In the world of online learning, the formula is pretty well established; someone creates a course and it remains static for all time. It’s not that common to see lessons evolve — but Versal wants to reverse that trend while helping teachers better share their work with others. That’s the reason the open publishing platform is introducing a marketplace to facilitate the transfer of knowledge, so that lessons can be constantly revised and improved.
Founded three years ago, Versal seeks to address the need for really great, interactive courses. Founder Gregor Freund said he realized there weren’t any tools to build an engaging and interactive course, either as a student or as a teacher. With the marketplace, teachers can apply any of the 1,000-plus pre-configured exercises to their lessons.
Dubbed a “Gadget Market”, the tool allows teachers to develop their own lesson and then, when they feel the need, drag-and-drop a “gadget” into the lesson. Examples of “gadgets” include text, images, quizzes, maps, videos, and more. Teachers can also embed timelines, flashcards, 3D models, PDFs, slide shows, and more into their lessons.
None of the gadgets will be pre-populated with content and most will be created in-house by Versal. However, users can submit their own gadget to the marketplace. Versal explains in its blog post, “Say you’ve developed an interactive timeline covering the history of NASA space exploration, and would like for other teachers to be able to use it. Submit it to the market. It’s open to all contributions.” The company will review all submissions within 48 hours before adding them to the market.
One way to think about what Versal is doing with this marketplace is to imagine playing with LEGOs. Instead of a formulaic lesson, teachers can build their plan according to what they think will receive the maximum attention from students.
“Creating online courses and lessons can be time-intensive, yet the Internet offers a great opportunity for teachers to collaborate with their peers. That’s the vision behind the Gadget Market,” said Freund. “Versal’s course creation platform makes it easy to integrate these customizable course-ready gadgets right into a lesson, resulting in seamless experience with the teacher’s own content.”
To mark today’s occasion, Versal has doubled down on its relationship with Wolfram Research, the company behind the Wolfram Alpha program. With this partnership, Wolfram Research will build a selection of math exercises that teachers can incorporate into their lessons. In March, Versal announced that teachers could use Wolfram Language to create content. Other partners are being considered for the future.
Since its launch, Versal has been used in both the academic and corporate environment. However, Freund told VentureBeat that what has been missing until now is community. For teachers, “80 to 90 percent” were able to pull in lessons and content from outside sources, but didn’t feel like they wanted to build anything from scratch.
All gadgets are free for teachers to use during this trial period, although Freund says that could change in the future.
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