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Our team introduces you to Sulli, New dimension to online learning
“The online learning companion tool to monitor students’ emotional wellbeing.”
The worldwide lockdown caused by COVID-19 has left students and teachers resorting to online classes for education. Currently, the most popular method of teaching is lecture using a video conference application. This method is limited since it only serves the purpose of delivering the class content. We believe that the role of school extends to nurturing the students’ Emotional growth & Wellbeing. That being so, Sulli can connect teachers and students to a new extent.
The name “Sulli” is named after Anne Sullivan, best known for teaching Helen Keller. She taught Keller, a child that was both deaf and blind, while being partially blind herself. Although often overshadowed by the achievement of her protégé, Sullivan was a gifted educator undeterred by limitations of her circumstances. Just like Sullivan was to Keller, we hope Sulli can help all teachers and students struggling with online teaching globally under the pandemic.
Studies have demonstrated that there are negative psychological effects of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown among students (Vallejo & Marón, 2020; Odriozola-González et al, 2020), summarized in the brief flowchart:
- Students experience emotional stress from being disconnected with the rest of the classroom.
- Teachers feel limited because it’s difficult to analyze the non-verbal responses of the students to see their progress.
- Unchecked Emotional Stress
- Students find it difficult to tolerate frustrations, cannot develop social skills and form healthy bonds with peers & adults.
- Causes discomfort that leads to a decrease in academic performance
Simple. Interactive. Immediate.
Sulli represents non-verbal cues that the teacher would see naturally in a face-to-face classroom environment. It minimizes the discrepancy between face to face classroom and online learning environments in a subtle way.
Sulli is not a replacement for the conference application but a companion to the online classroom application. Students can still raise questions in the chat or through the video call.
- Teacher starts a room by going on the website - A pin is generated for the room.
- Teacher shares the pin with their students.
- Students type in the PIN and join the class.
- Students can select the icons that represent their status and change this status throughout the status.
- The teacher will see live updates on student responses throughout the lecture.
- The teacher will be able to react according to the general consensus.
How I built it
We started the project by defining clear user stories for the application. According to the user stories, we were able to come up with a user interface, keeping in mind great user experience.
We started building the technology in an agile manner. This means that we started building Sulli in an incremental way such that each cycle gave us a completed feature.
The technology stack being used is: React is used for the front-end application, Node.js for the backend server, with nedb as the in-memory database. The website is hosted using an Nginx server on AWS EC2. SSL certificates have been issued using Let’s Encrypt.
The React front end application majorly uses the websockets protocol for communicating with the Node.js backend server. A reverse proxy was set up using Nginx to use the two together.
Challenges I ran into
One of the early challenges was to design a user interface that would be easy to use for children and equally appealing for adults in university.
One of the biggest challenges in technology implementation was to figure out a way such that multiple students could join into a room with their teacher during a class, and share live feedback. Socket connections make that possible, however, socket communication can be messy and unstable. We solved this challenge by engineering the application to mitigate as many bugs as possible, right from the beginning.
Accomplishments that we are proud of
We have made a very intuitive user interface for all kinds of users.
We are very proud to say that we built this project “at this hackathon”. Our skills in programming and design have helped us create a complete MVP that has a great user experience.
What we learned
We have learned a lot about collaboration and its role and effectiveness in solving real world problems. We learned about how to design a product from scratch, including its different aspects such as design, technology, and operations.
What's next for Sulli
Sulli is at an early stage at the moment, and has a lot of potential in the future. To become a great online learning companion, we are going to try to pilot with local schools in Hong Kong and take feedback, and build on that feedback.
There is potential for adding classroom features such as customizing emoji reactions, polling functions where teachers can ask questions, and a timer for the class. More advanced features such as plugins to existing video conferencing applications can increase our accessibility for both teachers and students.
Further feedback can also reveal other features that we were not able to brainstorm during the hackathon.
Odriozola-González, P., Planchuelo-Gómez, Á., Irurtia, M. J., & de Luis-García, R. (2020). Psychological effects of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown among students and workers of a Spanish university. Psychiatry Research, 290, 113108. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113108
Sevilla Vallejo, S., & Ceballos Marón, N. A. (2020). Theoretical and applied study of the psychological and educational effects of lockdown in primary school students in Argentina. Social Sciences & Humanities Open, 2(1), 100039. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssaho.2020.100039