A concept and a software platform for Online Live Learning

The three major educational methods used today are the traditional learning, the e-learning and the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses). The traditional learning is the most widely used method and it consists in face-to-face learning inside a classroom. It is based on the live interaction of the teacher and the student. E-learning is more focused on augmenting the learning process by using virtual learning objects, on bringing in electronic books and on organizing all the learning process with the help of a LMS (Learning Management System). E-learning is primarily focused on the student. MOOC basically consists in movies of great professors lecturing on specific topics. MOOC is focused just on the student.

What if we could bring together the full interactivity that the traditional learning has, the virtual learning objects and the virtual books, as we see in the e-learning method and the capability of saving all the learning sessions after they are over and display them as MOOC does?

We call this Online Live Learning (OLL) and it is the concept that LiveTutoring® is based on.

 

Concept

It is our belief that the interaction between teacher and student is crucial for the learning process.

It is also our belief that any technology used for education should be easy to use and natural, allowing participants to focus on the learning process and not on the way the technology should be used. Its presence should be discrete and efficient at the same time.

LiveTutoring is a synchronous online learning platform designed to give all the participants (both teachers and students) the feeling that they work as they are in the same classroom. With its two different interfaces emulating a blackboard (for the wide working surfaces) and a notebook for the tablets, LiveTutoring allows users to collaborate using multi-page surfaces to read, write and draw simultaneously on. Each participant has access at the same time to the virtual classroom blackboard and to his/her own virtual notebook, to be able to take notes while watching the virtual classroom blackboard. So the main feature the platform brings up is that it allows online long-distance interaction on a virtual blackboard and many notebooks at the same time, all of them being multi-page objects. It is based on a virtualization technology and it runs from the cloud with solid clients for Windows 7 or 8 and iOS.

All the sessions may be saved in a proprietary format that allows the user to load or play them, to edit them and to save them back. At the same time, the platform lets you export the session in *.pdf format or even to place it on the Facebook wall as an album. This allows the students to focus more on the student-teacher interaction than on merely copying the content of the blackboard on their own notebooks.

It can also be used as a very good tool for social learning as it can post the blackboard pages in social sites as Facebook.

For making it possible and, why not, fun to write or draw on the working surface, the platform comes with a series of configurable drawing and erasing tools, through a natural user-friendly interface.

The platform can use pictures and movies from different repositories, one of them being the proprietary cloud based repository LiveRepo. It also allows the users to access their computer’s local file system, their Dropbox space or YouTube. The platform incorporates recognition of hand-writing and by this also includes direct search in Google, Wikipedia and Wolfram Alpha. In addition, the user may rag pictures from the Internet or movies from YouTube directly on the working surface. Pictures or movies can be written over using the writing and erasing tools. PowerPoint presentations can be imported as the blackboard theme becoming the background of the blackboard pages and allowing writing and drawing over.

For learning purposes it may sometimes be necessary to give students access to certain applications that are subject of the learning session. LiveTutoring has a very powerful applications sharing component that allows users from different remote locations to get full and simultaneous access to any application running on any of the Windows computers linked in the session.

LiveTutoring comes with an API that allows organizations to integrate it within their learning management system and with their videoconferencing system. Natively, LiveTutoring is integrated with Skype for videoconferencing. Soon this integration will be extended through a video mixing functionality that will allow users to produce MOOC-like movies by mixing the saved videoconference file with the LiveTutoring session file, as all the events that appear on the virtual blackboard or notebook are saved in a time stamped manner.

The learning concept that we based LiveTutoring on is mixing the face-to-face traditional learning with the e-learning and the MOOC in what we call Online Live Learning. It is face-to-face through the instant interaction, the naturalness of the interface and because it is covering simultaneous voice, image, write and draw interaction. It is e-learning because it uses virtual learning objects, because it can create learning sequences that can be watched anytime by the choice of the user, and because it may be integrated with the LMS through its API. It is covering MOOC as well, because it may generate the recording of the learning session with a special view on what happens on the virtual classroom’s blackboard and/or on the student’s notebooks.

Here are two screenshots of the same learning session, first on the classroom electronic whiteboard and the second on the iPad of a student.

LT1

 

In this first one you can see the left curtain (designed for use to write on the partial results during the lesson), the working space (partially covered by the two curtains) and the right curtain (opened to access YouTube). On the upper left corner the videoconferencing view (as a floating window) is displayed.

The second screenshot is the view of the same sequence using the iOS notebook interface on the iPad of a student. The blackboard is visible in a floating screen to allow the student to take notes while the teacher is writing on the blackboard.

LT2

Several screenshots taken with the blackboard Windows interface are provided below to illustrate:

  • the selection of the features of the writing tools
  • the selection of handwriting to search in Wikipedia
  • dragging a picture from Internet on the surface of the blackboard and annotating it
  • dragging a movie from Youtube and playing it on the virtual blackboard
  • two PowerPoint slides embedded as blackboard background
  • visual selection of the blackboard page
  • exporting to *.pdf and the *.pdf file
  • applications sharing: editing this document in an live interactive way, taking a snapshot and dragging it on the blackboard

LT3

A snapshot with the right curtain extended in the tablet interface (iOS) can be viewed below:

LT4

 

You may download the free client application of the platform following this link:

http://www.livetutoring.org/content/downloads

LiveTutoring is altogether a new tool and platform designed to illustrate one of best Galileo’s quotes “You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself”.

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