San Francisco, July 9, 2013 – Versal, a new start-up developing open technologies for online learning, today launched an early beta of a new online course creation and publishing platform, designed to give anyone the ability to offer truly interactive instruction without needing to know how to code.
In the past year, millions of students have signed up for online lectures. Yet for many of the world’s top instructors and experts, the resources to create an advanced online course and the ability to publish it to the world remain out of reach. And the courses are typically reliant on video productions of classroom-style lectures, ebooks and basic assessment. Until now, the ability to create a course with advanced interactive learning exercises has been limited to instructors with programming skills.
Versal is a single place to create interactive online courses – no coding required. It’s open to all instructors and organizations, is free, and courses are instantly available via direct links back to the Versal site.
“The Internet has connected us like never before. And still, online learning is often one-dimensional. It doesn’t have to be that way,” said Gregor Freund, CEO and co-founder at Versal. “Computers and the modern Internet are designed for interactivity. Our open platform will empower anyone with expertise - science professors, art teachers, language experts, tutors, fitness trainers - to bring an online course to life.”
Via a simple canvas, instructors may author anything from a quick tutorial to a semester-length course by dragging-and-dropping a variety of customizable learning apps, called “gadgets.” While basic gadgets include text, video, and images, the real interactive value of gadgets is found in customizable quizzes, charts, simulations, and more. Easily integrated into a course, gadgets illustrate concepts and ideas in an engaging way that involves both teacher and student in the process.
"Versal is creating a renaissance model of the virtual classroom, where students can truly interact and engage in the curriculum and instructors can dream up new ways to illustrate concepts,” said Deirdre Murphy, Adjunct Art Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and professional artist. “For example in my Color Play: Color Theory course, students explore a master painting to decode the mysteries of complex color, thus opening the gateway of understanding the importance of color in art and design.”
Continued Murphy, “I tested an early version of Versal and it definitely changed the way I think about creative instruction. Plus the concept of gadgets made it easy and fun. I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves."
“Software developers are by nature learning enthusiasts, in no small part because coding methodologies are constantly evolving and ongoing education is part of their daily lives,” said Freund. “Based on early feedback, the ability to foster new ways of online learning is proving profoundly appealing, and we’re very excited to offer a platform to connect developers with experts of all kinds.”
Versal has been quietly building the underlying platform technology for the past year with a team of 30 engineers and lifelong learning enthusiasts. This initial beta test of the course creator is the first step in fulfilling a broader vision of creating technology and analytics to empower experts to share their knowledge and inspire new ways of online learning. The company is led by founders Gregor Freund, CEO, and Gene Linetsky, CTO, both with long tenures as highly successful entrepreneurs and technological innovators.
The Versal Foundation, also unveiled today, is the realization of Versal’s commitment to make interactive teaching and learning accessible to everyone. Providing grants for those interested in building a forever-free, Creative Commons-licensed course to help improve lives around the world, the Versal Foundation will offer grants from $1,000 to $25,000.
Grant recipients will create an interactive course on the Versal platform in one of two categories:
More foundation details and an application are available at versal.org.
Versal is a new way for anyone to easily create amazingly interactive online courses – no coding required. Versal’s platform is free and open to anyone with knowledge and the desire to share it. Versal is based in San Francisco, Calif. and currently employs 30 engineers and lifelong learning enthusiasts. For more information visit Versal.com, or connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.