The Aptus device set – hardware/software configuration (2018)

Here are the hardware/software configuration of Aptus device set (as of April 3, 2018):


Note:  USB type C power banks like this one should also work (Power adapter cords may needed).


  • Operating system: Ubuntu 16.04.4 LTS
  • Backend: PHP 7.0, Python, Node.js, MySQL, etc.
  • Web applications: WordPress, ownCloud, Moodle, KA lite, etc.
Aptus design timeline




The Aptus device set (2014) – specifications and improvements

Here are the latest Aptus device set (2014) specifications:

Mini PC

Wireless Router

Micro-SD card

Currently, we are working on the following improvements:

  • Design and implement a video sharing web application based on FFmpeg  and WordPress.
  • Deploy ftp and Samba server on Aptus for easy file sharing.
  • And more…

Secretary General of the Commonwealth Releases Aptus- a device set for deploying a classroom without walls

During his visit to  the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia, Commonwealth Secretary General His Excellency Kamalesh Sharma launched Aptus – a device set designed by COL that allows educators and learners to connect to digital learning platforms and content without the need for grid electricity or internet access.

Aptus is mobile, lightweight, and packs into a small box, but carries massive potential. The small setup can host up to 32GB of educational content and facilitate interactive, virtual learning anywhere – whether in a remote rural village or on a vast university campus. The result is a classroom without walls that can be set up within minutes and accessed by any learner with a laptop, tablet or mobile device.

Aptus has quickly attracted the attention of educators, institutions and governments who are committed to expanding the reach of modern education, but lack the resources and connectivity to do so effectively. This simple and compact solution is low cost – all components can be sourced for under $80 – and built on open source operating systems and platforms, making it adaptable and customizable to any learning context.

Aptus as released now, includes 1000 videos from  the Khan Academy and two courses on Moodle from the VUSSC initiative.

For additional device details see the Aptus Classroom Without Walls flyer. For more information contact


You know App Store – what about OER store?

Advantages of using app store as OER delivery mechanism:

  • App store is a self-publishing platform. OER content creators can publish, update their OERs to the proposed OER/Education app store.
  • Each published OER will have a unique product page. On this page:
    • User can comment, rate the OER material, provide feedbacks to content provider.
    • Content provider can add video instructions, screen shots, faqs and etc.
  • User ratings and comments can serve as crowd-sourced quality control mechanism.
  • App store will provide search and categorization which help users to quickly locate published OER materials.

App store with offline support. We can redesign app store with offline support so app store contents can be distributed on MicroSD cards. The advantages of this approach are:

  • Deliver OER materials to tablets and smartphones without internet.
  • Distribute MicroSD cards are cheaper (32Gb MicroSD Class 10 card for USD 12 link) comparing to expensive bandwidth at some developing countries.
  • MicroSD      cards are easy to duplicate and update.

Author: Ricky Cheng

Classroom without walls 2 generation prototype improvements

Here are some classroom without walls 2 generation prototype improvements:

  • Replace Nexus 7 tablet with Android mini pc MK808 (link)
    • Without LCD screen, MK808 can last much longer than Nexus 7 on the same battery capacity.
    • MK808 is lighter and more portable.
    • MK808 supports external MicroSD card up to 32Gb.
  • HAME A100 Wifi hotspot (link)
    • HAME A100 can also serve as a 5200 mAh mobile power bank thus reduce CWW to two components from three.
    • HAME A100 supports up to 20 wireless devices. (ASUS WL-330gE can only support up to 5 wireless devices)
    • CWW can be powered on by switching HAME A100 to R position.

The Linux system and all the server contents are stored on the MicroSD card. So CWW can serve contents such as K-12 textbooks, moodle courses or offline Wikipedia by simply inserting in different MicroSD cards.

Author: Ricky Cheng

Classroom Without Walls

Tablet computers are becoming more widely available. The education community has been considering m-learning as a supportive paradigm in informal learning and Tablets have the potential to make a significant contribution in this area. However, Tablets are designed as appliances that help user access a variety of applications and services hosted on the Internet. Designing “apps” for iPad/iOS or for Android has been a favored route in the education community.

Photo Credit: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This, however, cannot be the only approach when it comes to learning-for development paradigm. A large number of learners and teachers in the developing world operate in “unconnected” environments- unconnected to the power grid and to the Internet. There needs to be a different approach to extend them support.

This is where COL’s idea of a “classroom without walls” (Asha Kanwar) can make a contribution. We can imagine a situation where a learner in a typically unconnected environment can access a lesson in an LMS, and complete an assignment, with her/his credentials intact and available to the teacher. Learners can also participate in a socializing process through visiting and commenting on a blog related to the learning materials and courses. This might sound more relevant in Higher Education. Starting from there, it can be extended and adapted to Open Schooling and Non-formal learning in rural and agricultural extension.

At the heart of this is the availability of dual-core tablets and smartphones at affordable prices. One can use a dual core Tablet to create a server that runs Ubuntu, an Open Source operating system widely used in PC’s/laptops, on which an LMS (say, Moodle)  and a social networking or content management system (say, WordPress) can be installed. A battery-powered WiFi hotspot can help create a network to which Tablets with learners can be connected. In the following, a preliminary, and successful trial is described. Asha Kanwar is of the view that it should be possible to develop a pack under $ 100 that can enable a teacher to run a classroom without those ubiquitous walls.

Classroom without Walls device configuration

Device Configuration Video

Wireless Hot Spot Setup

  • Configure ASUS WL-330gE Wireless AP
  • Setup DHCP (Follow the instruction manual) to support at least 200 clients.

Server Setup

  • Follow the instruction here to install Ubuntu 12.04 on Google Nexus 7.
  • Install LAMP on ubuntu
  • Install Moodle using Git
  • (optional) import Moodle courses.
  • Install WordPress
  • (optional) create sample WordPress website.
  • Install Drupal (to be updated)
  • Install Canvas using Git (to be updated)
  • Configure ASUS WL-330gE Wireless AP
  • Power it on. (Power bank or any other USB power source)
  • Wireless connect Nexus 7 to AP.
  • Reserve IP address for Nexus 7 MAC address
  • Connect tablets or smartphones to Wireless AP.
  • Navigate to to start browsing.

Team: Ricky Cheng, Balaji V and Michelle Gruda

512 MB Tablet PC Project: A Step by Step Overview

Tablet computing is a trending innovation that holds great potential in the learning and development context. These mobile devices place education in the hands of learners, wherever they may be, and present endless possibilities for improving the quality and accessibility of education around the globe.

In the consumer market, Tablet PCs are dominating, with devices like Apple’s iPad leading the way. As the trend grows, open source alternatives, such as Android Tablets, are keeping pace and leveling the market with low-cost devices that can be easily customised for high-impact (see analysis in The Economist). This presents even greater opportunity for education and development institutions to harness their value.

To demonstrate the potential held in these devices, COL ventured to acquire, customise and distribute generic Android Tablet PCs to county delegations at the recent 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (18CCEM, Mauritius, August 2012). In collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, and funded by UNICEF/Child-Friendly Schools and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, COL was able to execute this project. We acquired a volume of low-cost devices, and customised them with specialised applications and content that suited the unique context of the conference. Containing conference documentation, publications, educational resources, videos and demonstration software, the tablets were well received by Ministers and Senior Officials.

Since this time, COL has been approached by others who are eager to undertake projects like this in order to further learning and development goals. In support of their efforts, we have summarised important aspects our own experience in the related pages. We welcome all organisations and individuals to consult this step-by-step overview as a guide for leveraging the opportunities presented by Tablet PCs as a tool for learning.

Project Video


A buying request was posted to Alibaba Manufacturer Directoryoutlining our needs and preferred specifications. Several offers from suppliers were received and reviewed, and the most sound and affordable one was accepted. The chosen supplier is the original manufacturer of the CORTX chip, commonly used in Android devices. An order for 200 Android Tablet PCs was placed.

Device Configuration

Screen Resolution          800 x 480
RAM                              512 MB
Build-in Storage             4 GB
Operating System Android 4.0.4 Link to ROM shipped with Tablet
Ebook Reader EbookDroid 1.4.2 Link
Video Player Mx Player 1.6j with ffmpeg codec installed Link
Note-Taking App OI Notepad 1.3 Link
File Manager ASTRO file manager 3.1.363



Each device was tested for quality with special attention given to the following attributes:booting sequence

  • power and volume buttons
  • screen quality
  • speakers, ports
  • battery life
  • operating system
  • default applications

Tablets that failed testing were set aside for troubleshooting.Tablets were re-tested at various stages of the customization process to ensure quality was maintained.


To suit the context of the 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers, devices were customized with the following features and applications:

  • A custom booting sequence featuring the 18CCEM conference logo, as well as the logos of our contributing partners.
  • A custom wallpaper featuring the same logos.
  • An ‘eBookshelf’ application for accessing publications and conference materials in dynamic bookshelf view.
  • An open source video player for high quality video playback.
  • A notebook application for delegates to record notes during conference sessions.
  • A collection of video content and publications of relevance to Education Ministers and delegates.
  • A link to the Commonwealth Connects (C2P) online portal.

Scripts were written to execute customizations on each device.Additional manual customizations were carried out on each device by a team of volunteers.

Additional Steps

The additional steps below are optional, and may not apply to all projects, though we include them here for reference.

Production of Supplementary Materials:

  • A brief ‘Quick Start Guide’ for users was designed and developed to accompany Tablet PCs.
  • Labels featuring the 18CCEM event logo, as well as the logos of contributing partners, were designed and fixed to Tablet PC boxes.

Device Maintenance

  • Devices went through multiple rounds of charging in order to maintain battery power during customization and ensure maximum battery life when presented to users.
  • Devices were cleaned (screens and backs polished) and repackaged after customization.

Emerging Specifications

9 Inch Android 4.0
CPU All Winner A13, 1.2gHz; GPU: Mali 400
Operating System Android 4.0 (ICS)
Flash 8GB
Screen 9″ 800 x 600 Capacitive Screen 5-point touch
Camera 0.3 megapixels
A/V Supports multiple audio/video formats
Compatible Applications YouTube, Skype, eBook, Built in email and browser
Battery 4000MAh
Product Size 210x170x10mm
Product Weight 500g
Indicative Pricing (as of Oct 2012) US$70-75 per min. order of 100; Manufactured in Shenzhen, China
7 Inch Android 4.0
CPU All Winner A13, 1.2gHz; GPU: Mali 400
Operating System Android 4.0 (ICS)
Flash Support Flash 11.1
Screen 7″ 800 x 600 Capacitive Screen 5-point touch
Camera Front 2.0 megapixels
A/V Supports multiple audio/video formats
Compatible Applications YouTube, Skype, eBook, Built in email and browser
Battery 4500MAh
Product Size 189x123x9mm
Product Weight 313g
Indicative Pricing (as of Oct 2012) US$70-75 per min. order of 100; Manufactured in Shenzhen, China