At Talis we strongly believe that the experience of teaching and learning with digital resources can be significantly improved if digital resources could support a more interconnected and contextual experience for teachers and learners, instead of remaining the isolated islands of content that physical resources had to be.
This vision of a more interconnected content experience definitely isn’t about building yet another learning management system. Instead it is focused on providing a different kind of encounter with the digital teaching materials already being delivered to students as part of their studies. An important first principle is therefore that a connected content experience should enhance the experience of using existing learning management systems, rather than be in conflict with it.
Today Talis Aspire directs students to millions of different teaching resources both physical and digital. These digital resources are in all manner of different digital formats and across different digital platforms from YouTube to ebooks, Kaltura to Canvas. This highly fragmented and complex reality leads us to a second important principle: connected content needs to make sense and add value incrementally for academics and students. All or nothing solutions in the complex world of higher education are not a great fit.
But perhaps the most important principle of all is that to really make a difference we must achieve a simple yet powerful user experience of connected content.
It is this most important of principles – simple yet powerful user experience – that has been the starting point for Project Lighthouse. Project Lighthouse is a multi year project to develop core technology to better support teaching and learning with digital resources using the principles of connected content and working with academics and students to understand the benefits for teaching and learning.
Whereas today Talis Aspire helps with the acquisition and management of course resources, Project Lighthouse is focused on the experience of using the resources themselves. To achieve a simple yet powerful user experience amid the complexities of different digital formats and multiple different digital platforms, it was clear that a point of unification was required so that users need only become familiar with one set of unified interactions that are the same for video, MP3, pdf, epub, office documents, images and scans and that real time micro engagement analytics can be collected in a unified way across multiple types of course content from multiple sources. This point of unification we call the Talis Player. It provides a unified experience across different types of content (both hosted in Talis and external such as YouTube), supports in-line collaboration and personal notes, records micro engagement analytics of individual students using resources both online and offline, and it knows which course it is being used on and who the student’s tutors and class colleagues are. It can be embedded via LTI or simple embed codes and provides both an online and native mobile playing experience which are connected so that a student can pick up on their mobile device from where they left off on their laptop.
Micro analytics in the Talis Player enable students to privately understand how their personal engagement with a resource compares to the cohort average, and provides course leaders with insight into which parts of individual resources are actually being used, or not used, by the whole cohort as well as how individual students are engaging across multiple resources compared to the cohort as a whole.
These features may be of particular value in flipped classroom style teaching and distance learning. The micro engagement data should also be very useful as an input to larger learning analytics initiatives and to the content acquisition process.
Project Lighthouse pilots such as the currently running pilot at Anglia Ruskin University involving 19 academics, hundreds of resources, hundreds of students and thousands of Talis Player interactions a week help us ensure the technology achieves real teaching and learning benefits.
During 2016, key Project Lighthouse technologies - such as the Talis Player – will begin transitioning into Talis Aspire.
To learn more about Project Lighthouse technologies and pilots, visit talis.com/lighthouse.
Justin Leavesley is Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Product at Talis.