There are a large number of e-learning platforms out in the market, but we found that very few of them were able to replicate teamwork in a digital environment. We wanted to create a game based learning system that facilitated effective teamwork and allowed students from around the world to form teams and solve problems together.

What it does

Challenge is a web based learning platform that supports gamified individual and team based project learning at scale. Instructors are able to create their own projects on the platform (integrated with learning outcomes) or identify a number of existing public projects they want a group of students to complete.

Students sign onto the platform and self form teams by identifying other students with similar interests or work preferences to them. Teams work synchronously to complete assigned project tasks that may require them to write a written response or attach a document or image.Students maintain communication via the integration of Cisco's Webex Teams API. This allows students to send files and messages as well as conduct video conferences remotely, which enables efficient global teams.

The level of granularity in platform data enables instructors to identify the rates of contribution and collaboration that occurred within a team. Insights are made available via inbuilt dynamic analytic dashboards.

How I built it

The concept of Challenge was developed in partnership between Curtin University and Pragmatic Solutions. In 2014 the platform launched to support individual learning cases across Curtin (creating scaleable modules to replace physical workshops). In 2018 the platform added team project functionality, and begun expanding its use into the K-12 space.

Challenge was designed as a web app in order to maximise accessibility. It is written primarily in Javascript, with most of the UI built with React. Development is simplified by the integration of open source tools. Synchronous teamwork is managed via the Etherpad text editor. Team communication is managed via Cisco Webex Teams API. Analytics are displayed via HighCharts.

Challenges I ran into

Ongoing development of the platform relies primarily on University grant funding, which is often variable. This can often lead to project stagnation whilst funding is secured. Encouraging instructors to adopt new technologies is often a challenge. To solve this, we usually revolve our tech demonstrations around the value that team projects on Challenge can add to instructors and students.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

Since 2014, over 30,000 students have accessed the platform to complete a variety of individual and team based activities. Challenge is embedded into many core business activities at Curtin University. The Challenge platform was awarded a 2018 Curtinnovation Award (an internal University award that recognises innovative local projects)

What I learned

Through my work on the Challenge platform, I have begun to appreciate how important teamwork is in both K-12 and Higher Ed curriculum. I have also been pleasantly surprised at the degree to which students are able to adopt and engage with a new system. By deploying the platform in high schools, we have gathered some new insights and observations on teamwork, and developed research papers around these.

What's next for Challenge Platform

The next wave of platform development will focus on the following areas Offline Challenge - Developing the app to operate in low or no bandwidth areas. ** AI and NLP** - We are looking to automate feedback to many of the trends that we recognise in live data. Students will receive immediate feedback on their work, and be notified if their team is not progressing well compared to others.

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