Armenia Pivots to Online Education through DASARAN Platform

SAP Cohort’s Support Leads to Successful Nationwide Roll-out

Amid the near complete disruption for the world’s population from COVID-19, each person is experiencing the pandemic in a unique way. There are many common threads that bind us together as a global community, however, such as our ability or inability to work, to access critical goods and services, to maintain social connections, to educate our youth, and the list goes on. For most of us, these threads constitute major challenges. But for some, they present a novel opportunity to transform how we live, work, and learn.

DASARAN, a social enterprise based in Yerevan, Armenia, is one such entity that has sought to create opportunity amid adversity. The organization builds and facilitates technological solutions to help Armenia meet its education goals by providing innovative educational content and interactive learning solutions online for students, parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers. DASARAN currently supports one-third of the Armenian population–over 1 million people–in K–12 education on its digital platform.

The social enterprise’s efforts in this space have not gone unnoticed. In September 2016, DASARAN was recognized as one of the five most innovative enterprises in the world in the UNDP’s Accelerate2030 initiative, aimed at supporting impact-driven ventures that contribute toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

COVID-19 has significantly affected education systems around the world. Schools have closed in 188 countries, leaving between 70–90 percent of students out of school over the past three months. On March 16, Armenia announced a month-long state of emergency, leading to the closure of all educational institutions. The lockdown was soon extended for one additional month through May 14. As the largest education platform in Armenia, DASARAN leapt into action to mitigate the effects of school closures across the country by ensuring that all public schools were able to continue their operations and maintain uninterrupted education for students.

Through its school management and student performance monitoring tools, DASARAN has kept public schools online, allowing for continuous communication between teachers, students, and parents. Through its newly created distance-learning tools, which were in development in the immediate lead-up to the onset of COVID-19, teachers can create and administer online lessons and quizzes in a user-friendly interface. As an indication of the model’s successful adoption to fill the sudden need, over 10,000 lessons were created within the first week of the tools’ launch in mid-March. With 96 percent of Armenia’s population able to access the internet, uploaded lessons are then available to students across the country.

Through its school management and student performance monitoring tools, DASARAN has kept public schools online, allowing for continuous communication between teachers, students, and parents.

DASARAN’s path converged with PYXERA Global in October 2018 when the organization facilitated a team of 12 high-performing leaders in Yerevan under SAP’s Social Sabbatical for global engagement program. The SAP Social Sabbatical is a portfolio of pro bono volunteering programs designed to solve concrete business challenges of nonprofit organizations and social enterprises focused on bridging the digital divide and simultaneously develop leaders at SAP who understand the global consequences of our rapidly digitizing world. To reach these goals, employees are placed in highly diverse teams of three to dedicate their skills, expertise, and perspectives in unique, short-term assignments focused on driving simplicity and customer success with their host clients.

The three SAP employees working with DASARAN primarily focused on providing strategic guidance on its business plan. A key recommendation from the team was that DASARAN diversify its revenue sources in the local market. Some of the opportunities identified by SAP included customization of the e-learning platform and development of additional e-learning content, both of which DASARAN put into development right away. The collaborative work accomplished during the engagement was a critical component in DASARAN’s ability to quickly respond to the school closures and provide uninterrupted access to education for Armenian students.

The Social Sabbatical for global engagment sub-team of three SAP employees share a selfie with the DASARAN CEO.

The response to DASARAN’s efforts from within Armenia and globally has been overwhelmingly positive, with user traffic at an all-time high. Teachers are eager to post lessons and view an analytical summary of their students’ performance. Home-bound students can maintain direct virtual access to their teachers and each other to discuss lessons, collaborate on homework assignments, and ask questions.

Teachers are eager to post lessons and view an analytical summary of their students’ performance.

DASARAN continues to innovate its approach to distance learning during the era of COVID-19. Most recently, it integrated video conferencing via Zoom into the platform to help teachers conduct distance teaching more conveniently and effectively. DASARAN also recently launched its mobile application, which allows for easier communication between students, parents, and teachers. Because DASARAN was already deeply embedded and trusted throughout Armenia’s public school system, the learning curve was minimal for new users of these platforms.

DASARAN credits the 2018 SAP Social Sabbatical engagement with helping the organization lay the groundwork for its COVID-19 response–primarily through the SAP team’s recommendations on revenue diversification and customization of DASARAN’s e-learning platform. With such a rapid and proactive response from DASARAN to the educational challenges posed by COVID-19 in Armenia, they have been able to stay true to their mission–to democratize education and make it equally accessible to every child in the country–while at the same time improving student performance, augmenting teacher capacity, and contributing to state-level, data-driven educational decision-making.

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