Oppia: Opportunity for Progressive Learning or Open-Content Muddle?

Welcome graphic from Oppia.org

Welcome graphic from Oppia.org

While aboutst the Web for other purposes, I had the pleasure of stumbling upon Oppia.org. Developed by some Googlers in their 20% side-project time, Oppia provides an open-source engine for educators, tutors, or anyone really to easily create learning “explorations” on about any topic.

The ability and versatility in the framework behind these explorations makes Oppia ideal for guided inquiry. What really makes it special is the ability to script advanced feedback rules to guide the learner toward correct responses.

Oppia is the Finnish word for ‘Learn’

The first thing you learn on the homepage exploration demonstrating Oppia, is that the word oppia simply means ‘learn.’

Oppia Exploration Screen Shot

I’m a pepper. Are you a pepper too?

If you peruse the ‘Learn’ gallery, which contains published explorations, you might not see a lot of content yet, and I get the sense that Oppia is relatively new. However, skimming through a few of the explorations gives me both a sense of Oppia’s brilliant potential as a teaching tool and its potential pitfalls as a community-sourced, open-content project similar to Wikipedia.

Dead Ends & Disputable Facts

Oppia has a community-based editorial system. The initial creator of an exploration is labeled “manager,” but once semi-published to the testing area, any member can contribute to that exploration or provide feedback on it. Further, it is the vote of the user-mass that sees explorations nominated for full publication in the Learn gallery.

Though there are guidelines for what a member can push to the Playtest area for consideration, I find a lot of the content there riddled with dead ends and disputable facts and wonder if these topics, some of which have sat unedited for a few months, will ever get the treatment they deserve and get published. I see burned-out inspiration. I see missed potential. I see the half-monkeyed work that happens when you have a community effort rather than curated, professional content.

…said a guy writing on a blog with a straight face.

Seeing these things, I decided to try it out for myself and see what the editorial system was like, and what exactly the capabilities of these explorations are.

So I Manage Dimensional Analysis for Chemistry

See our previous post, “Dimensional Analysis Made Easy” for an overview of what it is, with links to learning resources.

Here’s a snapshot from the exploration, which is now available for use:

Oppia Dimensional Analysis for Chemistry

As I write this post, Dimensional Analysis for Chemistry is in Playtest. You don’t have to be a contributor to Oppia to play/learn or to provide feedback on any exploration. If you believe I can improve on this brief dimensional analysis demo, please let me know!

Tools of the Oppia Backend

How was the experience of creating an Oppia exploration? How are correct and incorrect answers defined along with their feedback? I’ll explain how it all works in the next post.

About Bret Norwood

Bret Norwood is a staff blogger for Learning Laboratory in addition to other roles, including UI design and content development for Study Putty, our free memorization tool for chemistry and many other course topics. He is also a published writer of literary fiction--see BretNorwood.com
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