Impressive outcome of pilot project in Addis Abeba

Picture of Nicolai Winther-Nielsen
Impressive outcome of pilot project in Addis Abeba
by Nicolai Winther-Nielsen - Wednesday, 24 July 2019, 9:44 AM

Supervision of student in Addis Abeba

It is almost too good to be true!

This is my reaction to the impressive learner engagement that I have witnessed in my new Hebrew Bible-driven language classroom in Addis.

In February and March 2019, I had the opportunity to test Bible Online Leaner in an African setting, using my newly developed course material My Biblical Hebrew that produced great results in my Copenhagen classroom in the Fall of 2018. Would this new learning technology also work in the IT lab of the Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Abeba in Ethiopia?

It certainly does. Thanks to the persuasive force of Bible OL and a passion for Hebrew language learning, most of my 30 students reached A- and B-levels in the first part of Hebrew basic grammar. Students were amazed that the could do the unbelievable. Regassa Gerbi explains it in this way: Before I started, I was told that it was impossible to learn Biblical Hebrew, but thanks to the system and the facilitator, it is possible. It is really wonderful, because you learn the original language of the Bible.


This is what motivated these 30 first year bachelor students, 14 of them training to become translators of the Hebrew Bible.  

We can now beat the internet!

The main challenge of the pilot project was to overcome the problem of 30 students connecting to Bible OL and the Moodle learning management system via the internet. The first month indicated that we were going ot loose this battle.

Fortunately, we can now after the second month prove that a new solution overcomes all frustrations and works like a charm. We were able to test a revolutionary new offline solution that can change the learning of the original languages of the Bible in Africa, Asia and beyond for the future. The effect of having Bible OL running on Raspberry Pi in Addis is almost unbelievable - I would even prefer this solution in my own corpus-driven flipped classroom in Copenhagen, because the Raspberry Pi server is so much faster than the internet.

Learning activities and instructional support

Our Mekane Yesus Seminary classroom worked through personal practice, collaborative peer-based guidance, Bible Olympics gaming, traditional instruction and discussion of learning outcomes. Local Hebrew Bible lecturer Albene Abraham assisted with basic blackboard instruction. Zetseat Fekadu of Wycliffe Ethiopia and PhD student at the VU University in Amsterdam explained the interactive forms generated by quizzing tool Paradigms Master Pro. My own role was to supervise the learning processes and the instructional needs, while also analyzing the data on the performance tracking of the learning activities.


The basic principles of persuasive learning

In a double interview, the two execellent Arba Minch students Tekle Arega and Buna Teferi Gulta explain the basic principles of the pedagogical design for learning that we have developed for Bible OL. What motivates these two learners to do top performances are three basic forces for learning:

  • It is online learning – not traditional blackboard instruction
  • You learn in a practical way.
  • It is fun - it is like a game



In the same video, there is an interview with Bedasa Gude Olansa who adds another important point. He explains how corpus-driven learning functions like oral language acquisition, putting the language into the brain:  "When we repeat the word again and again, that word is saved in our mind”. To repeatedly practice the same forms or words over and over again will inevitably result in deep learning where language skills are automatized.

The Flipped corpus-driven learning mode

In the Addis classroom we also experimented succesfully with having students direct the instructional process. Aynalem Addis was one of these teaching assistants informally in training that could use both Paradigms Master Pro and Bible OL for her instruction of peers in Amharic.


Bible OL for Bible translators

The last task in our class was to experiment with Bible translation. Our 5 learning groups were asked to translate either Genesis 1:26-28 or 2:1-3, using Bible OL and the simple grammar they master after Hebrew 1. They had to discuss and defend their choices and to explain the interpretative challenges they had encountered. This exercise motivated them for their future professional careers as Bible translators, pastors or researchers.


The results from Addis prove that Bible OL distributed on miniserves can produce astonishing learning outcomes in a global classroom. The power of persuasive technology delivered independent of poor and expensive internet connections can anchor a 21st Century classroom into the soil of the Majority World. 

The Addis project has given us priceless data on how effective this new kind of classroom is. Bible OL can enhance student engagement, collaboration, gaming and supervision. The use of mini-servers can revolutionize global learning. The challenge is to train skilled and dedicated local facilitators.

All this is documented in the directors' public report from the project: