On Demand: Using mobile phones to provide learning in emergencies – the world

On Demand: Using mobile phones to provide learning in emergencies – the world

On Demand: Using mobile phones to provide learning in emergencies – the world


The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education systems worldwide, creating an unprecedented emergency with school closures affecting 1.6 billion learners (Azevedo et al., 2021). This highlighted the need for flexible education systems that can provide education during emergencies and school closures (UNICEF, 2021). The challenge of reaching and educating children when school is interrupted is not new to Education in Emergencies (EiE) practitioners who develop and implement programs in complex crises with limited resources.
As of mid-2021, more than 84 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide, of whom 42 percent (an estimated 35 million) were children under the age of 18 (UNHCR, 2022). Over the past two years, it has become clear that for distance learning, the use of technology that families own and use regularly significantly reduces barriers to accessing education and increases participation in distance learning activities (UNICEF South Asia Regional Office, 2020) .

One tool many families have is the mobile phone.1 Basic low-cost mobile phones can be used in humanitarian settings to support distance learning and are essential where access to connectivity and expensive devices such as laptops is limited. The portability of mobile phones, along with its communication features, offer versatility in EiE.

This report explores the use of mobile phones in EiE settings by combining a review of the current literature, feedback from EiE practitioners, and interviews with EiE practitioners on two important questions:

  1. How can essential mobile phones be used to support EiE education and teacher training programmes?

  2. What are the key practices of educational practitioners to improve equity and safety in mobile-based education programs?

Implementation of an educational program would be incomplete without learning assessment. Furthermore, can the mobile phones themselves be used to measure learning in EiE settings? While this question falls outside the scope of this report, it is considered in the second report in the series: On Demand: Using Mobile Technologies to Measure Learning in Emergencies.

The supplemental report identifies key implementation steps and uses of mobile devices to support learning assessment needs in emergencies.
In addition to this report, an interactive dashboard 2 of case studies was developed to provide practitioners with examples of how mobile phones are being used in education for tutoring, learning support, and teacher training. The dashboard can be used to filter case studies by various usage, app, geography, and education settings

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