Learning nonprofit edX is partnering with Facebook to help bridge the digital divide and bring online education to the unconnected world. The new pilot initiative, named SocialEDU, was revealed Monday at the Barcelona-based Mobile World Congress, and will provide students in Rwanda with free access to “a collaborative online education experience,” according to a statement fresh from the Facebook newsroom. The program is being released under the umbrella of Internet.org, a global partnership focused on bringing Internet to the two-thirds of the world’s population living without it.
The social media giant will be working with the Harvard-and MIT-founded platform to build a mobile app that is integrated with Facebook. Through SocialEDU, students will receive free data plans for accessing edX’s massive open online courses, which stem from 32 of the world’s leading universities, including Dartmouth, U.C. Berkeley, TU Delft, Australian National University and the University of Hong Kong. The platform will allow students to ask questions, interact with teachers, participate in group discussions and engage with their peers. What’s more, the Rwandan government will work with edX to adapt the course materials, thereby creating more locally-relevant content, as well as expand its free Wi-Fi in campuses throughout the East African country.
As part of SocialEDU, Facebook is also partnering with telecommunications company Airtel and Nokia. The former is providing a year’s worth of free educational data to registrants, while the latter is offering discounted smartphones to all those participating in the program. If the pilot is deemed successful, SocialEDU will expand beyond Rwanda.