allows browsing of the content without connectivity. An HTML page allows users “to access the drive in a user-friendly manner,” Thomas said. The browser visualizes the code and thus does not require connectivity. Users can then view the book in a browser or download it onto a device.

Instruction is available across eight subject areas including biology, chemistry, physics, integrated science, accounting, English, mathematics, and business fundamentals. eLibrary digital textbooks cover such in-depth topics as DNA and protein synthesis, the cycle of cells and genetics. They include lesson objectives, vocabulary sections, colorful graphics, review questions, and index listings. 

A flash drive developed for teachers is also loaded with lesson plans, curriculum resources, and a password-protected zip drive of test, quiz and workbook answers correlated by textbook chapter. 

The team also developed an eLibrary smart phone app for android phones in collaboration with La Sierra computer science student Mason Channer. The app opens on a phone once the flash drive is plugged into it. eLibrary users are also able to download android phone app instructions and an android video player. An Apple iPhone app for the eLibrary is unavailable since iPhones do not support USB drives and few students in the project’s targeted countries use iPhones, Thomas said.

Following a pilot rollout at 21 schools in December 2017, the eLibrary project was officially launched and delivered in January 2019 to 171 public and private high schools around Jamaica through a partnership with Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. The eLibrary is now impacting more than 200,000 students at no cost to the schools. The project is partially funded by a grant from Versacare, Inc., a foundation that serves Seventh-day Adventist ministries and humanitarian efforts. Funding was also provided by former La Sierra University Provost and education professor Steve Pawluk and his wife, Carol, and by Adventist education supporters and La Sierra business school donors Tom and Vi Zapara.

For Love of Country

Jamieson joined the Enactus team in 2016 and seeing the value the project could have in her native Jamaica, took it under her wing to implement it there. A 30-year-old graduate student working toward a doctoral degree in leadership from La Sierra’s School of Education, she also possesses a Master of Business Administration from Washington Adventist University and a degree in hospitality management. Jamieson grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, and attended Tarrant High School where many students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. She knows well the difficulties faced by teachers and students due to the ubiquitous lack of connectivity and limited availability of current textbooks. So does teammate Moulton who is from rural St. Mary, Jamaica.

“I remember specifically my high school would send out a date for students to collect textbooks and everyone would go very early in order to get books knowing that there would not be any left for some students,” said Moulton. “Internet was a major problem back then and still is today. I had to walk two miles to a bus stop to take a taxi to get to a library and even so at times the library did not have Internet. So for a project like eLibrary to be launched into the schools with textbooks and videos available at their fingertips, I know it will help a lot of students in their studies and make a difference in their life.”

As co-leader of the eLibrary project, Jamieson studied the Jamaican school curriculum, selected subjects for the pilot roll out, connected with the country’s Ministry of Education and helped establish a partnership which involved the government’s review of proposed educational content. She coordinated the team’s trip to Jamaica in March 2018 to present the project to the government, oversaw the development of the smartphone app, and is instrumental in ongoing analysis through surveys of students and teachers.

The eLibrary project is continuing to collect survey responses on the effectiveness of the flash drive system. Results as of June 12 show that 95.7 percent of teachers who responded used the computer for eLibrary curriculum planning, and 17.4 percent used the phone app; 43.5% and 26.1%, respectively said the teaching guides were helpful and very helpful; 82.6 percent said they would use this type of resource in the next five years, and 100 percent said they would recommend eLibrary to other teachers.

“The students are more familiar with the sciences, and I can’t get them to leave the devices alone,” Major Paul Hall, principal of Tarrant High School told the Enactus team. “Every day they want to explore the sciences. Our students now can learn research skills, which are very important, and what I love about this awesome device, is that without Internet, anywhere you are able to access it through your phone.”  

Of students at the 171 high schools, 264 filled out the survey as of June and many included additional comments. 

“My experience with using e-learning is that is has a wider range of information than the average textbooks and helps give you wider search base,” wrote an 11th grade male student from Pembroke Hall High. He used Wikipedia School Education for math, biology and chemistry multiple times a day on his phone and on a computer.

“Very efficient and fun,” wrote a 7th grade female student from The Convent of Mercy Academy. She used CK-12 digital textbooks for biology, chemistry, and math multiple times a week on a computer.

Some students and teachers called for content organizational tweaks and more comprehensive content, which the team considers in its evaluation of eLibrary.

The team aims to take the eLibrary to other struggling educational systems. “This project is a catalyst for developing countries,” Jamieson said. “The first time I witnessed it from the pilot stage, I cried. I felt a lot of joy. I know it is a winner in the lives of those who benefited from it. To see it in my high school was the proudest moment. I felt fulfilled.”

— Darla Martin Tucker is director of Public Relations for La Sierra University; the original article was published on the La Sierra University website on July 11, 2019.