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Distance Learning | News

Versal Launches Free Course Publishing Platform, Grant Program

A San Francisco, CA-based startup has unveiled a beta version of its free Web-based course-creation publishing platform. Versal, which is available to anyone interested in teaching online courses, uses "gadgets," or customizable learning apps, to develop interactive lessons.

In addition, Versal has launched the Versal Foundation, which will provide grants in amounts of $1,000 to $25,000 to nonprofits and teachers to create "forever-free" online, Creative Commons-licensed online courses.

The Versal platform allows teachers to create interactive lessons by dragging and dropping text, images, videos and other interactive tools onto a blank canvas. Currently, there are a limited number of gadgets available. However, according to the company, it will open up the platform to third-party JavaScript developers later this summer to create additional gadgets. Gadgets now available allow teachers to add images, videos, charts, simulations, surveys, and quizzes.

Teachers can invite people to take their courses by embedding links on blogs and social media platforms, and through email invites.

Versal has three sample courses posted on its Web site:

"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, in a prepared statement. "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."

Nonprofit organizations or teachers interested in applying for grants from The Versal Foundation should fall into one of two categories: Transformative Education or Foundational Education. Transformative Education courses have "a profound potential for improving people's lives. Individuals, not-for-profits and NGOs with domain expertise are encouraged to apply," according to information released by the company. Foundational Education courses cover "basic literacy, arithmetic, science, and related topics. In a nutshell, core knowledge that should be readily available to every single person on the planet."

To apply for a grant and to find out more about application requirements, go to versal.org.

Developers interested in receiving an invite to create a Versal gadget should go to versal.com/develop-gadgets.

For more information about Versal, visit versal.com.

About the Author

Tim Sohn is a 10-year veteran of the news business, having served in capacities from reporter to editor-in-chief of a variety of publications including Web sites, daily and weekly newspapers, consumer and trade magazines, and wire services. He can be reached at timothyjsohn@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @editortim.

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