Halls of Learning to offer online STEM courses

HALLS of Learning Jamaica (HOL) has announced that, starting this school year, it will be facilitating a variety of online courses in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to help supplement in-school learning while providing Jamaican students with useful skills and exposing them to opportunities within these fields.

The education services company is utilising online resources and events from technology giants Amazon and IBM to give students access to global opportunities.

“We are leveraging existing learning platforms that teach skill sets beyond our face-to-face courses and for an older demographic,” said Marvin Hall, founder of Halls of Learning.

The online courses on offer include: robotics, computer science, coding, math, reading, and typing for primary and secondary level students.

One course, AP Computer Science Principles, for eleventh and twelfth grade students will provide college credits for universities in North America, if completed successfully.

This course, along with another, Introduction to Computer Science, will give students access to Amazon Web Services Educate which is the educational arm of Amazon Web Services — a platform which apps like Netflix run on. It is usually only accessible from a United States brick and mortar school so it is an especially unique opportunity for Jamaican students to learn cloud computing and similar skills.

Along with the courses, HOL is encouraging participation in several virtual challenges and competitions.

There is the Amazon Challenge, which is free for primary and secondary level students and the IBM Mainframe Challenge, also free for secondary level students 13 years and older.

“HOL is promoting the IBM Mainframe Challenge in particular, because it will allow students to earn certificates for ‘mainframe technology’, a valuable skill to have considering that annually, mainframe computers process US$8 trillion in credit card payments and US$29 billion ATM transactions,” said Hall.

He argued that exposing students to the IBM Mainframe challenge will help position them to be able to outsource their talents overseas.

“If I tell you that every ATM is using some kind of mainframe technology, then that should give you some perspective. This is the technology behind the Internet and a lot of financial transactions. Children are getting the opportunity to develop skills for that technology in a very unique space,” added Hall.

Additionally, HOL has partnered with Israeli-based company Intelitek on its CoderZ Robotics League, which is an international virtual robotics competition open to primary and secondary students.

“In teams of five, students will advance throughout the competition by programming their robots to complete various missions. It is another engaging activity for students to exercise their knowledge and increase their competitive coding skills,” noted Hall.

Upon registration with HOL, students will have free training and tutorials included within the CoderZ League online portal. Registration for these online offerings opened on Thursday, October 8, at www.hallsoflearning.com.

While some of the subjects are generally believed to be difficult, Hall said that the only thing students need beforehand are a computer, Internet access and wWeb browser.

“The HOL team will be offering instructional support to students as they progress through the courses. It’s important to build the foundation for these skill sets in prep or primary school and when you get to high school, looking to university or the working world, we’re trying to keep our students on par with credentials that are being considered globally,” said Hall.

He added that HOL intends to continue to also offer online courses in the future, regardless of whether Jamaican schools return to face to face instruction.

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