UAB researcher’s work in Asia wins Google RISE Award

UAB researcher spends $15 to educate 20,000 disadvantaged students in Bangladesh and India online; wins a Google RISE Award for his efforts.

hasanUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) professor Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., director of the UAB SECuRE and Trustworthy Computing Lab (SECRETLab), has been awarded a $5,000 Google RISE (Roots in Science and Engineering) Award for providing free online courses to rural and disadvantaged students in Bangladesh and India. Hasan’s program, known as the Shikkhok Project was one of 30 organizations selected from 18 countries around the world.

“At Google, we believe that everyone, regardless of socio-economic status or geographic location, should have access to the best in education, and Shikkhok is making a major contribution to the transformation of education in Bangladesh and beyond,” a Google spokesperson told UAB in an email.

“Millions of students in Bangladesh and India have no access to higher education due to poverty, lack of English language skills and a limited number of universities,” said Hasan, an assistant professor in the UAB Department of Computer and Information Sciences who was born in Chittagong, Bangladesh. “For a long time I dreamed of making world-class education available to these students. Last summer, I developed the Shikkhok project to leverage information technology to make education free and open for all these students in their native Bengali language.”

“For a long time I dreamed of making world-class education available to these students. Last summer, I developed the Shikkhok project to leverage information technology to make education free and open for all these students in their native Bengali language.”

The Google RISE Awards seek out projects that develop science and technology education in less privileged areas. The Shikkhok Project — “shikkhok” means “teacher” in the Bengali language — provides online learning through YouTube and similar free technologies in areas such as computer science, biotechnology, mathematics and even cooking and chess playing.

Hasan started the website in August 2012 and now has 20,000 registered users. He says 3,000 students learn from 25 courses daily in their native Bengali language thanks to volunteer instructors located around the world. The total cost to run the Shikkhok Project has been $15. That is $10 for the web host and $5 for the domain name — a cost of $.00075 per registered student.

rise_web“The Google RISE Award gives us the opportunity to expand beyond our $15 budget and is a great honor and recognition of the hard work of the volunteer teachers who spent long hours to create quality course content for Shikkhok.com,” said Hasan. “With Google’s support, I will be able to organize a small technical team who can help teachers that are eager to participate but lack the technical skills and equipment to make lecture videos and upload them online. I also plan to distribute the course materials in print and via USB drives to students in rural areas lacking access to the Internet.”

The Google RISE Awards program aims to find mutually beneficial collaborations by bringing the winners together to share best practices, ideas and resources. Hasan says he looks forward to working with some of the brightest minds in the world to develop a model for ultra-low-cost online education for students in the developing world.

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