Agudah’s Learning Program Records Learning Progress with Bitbean’s Custom Solution

Inspiring children to learn is the goal of many educational programs. One effective way to keep them motivated to continue the learning process is to celebrate successes. That’s the basis for the Masmidei HaSiyum program, which is a global project that includes participating schools and students from around the world. Under the direction of Agudath Israel of America (Agudah), the program is part of a learning initiative whose primary goal is “changing the world for our children.” 

The children’s learning program, although quite different, is inspired from the adult program. The adult version began in 1923 by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, initiator of the “page of the day” or Daf Yomi. The purpose is to study the Talmud (oral Jewish laws). The program encourages adult participants to literally tackle one page a day to digest the difficult content (page from the Mishna, which is the written and condensed form of oral law). In addition, everyone globally is on the exact same page. The completion of all the pages leads to a worldwide celebration called the Siyum HaShas that happens only once every 7-1/2 years. Agudah’s goal is to generate excitement among children through daily learning at their level in hopes of an “ongoing anticipation of the global Siyum and beyond.” The idea is to move children away from just being spectators to become participants by studying teachings at home through the Masmidei HaSiyum program.

So, the challenge for Agudah was to find an effective way to bring children closer to the teachings and join the largest celebration of the Torah. Since the program for children is based on daily learning, it’s important to record their progress. But how do you engage and track the daily learning progress and achievements of thousands of children at hundreds of schools? What software can help make this process an easy-to-use tool for teachers, students, and parents? 

It’s clear that this challenge would be an important function of the Masmidei HaSiyum program. And that this function must have the capacity of reaching and engaging a world-wide audience. Although motivating students with incentives like class raffles and other prizes is effective, recording their progress makes it all possible. The process, therefore, had to be accurate, simple, and user friendly. At this point, Agudah selected Bitbean to develop a custom solution that all children, teachers, and parents would regularly use and appreciate.

About Agudath Israel of America (Agudah)

Agudath Israel of America is an organization that advocates for matters involving the Orthodox Jewish community. They meet the community’s needs through education, social services, and various charitable projects. In addition, they organize and operate the Siyum Hashas national celebration that takes place every seven years, including the 12th Siyum Hashas that was held in 2012 at Metlife Stadium. So successful was this celebration, the event marked the largest gathering of Orthodox Jewry in the United States. 

Agudah also directs the Masmidei HaSiyum project, which is geared towards the inclusion of children in the worldwide Siyum celebration by learning Gemara, Mishnayos and Chumash at home. The educational branch includes thousands of children participating in the “Page a Day” (Daf Yomi) program with a full-blown curriculum that was initiated years ago. The program provides incentives and prizes for daily learning. 

Encouraging learning with incentives requires tracking

The Masmidei HaSiyum program is “carefully designed to promote the building of success upon success.” Participants feel a sense of accomplishment that promotes good will and generates the anticipation of the global Siyum celebration. Based on students’ progress and to keep them motivated, the children have opportunities to earn incentives including a raffle and weekly, monthly, and grand prizes. To achieve this, students need to report their progress by logging their exact amount of daily learning. And although a representative from each school collects and organizes materials to help keep things running smoothly, Agudah needed an accurate system to track progress. 

Bitbean answered the challenge by creating a user-friendly phone system that allows each program participant to call in their completed work and earn points. Using an API interface and driven by a database that operates through the phone system, it provides a simple way for students to track and update their progress. 

Challenges without a trackable system

Organizing and administering a learning program for children that includes thousands of participants can be a real struggle if done manually. In the case of Masmidei HaSiyum, the success of the program relies on an ongoing time-sensitive and accurate method of recording participants’ learning progress. Manual processing can create backlogs and delay incentives, rendering the program counterproductive.

  • Enrolling students in program. Getting students started in the learning program would be difficult if the enrollment process meant generating paperwork and manually entering details. 
  • Reporting daily work. In the Masmidei HaSiyum program, time is of the essence when it comes to tracking the learning topics and time. This is because participants are entered into raffles on a weekly basis. The idea is to inspire learners to continue studying at home daily through the provided incentives. If the reporting were done manually, the program would find it difficult to process the learning of thousands of participants within the allotted deadlines for drawings.
  • Accuracy in reporting. Participants are responsible for reporting their learning. Without a process in place to determine the specifics of what was learned, the potential for inaccurate reporting and errors are possible. In addition, the wide array of potential responses from children would have to be filtered down into categories/topics. 
  • Teacher verification. For the program to work, teachers at each school would need to verify the work done by participants on a regular basis. This would be tedious if done via paperwork.
  • Generating reports. Without an easy system to generate reports, school program ambassadors would be responsible for gathering, and compiling all the completed work manually to determine winning classes. This would also create time-consuming work for teachers to compile information on their students’ homework.

Bitbean meets the challenges with call-in phone system

Masmidei HaSiyum is an opportunity to create excitement around the Siyum celebration. It also inspires children to do their homework and learn more outside of school. According to Agudah, the learning program is “a win-win situation.” Bitbean’s development of a call-in system made the program a seamless one.

  • Student registration. Participating schools register their students in the program and provide them with a welcome packet that provides instructions. Students are issued a unique PIN number in order to access the phone system.
  • Call-in-system. The call-in phone system requires just three easy steps for users to report their daily learning. Users dial the hotline number provided, enter their unique PIN number, then log the amount of learning they have completed that day at home (outside of school). By calling in to report their learning, they are also updating their score and eligibility for incentives. 
  • Accurate reporting options. The system allows users to navigate learning options via voice or touch with choices on the specific areas of learning they have completed (e.g. Chumash, Mishnayos and Gemara). The system will ask how much was learned on that day. If users incorrectly log in their learning information, they will be locked out of the system. Accuracy is important as the user earns “tickets” for his learning via his code.
  • Parent options. If the child is locked out of the system, parents can use their pin to deal with the lock out. They would have three choices to rectify the situation:
    1) Confirm all information provided and unlock account. 2) Delete last entry and unlock account. 3) Or confirm last entry and unlock account but mark that it requires direct contact with a human being. In addition, the system tracks each parental verification unlock occurrence in the database.  
  • Teacher reports. Teachers will automatically receive a report of what each student entered each day of the previous week in order to verify their progress. Reports are generated as PDFs containing multiple files.

Call-in phone system a win-win

As tens of thousands of people prepare for the 13th Global Siyum celebration in 2020, the children can now also participate. The Masmidei HaSiyum program makes this possible. It is an opportunity to reach out to children everywhere and help them be more than just a bystander leading up to the Siyum celebration. It inspires participants to do their homework and learn more outside of school. 

The program is definitely a win for everyone including schools, teachers, parents, and especially the children. According to Agudah, nothing “is more precious than encouraging the increased learning of our children.”