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Distance Learning | News

Free Tool Allows Multiple Authors To Collaborate on Curriculum

A technology startup offering free software designed to allow people to do collaborative authoring has released a new version of its online program. Versal, which was recently recognized as an honoree in the International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards has launched beta version 1.5. The latest edition adds real-time communication components.

Creating a publication in Versal calls for authors to drag and drop "gadgets" onto a canvas. A gadget may be text, video, quizzes, interactive diagrams, simulations or other types of objects. Authors can also import previously created materials and structure a course with multiple lessons and sections. Once a course is done, it can be published and shared with others via direct link, email or social media.

Version 1.5 adds these changes:

  • Courses are now collaborative by default. Approved contributors add material by inserting new gadgets, and contributors may edit all gadgets. In a future edition, the company will add settings for publishers to restrict editing permissions;
  • To encourage open communication, authors can comment on contributions and exchange ideas inside the course creator; and
  • Potential contributors request to join a course via its overview page. Now publishers may also invite people to join by sharing a direct link to the material.

Versal has also introduced a catalog of "pre-scaffolded courses" that it invites users to contribute to. Topics include organic chemistry, advanced financial literacy and evolution, among others.

Last year the company introduced a foundation that offers grants from $1,000 to $25,000 to encourage people to create and share interactive "forever-free" courses. Once the material is developed, the foundation asks its authors to license it under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license.

"Computers are inherently interactive, and online courses shouldn't be limited to video lectures and slide decks," said CEO Gregor Freund. "And the Internet will make education accessible to everyone. Our vision is to give instructors powerful new tools and serve as a catalyst for the next generation of online learning."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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