“The way to think about the platform is in three types of functionalities: basic functionality like text and video; advanced with timelines and diagrams; and views into other worlds by incorporating tools like Prezi and SketchUp,” said Freund. “However, even though there are lots of tools, we make sure to limit text and design formatting so that educators don’t get carried away. Sometimes when you have too much going on, it doesn’t look good on mobile devices.”
A pro account additionally allows users to access embedded assessment information, track student progress, and integrate with LMS functions.
All about Versal:
“Another great perk is that Versal allows creators to collaborate on content—like a Google Doc but for online content,” noted Freund.
Users can download all content created on Versal, since content is hosted on Versal’s server, and anything created on Versal can be embedded via code or link [some of these capabilities are included as part of the pro account].
“I love the fact that I can embed quizzes into my lesson,” said Iannuccilli. “These quizzes serve many different roles. For example, it gives the students immediate feedback on what they just learned about. Also, I am able to use the quizzes to make sure that they are completing the assignment by setting the lesson up in a way that doesn’t allow the student to move forward in the lesson unless they take and pass the quiz with a grade that I set as a standard—this really gives me a good idea of who is doing the work and who is not. I also like the deeper diagram gadget, because I love the idea that you can take an image and add pertinent info to it so the student can understand the image better, and then the student can use it as a practice quiz as well; like fancy flash cards.”
Iannuccilli says that, on average, he spends 2-to-3 hours creating a Versal lesson for his flipped classroom course, and 15-30 minutes for creating assessments. “I have been teaching for 10 years, so I have piled up many resources through the years. I would assume a newer teacher might need some more time to find and create their assessments.”
Upgrades coming out of beta
Along with the company’s out-of-beta announcement, Versal touted its new partnership with Wolfram Research and the appointment of Stephen Wolfram to Versal’s Board of Directors. The two companies are working together to offer teachers direct access to Wolfram’s catalog of interactive math and science exercises via Versal gadgets. Read more.
This partnership isn’t the only one, however, as Discovery Education announced the launch of five newly-created interactive training courses powered by Versal. The courses aim to guide educators through features of Discovery Ed’s digital resources; and each course includes video overviews and step-by-step guides created exclusively by members of the Discovery Educator Network (DEN).
Versal also announced a course and lesson management console design refresh, including making organization features, invitations, and publishing options more “discoverable.” In addition, the Versal.com homepage has been overhauled to better reflect Versal’s “focus and commitment to the content creation process,” said the company.
In the future, “I would like to see more opportunities to change the format of the lesson,” said Iannuccilli, “maybe [have] different themes and colors, since every lesson feels kind of the same to me. As far as functions and tools go, anything they add will just enhance the Versal experience for me.”
When asked if he would recommend the product to colleagues, Iannuccilli said he would and already has. “I showed a couple of them to my Dean of Faculty as well as some colleagues and they seemed very interested in checking it out. I also showed it to a graduate class that I am in, and from what I understand, about a third of the class has signed up and given Versal a shot. I wouldn’t target tech-savvy people, necessarily, but it would help if the people you are pitching it to know how to use a computer.”
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