The world is flat. A student in a small town in Nigeria can attend a superb-quality lecture from MIT because of online learning platforms such as MIT OpenCourseWare, Coursera, YouTube, Udemy, etc. It’s great, but we believe it can even be better.
Our application aims to provide a better way of expanding our knowledge and connection by teaching what you have learned and are passionate about other people who share the same enthusiasm. Teaching it back is the best way to learn anything. And the lectures will be hosted live on Zoom, which provides live interaction between the hosts and the guests, which could make a great difference to the learning process. Other online learning platforms don't provide that.
What it does
TeachIt is a platform that connects students all over the world by allowing them to create and attend virtual webinars. The platform is designed so that students can find and create webinars that they have an interest in. In the current period of virtual education, it is clear that our education system is suffering in quality. TeachIt desires to allow students to find topics that they are struggling in so they can acquire knowledge in different ways than what they may be receiving in class. This aids the learning process by providing variety and reinforcement. One way TeachIt facilitates this is by combining both college and high school students into a single database. This allows students of different levels to aid each other in learning. Students with higher levels of knowledge can host webinars that allow them to teach other students about a concept. Students desiring to find help with a certain topic can then search for a webinar and attend it or watch it later.
If a student just learned about the concept of “reverse engineering”, they can host a webinar to share what they’ve learned with other students who are curious about that topic. It’ll help the host reinforce their knowledge by teaching it. It also helps the guests to have a live webinar, where they can have live Q&A and clear out any confusions they might have. It’s a key benefit of using our application instead of YouTube or Coursera. The guests get to directly interact with the hosts during the time of the lecture. It also connects like-minded people. Live interaction is the key value that we provide that other online learning platforms don't have.
How we built it
The web app is prototyped and designed using Figma as it allows everyone in the team to collaborate in real-time. The relational database was carefully planned and designed using Lucidchart through drawings such as Entity-Relationship diagram (ERD) and Schema. The website is built using ReactJS, NodeJS, ExpressJS, MySql (AWS RDS), React-Bootstrap, and the web app is hosted using Heroku.
Challenges we ran into
The main challenges and constraints that we ran into while working on this project is dealing with time. Developing a full-stack web application is hard enough let alone doing it in three days.
Another challenge is we are not React experts, so we ran into many problems that required a deeper and broader understanding of this framework.
Another challenge is we have no prior experience with proper implementation of secure authentication and authorization. So there was a learning curve in learning to do that both from the API and client standpoints.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Fully implementing a full-stack React app with proper authentication and authorization in the given time constraint. Working in a team entirely remotely in an efficient way (1 of our teammates is in a completely different time zone). We really focus and put a lot of effort into this project. Everyone on the team has worked at least 14 hours a day.
What we learned
With the current saturated market, it is hard to find a niche especially in the education sector. It is easier to create and build upon something that already exists and strive to be better than what is out there. In addition, working on this project provides an opportunity for us to collaborate as a team to build a project in the given time frame. It allows us to guide each other and learn from other members. Everyone in our team has their own unique strengths and weaknesses when it comes to web development, we were able to “resolve” our “conflicts” and “merge” them and tackle our “issues”. Because of that, our team has become more familiar with developing an app in a collaborative environment as well as the technologies used in this project.
What's next for Teach It
There are a couple of potential use cases for TeachIt. Originally we envisioned TeachIt as a platform for students to communicate and assist each other in learning. This would be a useful way to facilitate learning through communication with peers. Another use case is that institutions such as universities or high schools could use TeachIt as a platform to provide students with easy access to their classes. One issue students face with virtual learning is zoom is unpredictable. The link to the lecture or the password may change, leaving students in the dark. Students often have to save meeting links locally. Some institutions may be unable to implement an API for virtual learning. Others may have, but they may have done it on short notice. TeachIt could provide a platform for instructors and students to see all of their lectures in one place ("My Learning" vs. "My Teaching"). Instead of scrolling through announcements or emails for the zoom link, students could find their class and click on the zoom link in the TeachIt UI. TeachIt is currently incomplete; however, there is a lot of potential for use during this time of virtual education. Even after the Covid-19 pandemic has passed, it is not unreasonable to believe that some institutions will need to use remote/online learning. In this case, TeachIt can still be of use as a library of classes and as a forum for communication between students attempting to learn more in a medium outside of class.
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