Sun | Nov 29, 2020

Halls of Learning provides range of online learning opportunities

Published:Monday | October 12, 2020 | 12:06 AMJonielle Daley/Gleaner Writer
Marvin Hall, founder of Halls of Learning.
Marvin Hall, founder of Halls of Learning.

Halls of Learning (HOL) is providing online science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses and access to competitions that will give students a host of international opportunities in robotics.

The institution has been providing after-school lessons to primary and secondary students in Kingston and St Andrew since 2004 and has now moved to online learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The founder, Marvin Hall, said that although face-to-face interaction is important and necessary in the teaching process of robotics, this is an exciting venture as they are now able to engage students from across the country.

The online modality has also made it easier for HOL to offer more courses. Initially, they focused on robotics and computing, but later adopted the full STEM model, inclusive of reading as well.

From his experience in the classroom, Hall is banking on the new course, ‘musical mathematics’, to assist in simplifying and making relatable mathematics across the primary and secondary levels for more students to understand.

“This idea came about just from teaching in high school for a number of years and seeing the energy and excitement behind music generally, and also video games and playful approaches to learning,” he said.

Outside of the courses offered, the institution has entered into partnerships with entities such as Amazon and IBEX for Jamaican students to have free access to the opportunities and resources offered by these American technology companies. They are encouraging students, 13 years and older, to enter the free IBM Master The Mainframe Challenge and earn certificates for mainframe technology, and the Amazon Web Service (AWS) Education platform.

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“When we spoke with IBM two years ago, they told us there were 100,000 jobs available in the mainframe space and there was nobody there to take up these jobs. Since COVID-19 has hit, and almost everyone is working from home, this creates an opportunity for children who have these skills,” Hall shared.

They are also in partnership with Israel-based Intelitek to offer the CoderZ League, starting on October 19. This is a virtual robotics competition for teams of primary and secondary students worldwide that provides training tutorials.

All engagements with and through HOL takes place in an online portal that only requires a computer, an Internet connection and a web browser.

Hall explained that after the pandemic, they will incorporate blended modality to resume teaching within the classrooms and inner-city outreach robotics projects, while making it available to others out of Kingston and St Andrew via online.

Registration for online courses began on October 8.

He said that the vision has always been to provide the children of Jamaica with these opportunities from early.

“I visited Singapore in 2002 and saw primary-school children programming robots and after that trip, I said to myself I have to bring robotics to the children of Jamaica because I don’t want them to be behind,” Hall said.

To tackle the effects of COVID-19, HOL aims to provide more free resources for Jamaican students in the near future.

jonielle.daley@gleanerjm.com