Posts related to projects in Campus Crusade’s Global Technology Office

Changes Coming

Jerry in GTO

Just when I was leaving GTO,
we all got great portraits
for our team page.
I’m taking this one with me.

Recently I took a new job in Cru. My six years in the Global Technology Office were wonderful, but God has moved me on to the next thing. I will be helping lead a project to select a new set of global financial tools. This will be a challenge for me, but I am excited about it.

August 4 is my official start date, but I have already started the work. The project team will consist of about ten people spread around the world. Only one other will be in Orlando, so our meetings will be on Skype and in various cities that we can all travel to. Like Istanbul.

There is a lot for me to learn, too. I am starting an “Accounting Basics” class now. This should be a fun adventure for the next few years!

mLearning in a new era

On Wednesday two events marked a new era for our mLearning project.

First, we had the launch event of a major new version of the software we have been using, Allogy Digital Press. This new software will make it possible for non-technical people to publish their own mobile learning course for smartphones or tablets.

The second event was a planning meeting where the 8, or so, member mLearning team identified ten projects that are either under way or in the developing stages.

We are now out of the initial development stage of this project and into a growth stage. I’m excited about what this new phase will bring!

Training Team On The Way

Orlando Training Team

Training Team

Today three of our team left for Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya to train the technical coordinators who will be teaching the orientation sessions for our mobile phone pastor training course. These are most of the people who developed the training. It took a lot of work, but we expect it will pay off when we see the first wave of 2400 pastors-in-training start this course!

600 memory chips coming right up….

Last minute software bugs are now fixed, so today we begin copying the first 600 memory chips that will go into each student phone. We will ship another 1800 blank memory chips, along with two mass duplicators, to the program coordinators in Ghana and Kenya. It is these memory chips which hold the content that each pastor-in-training will go through during their training. Without an Android smartphone, though, these memory chips are useless. Each one must be installed into a phone and activated before the training course will be available on the student-pastor’s phone.

For those interested in the geeky details; each memory chip is a 16 Gb Class 10 microSD flash memory card, similar to the ones that come in nearly every new Android smartphone these days.

Three trainers going now….

Today our team decided to send three people to do the training in Ghana and Kenya instead of two. This will increase the number of people on our team who can lead other mobile phone training projects in the future.

At the same time we are working on some minor last-minute bugs in the mobile phone training system. It seems that when you submit a quiz from one country to the “system” in another country the quiz answers get dropped. D’oh.

(I thought I’d start the new year by writing more about the smaller details that go into making a larger mobile phone pastor training course work.)

Training for Accra and Nairobi

Today we confirmed our training dates for the coordinators who will be facilitating the mobile phone pastor training. Looks like two people from our team will conduct two days of training in Accra, Ghana and two days in Nairobi, Kenya.

It looks like I probably won’t be going on this trip, as it will be during Cathy’s second week of chemo treatment.

Mombasa Class 2 Completion

Mombasa Interview

Jerry Interviews a Mombasa Pastor

Actually none of the pastors we interviewed today were from Mombasa, but that was where we met them all. They took the final exam for the Institute of Christian Leadership course and told us about how their ministries changed as a result of the class and how they had grown spiritually through it.

Philip said he was so grateful for the class because he could not afford to pay for training at a seminary and couldn’t leave his ministry and family. He is a perfect example of why we developed this type of training.

Mombasa Pastor

Pastor Philip

And this is where we landed for the night; Mombasa Beach. No complaints. Back to Nairobi tomorrow.

Mombasa Beach

Mombasa Beach

Mobile Learning in Mombasa

Mombasa Class

Zarc Teaches a Group of Pastors

Class #2 of our mobile phone pastor training included a group from Mombasa, Kenya. While Mombasa is not exactly a remote location, having another cohort of pastors there allows us to learn how to run multiple classes in parallel.

Mombasa is like Orlando in the summer without air conditioning; warm and muggy. The culture was closer to Orlando, too; casual and relaxed. I didn’t have to wear my suit. The church in which we met had a dirt floor and a corrugated steel roof that was open to the sky in some parts. Fortunately there was an electrical outlet that kept our batteries charged long enough to register the new students.

Not only does the student learning application run on a mobile phone, but parts of the computerized learning system run on mobile phones as does the student administration program. Registering new students only requires access to the Internet on a smart phone.

Mombasa Pastors

Jerry with some of the pastors

As with the other groups that have started using this mobile phone training, this group learned how to use their new phones in a short time. Most of them had never used a touch screen device before, so they all had to learn new concepts. Eventually they all learned how to run the training application on their phones before we left.

Flight to Mombasa

Flying To Mombasa

We flew into Mombasa from Nairobi early in the morning, and we flew back to Nairobi in the afternoon. So I never got to see the coast of Kenya. What I saw of Mombasa looked the same as what I have seen of Nairobi. Maybe next trip to Kenya I’ll be able to spend some time in Mombasa on the coast, something every Kenyan tells me I should do.

Review of mLearning Class 2 Launch

[We did this analysis a couple weeks after the launch of mLearning Class 2, but I dated this post earlier, so it wouldn’t show at the top of the page.]

Post Launch Review
(a very internal look at how we did)

What Did We Set Out To Accomplish?

  • Affordable course payments
  • Course locking
  • Communication module working
  • Effective educational materials
  • Achieve cost efficiency
  • Bookmarking
  • Note taking feature
  • Working quiz system

What Actually Happened

  • The software enabled affordable partial payments by the students
  • The course locking as designed didn’t work, but as implemented worked.
  • Communication module works but with some questions.
    • Possibly non-Safaricom quiz and communication not working
    • SMS Gateway communication became unreliable during student registration
    • SMS Gateway software needed frequent restarts to keep functioning
    • SMS Gateway software ran on a regular Android mLearning phone.
  • Note taking, bookmarking worked, media played
  • It cost 2000 KSH to register 10 students in Nairobi (students #10 – #20)
  • 1000 KSH in account went away Thursday night March 3
  • Safaricom account was blocked after money ran out for SMS Gateway Thursday night March 3
  • Troubleshooting remotely using Email, Skype, and phone communication was sufficient.
  • We encountered situations/conditions that had not been tested; e.g. registering lots of students in a short time.
  • Quiz system worked.
  • There is some question about whether different network are causing problems.
  • Backend worked very well

What Went Right

  • Backend – Allogy Admin
    • Student registration
    • Student payments
    • Quiz tracking
    • Facilitated a side-install
    • Quiz creation/course building
    • Lightweight enough for easy mobile phone use
    • Facilitated a testing environment
  • Bookmarking – passive mode was good
  • Progress bar is good
  • Note taking – worked as advertised
  • SMS-based communication
    • Eliminated the need for student data plan for all necessary communication
  • Quiz results easy to view
  • Client worked
  • Updates on Client, SMS Gateway, and backend were timely and addressed the problems
  • Rooted SMS Gateway phone worked as intended (able to bypass 100 SMS/hr limit)
  • Zarc teaching new students how to use their new phones and Allogy
  • Test sites worked well. Easy to test and throw away.

What Could We Have Done Better

  • Testing
    • test real situations
    • needed more testing time
  • Process for pushing updates that involves local and remote testing.
  • Client stability
    • Changing orientation
    • File decryption
  • Correct home screen display
  • Support different screen sizes and resolutions
  • Additional visual indicators of progress through list of lessons
  • Remove initial client authentication layer (“Verify” step)
  • Cost – arranged data service with Safaricom immediately upon turning new SIM on Android.
  • Eliminate noisy SMS updates
  • Using SMS technology better


mLearning Trial Class Ended Well

The first mLearning class is complete, and it was a success!

33 students registered for the Institute of Christian Leadership class, and 32 of them completed the class on their mobile phones. All 32 returned to Nairobi for the final exam with a class average of A- on the same exam that the ‘reference’ group of in-class students took. We are excited and amazed.

Pastor Robert, from Rongai, returned with two of his lay church leaders and told us about the changes he experienced in his own life and the changes he observed in his two lay leaders. I smiled when he referred to the class material as ‘this gadget.’ Clearly it made a difference in his life.

What They Said

mLearning Student Portraits Collage

mLearning Students

Here are some of the things we heard when we interviewed these present and future church leaders after they completed the first mobile phone training class, the Institute of Christian Leadership.

I love Jesus more and have a deeper desire to share the love of Christ to others.

I have been personally helped to grow in the Word. I am adequately equipped to bring about changes in church.

I have grown in reflecting on the word of God, and knowing how to prepare and preach and study the Word.

Contrasts in Kenya

Some things in Kenya form an interesting contrast compared to life in America.

Audrey and I took a walk through the Kibera slum, today, with our friend, David. In order to dress as close to normal African garb as possible Audrey wore a skirt, and I wore my nicest pair of dress shoes. I almost never wear them back home, but they just looked normal here. With them I walked on the dirt roads in Kibera where the pot holes were filled with garbage and there is no sewage system. Same with Audrey. She never wears skirts in Orlando, but it was the most normal thing she could wear here. In order to look normal in one of the poorest parts of Kenya I had to wear my nicest pair of shoes and Audrey had to wear one of the nicest outfits she has ever worn in years.

My phone provided another irony. In this same slum is the highest concentration of mobile phone users in Kenya, as I understand it, and it seemed there were more ‘M-PESA’ shops than anywhere else in the city. M-PESA is the cell phone money transfer system that most Kenyans use to send money between people and between small businesses. The M-PESA shops are where you make cash deposits and withdrawals from your account, like a bank. For 2011 they estimate that 15% of the Kenyan GDP will flow through M-PESA.

My high-end Android smartphone, like the ones we gave tomorrow’s graduating mLearning Class students back in September at the start of the class, was not completely out of place in one of the largest slums in Africa. But since it has no “M-PESA” program on it, it couldn’t even perform one of the most basic functions that most Kenyans depend on for doing business.

Many Americans expect the rest of the world to follow the same development path America is on, but the reality of life today is that each place will find a development path of its own.

A Trip to Rongai, Kenya

My Friends in Rongai Town

My Friends in Rongai

When I arrived in Kenya a couple weeks ago for the launch of our first mobile phone-based pastor training class, I spent a day with my colleague driving out to a distant village to see if our mLearning phones would work like we expected.

We drove up the Rift Valley, about 100 miles away from Nairobi, and found a small village called Rongai. We wanted to find a local pastor, show him a working model of our mLearning phone, and see if our idea made sense to him.

Along the way I had one of the most enjoyable travel experiences ever. We were walking down a road behind the main part of this town when I heard a little girl say, “Hello Sir, how are you?”

“I’m fine. And how are you?” I replied.

“Fine, thank you,” was her answer.

“May I take your picture?” was my next question.

I took her picture then showed it to her on the camera’s display. She pointed to it and laughed with a sweet, innocent little girl laugh. Then she called her sister over and asked me to take another. Then both of them laughed and pointed and called their other sisters over.

“Take another! Take another!” was all they said after that.

Then the silly poses and hysterical laughter started. I have never had so much fun with total strangers!

Rongai Town Friends

Hamming It Up in Rongai

After leaving these girls we finally found the local pastor. We showed him a working model of our mLearning phone and explained the idea to him. He quickly understood the concept, and it made sense to him.

Not only did it make sense to him, he asked how he could sign up for the class! He leads 12 congregations, and he has a lot of elders to train. Some of his elders are oral learners, meaning they don’t read, and he thought these phones would work for them as well since all the training material is video and all the phone navigation is done using icons and a touch screen.

We returned a few days later and gave him three complimentary mLearning phones; one for him and two for him to circulate among the elders in his various congregations.

Rongai Pastor

Rev. Robert from Rongai (center),
Dr. Ngaruiya, my colleague, and me

Rongai has a warm place in my heart now.

Here are a few more photos from my trip.

mLearning Class Launch

mLearning Studying

Studying on an mLearning phone

Our first mLearning class started today. It was a bit different than we anticipated, but it started.

The biggest challenge to overcome was the failure of the memory cards we brought with us that contained all the training material. All 50 memory cards were incapable of playing video after just a couple times, so we had to use the smaller memory cards that came with the phones. There were other challenges, too, but we found similar alternate solutions for them as well.

The students are all excited to begin studying this new course. None of the students owned a touch screen phone, so everyone was learning something new. A few felt instantly comfortable and were navigating phone applications like a pro right away, a few followed along with our training and picked things up quickly, and a few needed some additional help.

I think we have a winning solution, and I look forward to seeing how students respond after a couple months of studying this way. The final exam will be in November.

How Does ‘Mobile Seminary’ Work?

Here’s a brief outline of how our mobile seminary courses will work. We have been calling it our ‘mLearning Project.’

1. Student reads, watches, and listens to a series of educational materials on their phone. (A smartphone like this.)

2. At the end of each piece of educational material (like a video) there is a short quiz that the student completes on their phone. This quiz can either assess the student’s learning or simply indicate the student’s progress through the material and their confidence in understanding it. The learning software running on their smartphone bundles their quiz response into a text message and sends it to the data server at the seminary. Quiz example: “On a scale of 1 to 5, how confident are you that you have understood the material in this section?” or “Which of the following answers is correct?”

3. The instructor is notified when new text messages arrive at the seminary data server, indicating student progress through the material and areas where the student may need extra guidance.

4. At any time the student can initiate a discussion with other students or with an instructor to ask questions or discuss a topic using their phone, either by text message or voice call.

5. At the end of the study period, students return to the seminary for an exam that assesses their overall learning of the course material.

6. Future classes can be downloaded at an Internet cafe or transferred from another student phone. Students can make tuition payments using the money transfer service that comes with their mobile phone service.

Download a more detailed mLearning Project Summary

What ‘Virtually-Led Movements’ Means to Campus Crusade for Christ

CCC Internet Diagram

CCC Internet Diagram

After three days of meeting and praying together with a handful of Campus Crusade’s Internet ministry leaders from around the world, we had made less progress than we had hoped for. We had wanted to write a description of what we are all working toward and map a clear path toward getting there, but making progress was slower than we expected. But right at the end of our time Simon, one of our leaders in Singapore, captured our progress with a simple diagram that illustrated the different aspects of how we are using the Internet to advance the gospel.

The diagram quickly circulated up the CCC leadership chain, and soon we had the opportunity to discuss the results of our meeting with the president of CCC, Steve Douglass. We asked him to consider designating an executive leader to help bring energy and clarity to all our various Internet initiatives.

All of this is just internal discussion within Campus Crusade, but the potential impact is great if we can get all our good ideas aligned with each other and working together well!

Mobile Giving in Africa

In another post I introduced a project I’m working on, a mobile phone initiative for Africa. In addition to the cool seminary training this project will provide, it also brings another benefit; a way for Campus Crusade’s staff members in Africa to focus on their ministry more efficiently.

Right now our staff members in Africa visit each person on their ministry team every time one of their ministry partners wants to donate to their ministry. For ministry partners who pledge a regular, monthly gift, this means the staff member visits their house monthly to collect this gift. The amount of time this requires puts a very significant strain on the time and ability of the staff member to do their primary ministry!

It isn’t possible for the ministry partner to make an electronic bank transfer to the staff member, in most cases, because retail banking services are not available . The continent’s retail banking industry is quite small.

In the last five years, with the advent of pre-paid mobile phone accounts, the phone companies have become de facto retail banks. They hold an enormous amount of cash on pre-paid cell phone accounts, and most have a system where individuals can transfer minutes from their account to the account of someone else. It is also possible to withdraw some of the balance on a pre-paid account in cash.

Putting this together with the advent of mobile phones in Africa means that virtually every person who has the ability to give to the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ also has a pre-paid mobile phone account from which they can transfer some of their balance to a staff member’s account. This amount can then be treated as a gift and withdrawn as cash to help meet the financial needs of the CCC staff member.

The project I’m working on will develop software to make this type of transfer work smoothly for both the donor and the ministry staff member. It will provide reminders and receipts for the donor and provide an easy way for the recipient of the gift to thank the giver.

Best of all, it will allow our staff members to spend more time winning people to Christ, building them in their faith, and sending them out to reach others!

And if this project works in Africa, I will work to make it available in South Asia and anywhere else in the world where  it can help our staff members be more effective.

Mobile Seminary


T-Mobile G1 smartphone
– seminary textbook?

One of the things I have been excited about lately is a project I recently started on; a mobile phone-based system for theology training and banking.

To set the context, on the continent of Africa in the last few years, there has been rapid growth in the church. An estimated 20,000 new churches started, most running now without a trained pastor. On the continent of Africa there are about 26 seminaries or centers for theology education, the largest of graduating 50 students a year. Doing the math, you can see there is an enormous need for theology training for pastors in Africa!

Even if you added enough seminaries to equip 20,000 churches with a trained pastor (you’d need 40 new seminaries that can graduate 100 students to equip these churches in the next 5 years!), you would still have the problem of getting these pastors to leave their families for a year, leave their jobs, and travel a long way. Money, time, and family considerations make this simply impossible.

But in the last five years almost half of all Africans acquired a mobile phone. Each of these phones can do two things: send text messages and interact with their account at the phone company.

If you add to this picture a smartphone, like the HTC Hero, you now have a platform for delivering seminary training to the pastor at the location of his church! Add to this a micro-finance loan and you have a way for almost any pastor in Africa to acquire a smartphone. Put it all together and this is a way to train 20,000 pastors in the next five years!

This excites me.

Right we are partnering with a university-based team of programmers developing software to do just this. The software is now in the testing phase, and we hope to deploy it in a test setting this summer. I hope to visit the Campus Crusade for Christ seminary in Nairobi, Kenya in the next couple months and be involved in launching this test.

If all goes well in Kenya, I will start looking for ways we can use the same technology in India or East Asia.

And there’s more….. I’ll write another post about it.