Unlocking Learning: The implementation and effectiveness of digital learning for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in school closures around the world, at its peak affecting 1.6 billion students worldwide (UNESCO, 2020). This crisis has underscored the importance of resilient education systems that can support all, especially the most marginalized, to learn during times of crisis. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly one in four children globally were living in countries affected by conflict or disaster, unable to routinely access quality education (UNICEF, 2016). The growing use of digital technologies in education (commonly referred to as EdTech) during COVID-19 school closures has heighted the need to understand how to best use EdTech in humanitarian and crisis contexts.

This report presents findings from the UNICEF-Akelius Foundation Innovation in Education Partnership and its implementation of a digital course used on tablets and mobile phones for language learning in Lebanon, where 40 per cent of school-age children and adolescents are Syrian refugees. The digital course was introduced in non-formal education (NFE) classes for Syrian refugees to strengthen English or French language learning and help their transition to Lebanon’s trilingual education system, where classes are taught in Arabic, French and English.

The goal of the digital course examined in this research is to provide students and teachers with a tool to accelerate language learning for marginalized children. The digital course is free, includes no advertising and requires no prior user information to access. It can be accessed online via a web browser, or online and offline (when content is downloaded) through a mobile application on tablets or mobile phones. The content and features of the course are developed through a co-creation approach with frequent communication and feedback from implementing teachers based on the real-world use of the course with students (see Image 1).

When first implemented in Lebanon in 2019, the course was used in three centres serving 246 students as a teaching tool within traditional face-to-face classrooms. In class, students used the course on individual tablets with headphones and were guided by teachers who were present. However, when schools and education centres in Lebanon closed in March 2020, the course was implemented in a fully remote learning environment and expanded across the country to 64 NFE centres covering a total of 7,237 refugee students.

As a result, this report presents analysis on the implementation of the digital course in three key areas: First, the report investigates the digital course’s use in a blended learning environment where it was used on tablets by students as part of traditional face-to-face classroom instruction with teachers. Second, the analysis examines the transition to remote learning where the course was used on devices owned by the household, supported by teachers remotely. Third, the report estimates the effectiveness of the use of the digital course during this period of remote learning from August–November 2020.

Resource Info


Published by

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Authored by

Thomas Dreesen, Akito Kamei, Despina Karamperidou, Sara Abou Fakher, Lama Marji, Javier Santiago Ortiz Correa


Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Adolescents and Youth
Distance Education
Technology and Innovation

Geographic Focus