As a tool to create a dynamically generated textbook (over a school year, for instance), Versal's pretty fantastic. In fact, if students could share course-editing permissions with teachers, Versal would be the ideal tool for this task. It's also a lovely place to stash lessons and documents for an entire course that students can access as the year goes on; giving the whole lesson book to students right up front so they can work at their own pace is always a solid idea.
In either case, given the unabashedly direct-instruction model that Versal promotes, teachers will still need to create interactive, hands-on, inquiry-based experiences for class time to make lasting learning happen. This is a phenomenal flipped-classroom model (read at home, do and discover in class), half of which Versal can easily facilitate.Continue reading Show less
Editor's Note: Versal closed down on December 31, 2019 is no longer available.
Versal is an online course creator that lets teachers create media-rich websites and lessons with text, images, videos, slide shows, and much, much more. Its drag-and-drop interface makes adding content remarkably easy, owing to a lack of fancy formatting options and a no-frills design (which is actually awesome for learning). And STEM teachers rejoice: There's an equation editor built right in. Lessons come out looking like clean, crisp blog posts –- in fact an apt comparison might be to call it Squarespace for education.
It's not entirely a one-way experience. Teachers can add in multiple-choice quizzes, categorization exercises, ordering tasks, and short-answer sections to make formative assessment a fully integrated deal. Versal's trump card over competitors might be that Google Docs, Prezis, Microsoft Office files, and much more can be embedded directly in lessons.
Are lessons created with Versal more engaging than textbook chapters? Absolutely. Incorporating media, formative assessments, and a multiplicity of digital content may indeed be a more effective way to present information than pages of text, but the jury's still out on just how much more effective. The overall mode of instruction is still an expert teacher summarizing facts to students, who must glean knowledge independently without any hands-on work. Further, the quality of lessons is entirely dependent on the creator's writing and media-gathering skills, to say nothing of the art and craft of lesson planning.
Versal's many gadgets open up lots of doors, but it still takes tact and practice to use them in a way most conducive to learning. It would be great if there were more ways for students to communicate back and forth with teachers and to do some interactive discovery learning.
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