The idea is to collaboratively build a graph-based map of the knowledge space, designed to be navigated seamlessly, in a fully personalized fashion, with a bias towards curiosity-driven exploration and the flexibility to accommodate any topic. This additionally enables the platform to serve as a personal learning management system and to become a social network.
We want to envision knowledge spatially. When you think about it, isn't learning like setting out on a journey to unknown places? We ask ourselves:
Every learner has a unique set of experiences, abilities, interests, and goals. Providing a seamless learning experience requires a personalized navigation system.
We understand new concepts by building on top of concepts we have already assimilated. From a precise idea of what you know, it is possible to deduce what you don’t know and therefore to provide the next steps to build a clear and optimized path to success.
Suppose you're an experienced software engineer and you want to learn a new programming language. You don't want to go through the same process as someone who knows very little about coding. Ideally, you want to know how the new language compares to languages you already know so that you just need to learn what is different.
Integrating prior knowledge is also mandatory for quality continuous learning. Within a certain domain, recommendations should always be relevant, whether the user is a complete beginner, an expert who wants to stay up-to-date, or any level in-between. In other words, recommending content in your zone of proximal development.
We all have strengths and weaknesses, different abilities that need to be taken into account in order to provide a rewarding, seamless experience, and avoid frustrations. Instead of following existing models to categorize learners, we aim to let data speak for itself. Machine learning in particular can be leveraged to cluster learning profiles in an unsupervised fashion.
In practice, this amounts to serving someone with the content that fits them best: preferred media type or pedagogical approach for instance, or even content that includes examples and use cases that they can easily relate to.
Learning can be extremely enjoyable, but too often we get stuck and become frustrated, or, get bored. To prevent this, we want to implement solutions to switch between alternative pedagogical approaches with one click, so that you can find a different way to tackle the same concept immediately. Perhaps a more visual or practical approach for instance.
Finally, when sharing knowledge, a teacher is expressing something that they have internalized, with the intention of having someone else internalize it as well. This requires a lot of empathy, but ideally also commonality in the way of thinking. Teachers are inherently subjective, and we aim to embrace this subjectivity by connecting them with the right audience. That is to say, connecting people who understand each other.
Understanding something effortlessly is pointless if you drop out before reaching your goal. When learning with a specific objective in mind, you want to:
The data structure we went for to model knowledge is a graph (for more details, checkout Approach). It allows for enough flexibility to support the kind of tailored experience that Sci-Map will offer, in addition to being particularly adapted to model space.
The data model design must be done iteratively and collaboratively, but we envision it to follow these basic principles:
Building this type of modeling represents a lot of work. The process could be partially automated through machine learning but also needs to represent the current social status quo. Concepts and their relationships or degrees of knowledge are ideas defined and shared on a societal level. The modeling must therefore reflect the current consensus (or the lack of one).
What skills are you expected to have as a junior software engineer? This varies widely depending on the location or the company. Reflecting those divergences has to be done collaboratively.
A precise modeling of knowledge allows Sci-Map to support small and specific pieces of content. For example, an explanation for one individual concept, an exercise to assess a learner's understanding of one limited topic, or a task to practice one particular skill. This content can then be dynamically arranged to accurately answer a user's needs. Doing so vastly lowers the entry barrier for user-generated content and bypasses the inflexible structure of traditional courses, although it does create challenges in composing coherent learning paths.
Working collaboratively is how we think these challenges should be addressed. This implies facilitating and encouraging feedback and quality assessment, using tools such as a review system, analytics about learners' content consumption (time spent, dropout rate or % of correct answers to tests for instance), and enabling interaction with and among learners (questions, live chats, forums).
We embrace no preconceived ideas about what good learning material is and aim to push for creativity in designing new pedagogical approaches. The objective is to improve the content collaboratively based on feedback, community response, and data.
There should also be room to express appreciation for someone's hard work. Even if we will only support free content on the platform, you should be able to thank, support content creators, and give them the recognition they deserve. You will eventually be able to create a public profile, where contributions and levels of expertise would be displayed. Ideally, this could even become an alternative to paid certifications, leveraging the fact that in order to teach something effectively it must first be fully mastered.
Finally, building relationships among learners is also a great way to make the learning experience more engaging and ultimately more successful. We aim to develop self-managed communities around domains and support learning with peers. As an example, this could mean that you would be able to easily find people with a similar background to yours, learning the same things, struggling with the same concept, or interested in working on the same educational projects.
The platform aims to support almost any kind of domain that can be taught online and any kind of content that teaches it.
Most people do not stay in one siloed field forever. We all have various interests that evolve over time. By targeting a wide range of domains and use cases through a generic modeling of knowledge, you can come back to Sci-Map even as your priorities shift. In other words, it can become a free, personal learning management system that has no strings attached to the institution you are attending at one point in your life (school, university, work). Long-term use would also provide an ever-improving experience as ubiquitous data is continuously acquired about the user's learning profile, across various domains.
Additionally, a generic product can take advantage of highly reusable features to build a flexible architecture. In turn, this facilitates the integration of community-developed modules supporting different types of content creation.
Such a high level of abstraction is required in order to satisfy enough use cases and create a go-to solution for learning. Ideally, Sci-Map would become the "entry point" for the user to learn anything.
If you're curious to see how we plan to make it happen, follow us to Approach.