Partners in innovation: Real-time monitoring with one phone per school

  • Seth Otto
  • September 27, 2016

An Indian school teacher being instructed on how to fill out Ustad Mobile's paper attendance form.

“The emphasis feels like it is less on data collection and monitoring and more on supporting the teachers in their daily routine.” - Anand Chitravanshi, Project Director, Digital Study Hall, Study Hall Foundation

Ustad Mobile has partnered with the Study Hall Educational Foundation (SHEF) to co-create a data collection app that requires minimal training, aimed for use at schools in remote and low income locations with limited infrastructure. In a NetHope Solutions Center exclusive webinar, Ustad Mobile and SHF shared the story of how their partnership has taken elegant mobile technology another step forward with the Ustad Mobile Learning Management System (LMS). The mobile app has evolved in response to ongoing demand in the education sector to address the core need for quantifiable data and monitoring for topics such as attendance, grades, and community engagement.

The need: Study Hall Foundation

In 2012, after years of success capturing, and promoting good pedagogy though educational video, SHF embarked on an expansion of non-formal education centers (NECs) into remote areas of India where out-of-school children live. Monitoring NECs from afar was difficult, and capturing reliable data was often tedious and impossible. Existing monitoring systems were too complex, costly to install and maintain, or required infrastructure that is unavailable in many locations. SHEF reached out to Ustad Mobile to pursue a collaborative solution.

The goal of the LMS is to add value to educators in two ways: to reduce absenteeism, and to cut the cost of effective monitoring. “One study put out by the University of San Diego revealed a cost to India of $1.5 Billion a year due to absenteeism in publicly funded schools” said Mike Dawson, CEO of Ustad Mobile. In the end, they developed the LMS so that it can be effectively implemented with only one phone per school.

Image of the mobile phone taking a picture of the paper attendance form, and of the app digitally processing the information from the paper form

The process of capturing accurate attendance data with one phone per school has been simplified to require minimal training, streamlined to minimize paper waste and reduce the need for multiple phones. “What Ustad Mobile has been able to do for us through the application is to provide a cost-effective solution that is seamless with our teachers’ daily routine” said Mr. Chitravanshi. The learning management system easily integrates into teachers’ daily exercise of taking attendance. Teachers simply mark attendance on a laminated attendance sheet and snap a picture with the phone. The app extrapolates the data from the picture and uploads it to the internet the next time that the phone connects to the cloud where it is then loaded into an Excel spreadsheet. Housed in the cloud, the data can be quickly and effectively visualized in real-time for reporting out to interested parties such as donors, investors and the public.

The future

Ustad Mobile’s real-time learning management system is now field tested and has proven its effectiveness as a low-cost monitoring system for student attendance in real-time. But that is just the beginning. For SHF, their schools are only as effective as the engagement of the communities they serve. The focus is now shifting to capture quantifiable data related to grades, exam scores and most importantly, data related to community engagement. One way to gather this data is through parent-teacher conferences: How many parents attended? What issues are raised in regard to their children’s education? What issues are of most concern to the community? The data that is collected from these questions with the help of Ustad Mobile can help SHEF scale up their programming with reliable community support built in.

Ustad Mobile is running an expanded beta test that you and your organization can sign up to participate in. Just visit

A recording of this webinar, as well as a PDF of the presentation, can be found here.

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