Open online education has been expanding since MIT started their Open Courseware (OCW) concept (Bonk, 2009). Now many colleges offer free material online (Lease & Brown, 2009), but not all open online education sources are attached to universities.
There I was scrolling through a social media site when I came upon an ad. As I do with most ads, I went to click it off to Hide, but then I noticed what it was, went to the page, and bookmarked it instead. Versal is an open course site without a university attachment. It is set up to provide a platform for educators to create their own classes using text, videos, and “gadgets,” which are little modules that allow students to interact with the site. Just for giggles, I started a course on Metabolism. I majored in Wildlife Sciences during my first run through college, so I was pretty sure I could handle a basic biology course. The material was definitely at the college level. It started off with an introduction and a block of text describing a process then moved on to virtual flash cards for ten or so basic terms. The flash cards could be encountered in different ways. I could use them as flash cards, or I could play different types of games where I could drag cards together to match terms and definitions or type the term to go with the definition as it slid across the screen at increasing speeds.
Feedback was immediate and allowed students to correct answers or, in some cases, override the computer if the student mistyped the term but had the right word. As I scrolled through the rest of the page, I encountered more text, a video, a quiz, and some open-ended questions. The next page involved the next set of related information in roughly the same format.
Completing the entire sequence in one sitting is not necessary. I left after the first flash card game and some scrolling so I could tour the rest of the site. The system not only remembered what course I had started but also had my place properly bookmarked.
There is a part of the site you can tour and play with for free, but to get full features or to use it for business training programs, you do have to pay your way.
In class, it could be used as an assignment or as a study aid if there is a preset course that covers the same material. The preset courses cover things ranging from basic biology to composing music to basic yoga moves. Even if there isn’t a preset course, teachers could set up a course and require students to complete it. I have not yet designed a course or completed one, so I don’t know what kind of feedback or score the program supplies at the end.
The site looks fascinating, and I plan to go take another peek at it later. If I can come up for air long enough, I might even create some content.
Bonk, C. J. (2009). The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Lease, A. J., & Brown, T. A. (2009). Distance learning past, present, and future. International Journal of Instructional Media, 36(4), 415–426.