With its growing focus on education, tech giant Google announced late last week the launch of its new educational tool Oppia. Still in beta, Oppia is an open source project, designed to serve people across the word as a free educational tool.
In Google’s own words, Oppia is aimed at making “it easy for anyone to create online interactive activities” that others can use to learn from. The core motivation behind this new initiative, according to the company’s announcement, originated from the fact that while more and more educational content nowadays are being delivered via videos and other digital mediums, a large chunk of it still remains asynchronous or static. In other words, mere digitization of a presentation or a lecture is not enough; especially when there are abundant scopes for making them more interactive in nature. A two way communication, as they say, always yields a better understanding than in any scenario where one side speaks and the other just listens.
Apparently, this new Google project could play an instrumental role in revolutionizing online learning experiences by fetching the framework that one can use to quickly create interactive tutorials, lectures, or presentations called “Explorations” and then add them to their websites or blogs. However, there’s more to Oppia – Google brags that the tool has also certain notable implications for teachers in the sense that it can partially relieve teachers from some of their duties.
Simply put, the tool can enhance the interactivity of a learning process by taking over the responsibilities of a teacher or a mentor who asks questions to the learner in order to assess his or her overall progress. Following this, based on the learner’s response to these questions, Oppia decides how to proceed further – for example, “whether to delve deeper, or whether to proceed to something new.”
Another unique and exciting feature of Oppia is that it enables multiple people from across the world to collaborate and come up with Explorations. Better still, they can do it using just a Web interface, meaning no program is required.
The tool collects information on how the learners interact with it, thus making it much easier for Exploration authors to spot shortcomings in their work. They would be able to so by logging in and finding an answer that a lot of learners are giving, but which the system has failed to respond adequately. After identifying such shortcomings, the authors can revamp the learning paths used in that particular Exploration. Once everything is sorted out, Oppia can give the necessary feedback to all future learners. It also allows authors to accept adequate responses to their lessons in text, numeric, and multiple choice questions. In addition, it also facilitates clickable maps as well as code evaluators.
As for the technical side of this new offering is concerned, the tech giant stated that Oppia is primarily based on an extensible framework, which implies that developers can add their own inputs in order to boost the range of types and formats that the system understands.
Explorations on Oppia servers can be embedded in any Web page, and the “embeddings”, in Google’s words, can “refer to a particular version” of the Exploration so as to ensure that any future upgradation does not jeopardize the original version.
And yes, Oppia is also blessed with a native responsive user interface for mobile devices, meaning users can access the platform from virtually any mobile device with a working Internet connection.
However, we are yet to have a word on how much support and importance Google plans to throw at this new offering. Apparently, the Oppia Home Page suggests that it is not officially a Google product. This, according to many experts, could eventually imply that the company is not planning to devote much of its manpower and resources on the new offering – at least not at this moment. Perhaps Google is optimistic that developers will gradually assume ownership of Oppia, while maintenance and other similar aspect will be taken care of by the community.
But all being said, Oppia looks like a pretty outstanding tool, and could be a big step forward towards making the most out of technology for optimizing learning experiences. For more information, visit the official Oppia blog here.