Open Compass is to be an online education platform whose content generators can be anyone with the desire and motivation to teach.
Open Compass is to be an online education platform whose content generators can be anyone with the desire and motivation to teach. Read more
Over two years ago, the University of Reddit experiment began and turned into its own community when Anastas created the first version of the website. The principle of UReddit was simple: anyone can register an account and teach a class on whatever he or she likes, and anyone can register an account and sign up for whatever classes he or she likes.
The community quickly grew; at this time, there are over 100 classes, nearly 75,000 registered accounts, and nearly 4 million total pageviews. Over the past year, several new people have joined the UReddit team, multiple professors have created classes either in their spare time or in synchrony with their real-life classes, and more.
However, UReddit remained a very simple platform - teachers would conduct their classes wherever they liked (Google Group, YouTube videos, Reddit, custom website, &c).
The UReddit experiment was successful enough that we decided to formalize the effort. We founded Open Compass, Inc., an educational non-profit corporation, with the intent of creating a sophisticated platform that carries the ideals on which UReddit was founded.
What will Open Compass' platform include?
Open Compass, Inc was founded as a non-profit institution with the goal of creating an online educational platform that not only addresses the above concerns, but recreates the entire experience of being in a classroom as much as possible - and improves upon it. What is this platform to include?
- Live lecture streaming that: allows the instructor to stream their webcam, stream their desktop, and/or share slides in a number of formats; allows students to "raise their hands" and ask a question over audio and/or video; and automatically records live lectures for later rewatching.
- Fully featured course management software that includes class rosters, hosting space for class materials, live chat, discussion boards, grading, calendars, and so on - but, most importantly, multiple users roles so as to allow the number of instructors and TAs for a course to scale with the size of the class.
- Automatic speech-to-text analysis of video lectures to provide searchable transcripts.
- A focus on peer interaction, one of the vital elements in traditional education that fails to be adequately replicated. The current plan is a Reddit instance for discussion amongst peers in addition to the teacher-student channels in the course management software.
- Being open to anyone to teach.
How will Open Compass differ from Coursera, edX, &c?
Recent years have seen a surge of massively online open courses (MOOCs). However, we feel that they all have at least some subset of the following faults: they are for-profit, which means that moneymaking inevitably comes into the decision-making process; they fail to accurately recreate the classroom experience; focus is generally on content delivery and not necessarily on instructor/TA feedback, on community, or on interaction with one's peers; and only teachers at partner institutions are allowed to generate content. With the aforementioned details of Open Compass' platform in mind it is clear how we will fundamentally differ.
How can I keep up with what's new at Open Compass in the future?
Who is on the Open Compass team?
- Anastas Stoyanovsky (President/CEO), who created the UReddit website and has maintained a leadership role since its inception. He has put together three UReddit classes.
- Elliot Volkman (Director), who has helped manage the UReddit community for nearly a year. He has put together two UReddit classes.
- Dr. Philip Bishop (Director), who taught a UReddit class in sync with his real-life teaching at the University of South Florida Honors College, including both his face-to-face students and his online students in all discussions for his philosophy course.
- Dr. Robert Donley (Director), who has been teaching mathematics online for over two years and has amassed over 700 video lectures, and who has put together two UReddit classes to date.
- David Tusick (Director/Treasurer), whose enthusiasm has led to formal involvement in the project.
Funding will be dedicated almost entirely to development costs. Tying together the numerous softwares so that they work well together in unison is nontrivial and time-consuming, structuring the platform so as to be able to scale with userbase even more so - and the actual development/innovation comes after that has been done. Contributions to open software projects are probable.
"This all sounds great!" you say. But such a platform is expensive to run, let alone scale up - how will we stay online? In other words, why isn't this a waste of your money?
Open Compass was created in order to better execute the ideals of UReddit but does require some sort of revenue in order to be able to mitigate the significant costs of staying online, once our fundraising budget has allowed us to polish the platform.
Our platform will be mature and fully-featured enough to be used by a university (and exceeds any university's online school any of us have seen). Since everything will be virtualized, we will literally be able to "copy and paste" another our platform onto a new group of servers, rebrand, and license its use to universities. We've figured out the numbers that would let us stay online 24/7.
Risks and challenges
Our founder wrote the initial UReddit website and oversaw its growth for over two years. The Board of Directors consists of people that have backgrounds in academia, teaching, marketing, and business. This is a serious venture - we founded a non-profit corporation for this project, after all - and we have the skills necessary to execute the project.
The challenges include integrating the various softwares necessary to implement the desired functionality, to scale the platform in accordance with its userbase, and to manage the finances and revenue streams in order to be able to stay online 24/7. In between the many skills of our President and Board of Directors, we are confident that we can skillfully execute this project and overcome any challenges.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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