My (Design) Dream of a Free Education for All
I came up with a possible free for all education system that is powered by community.
Far far away from your home, there is a village beyond the great Noshak mountain and in that village, there is a boy called Mustaqbal. He is a twelve-year-old kid that lives in a rural area with his parents, grandparents and ten siblings. Their overall life quality isn’t very desirable for first world citizens… Assume that all of a sudden all of the money in your bank account disappears and your boss calls you and fires you, now it’s guaranteed that you have no income. When you try to call your close ones their phone doesn’t ring. The only money left in your pocket is two dollars and whilst all of these happening you find yourself in a city that is miles and miles away from your home. It’s a rural area, it looks like you are in a country located in Central Asia or the Middle East and you can’t even afford to buy a plane ticket to go back. Now you have no chance but to live there. Well, sure I little exaggerated it but you aren’t in Mustaqbal’s position so I had to put you in his position somehow to make you empathize with him.(1)
To put yourself in someone’s shoes, first, you must lose your own shoes.
Even though it may seem like Mustaqbal can’t afford anything that an ordinary person can, fortunately, Mustaqbal has an access to the Internet. the Internet connection he has is really slow for 2018 but at the least, he can watch videos at 240p without any buffering. Well even though there is a limited amount of content on the internet for his mother tongue it doesn’t mean that he can’t access to information, Wikipedia contains thousands of pages in his language and those numbers are growing day by day.
Now that you know Mustaqbal you can understand what we want to do. As Paileia we want to reach to those spirits millions of miles away from us, like Mustaqbal and give them the education they require as respected human beings.
By the way, Mustaqbal isn’t a ‘real’ person I made him up for the sake of the story. But the people he represents aren’t made up.
Primary education rates are growing day by day. The second United Nations Millennium Development Goal was to “ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.” This goal was missed but significant progress has been made. In 1970, 28% of primary-school-age children in the world were not attending school, today this share has declined to 9% — equivalent to 60 million children not in primary education.[source] This sounds promising but there are children who still can’t get the education they need.
- There are more than 124 million primary or secondary school-aged children who are not in school around the world.
- The reasons children do not attend school vary. Some children belong to families who cannot afford it, while others are too sick or too hungry to attend. All of these reasons trace back to poverty.
- Rural areas yield more poverty and less access to education. A child from a rural area is twice as likely to not attend school as a child from an urban area. [source]
I would also recommend this article if you are really interested in world poverty and how can we help children in need. The Singer Solution to World Poverty
Paileia is a platform that offers free education with quality that curated by thousands of people in collaboration.
How’s it going to be free while it’s high quality? Well, we have a solution for that.Actually, the internet has already answered that. You can find high-quality information that costs more than zero dollar for free. People who have these information, don’t think about the money when they are on the Internet helping someone out. Online forums, discussion boards are some of the examples. People who have knowledge could have said “Hey, I charge money for that *info* to my customers! Give me my money!” But they don’t. We are constantly sharing our information, surely we are living in an information era so sharing information as a favor for people who need doesn’t hurt us in any way. As Dan Ariely told in his book Predictably Irrational:
“Open-source software shows the potential of social norms...”
You can read further more about this topic in his book.
We know that people work with passion when they are collaborating for a cause. As Paileia we wanted to give people that cause and a platform to allow them to spread their ideas. Paileia is surely a democratic platform that ruled by people not by admins. Any kind of information is equal to us and any kind of information is acceptable on Paileia but the acceptance will only last if people want it to be removed from the platform.
“How are we going to measure the quality of content?” and “How are we going to ensure the continuity?
In order to answer those questions let me give you a brief overview of how Paileia works in real life.
Let’s say we have a user called Brian and he claims himself as an amateur psychologist. He wants to create a course dedicated to “Introduction to Psychology.” He knows some open source courses and some youtube videos about basic psychology. So he creates the course and uploads those sources to Paileia.
Another user finds out about this course and she edits it a bit so the course wouldn’t be so random like Brian did at the first place and then the course gets more attention from other people with different kinds of background.
One might be a psychology professor and another might be an anthropologist who took PSYCH101 in university. So the course gets more clear and understandable. People can add notes, articles, books, audios, and videos.
Now that the course has a good amount of contributors, Paileia suggests them to use a Slack channel(or an alternative) to communicate and edit as they discuss the course and its contents. Every four months Paileia alerts the contributors to update the content and tells them to vote each other. The voting system is the gamification part that we implemented in order to ensure the continuity. Each user can get badges when they contribute but as I told before Paileia is ruled by people so people will determine who’ll get badges. There will be badges for knowledge, for attempting and for being a team member. It’s a transparent voting system so anyone can see who voted for whom for which badge in real time. After voting, we want to see every contributor with much more passion for contributing.
Contribute, discuss, vote. Discuss, contribute, discuss. Vote… This iterative cycle is called Holy Trinity. It’s the best way to illustrate how we ensure the continuity also the quality of the content as well.
To test Holy Trinity out I’ve come up with an experiment.
I’ve gathered my acquaintances and told them that we are going to contribute in a contest-like event and if our ideas get selected then this International Design foundation may contact us and may also even give us money. I lied to them because I knew that we aren’t that close and I told them I specifically selected them as my partners to make them feel special. Also, I knew that lying about a contest-like event would motivate them. To hinder competition among ourselves I told that the people behind this event want a team with at least 3 people so that we can truly become a team that works passionately on the project. Note that we are neither buddies nor foes, we are neutral to each other.
So I planned out the whole week. We’ll have to meet and work on this project for 45 minutes. Every end of the session I told them that we have to rank ourselves so that one of us can get a free coffee to make this project a little more fun and a little competitive. But the real reason I’ve created this little prize was to replicate the ‘badge’ system in Paileia. Plus to signify that we won coffee the other day, we stuck stickers next to our names on the project sheet.
The voting mechanism works like this; An individual can’t vote for her/himself or talk about him/herself if others are voting him/her at that round. The attributes that people consider are; how well did he/she contribute, how well was his/her knowledge about certain fields (ex: biology, astronomy etc.) and how well did she/he play as a team player.
For anonymity sake(also to make the name’s legible) let’s call our players; Rachel, Me, Leonard. The 45 minutes is over and we are voting each other in a friendly but somewhat hostile manner in order to get a free coffee.
First round we were voting Leonard. Leonard stays quite but he can listen whilst voting session goes on. Rachel and I gave him 3,4,4 out of 5,5,5. Total results were; Rachel: 4,5,5 Me: 3,5,4 and Leonard: 3,4,4 so the winner was Rachel and she gets the free coffee. But other guys knew that they had another chance to get a free coffee the other day.
I thought by hearing judgments about yourself could make you biased towards the others and also by declaring a winner the other day, losers could team up against the winner. But instead of that people weren’t that upset and they were happy to discover new stuff and they shared more information(maybe because they thought that they weren’t performing their full potential.)and they get pretty confident…Maybe it was just a coincidence that we got these results. (I’m skeptical, so I’ll edit it if I have any updates.)
In the team discussions; First, our information was strictly biased and personal but the process helped us all to find a grey area that we all can agree on. Extremes made us find a moderate area. Just like what happened in this TED talk: How can group make good decisions?
What is the challenge and why I picked it?
I knew that it would be so hard and expensive for me to test Paileia’s iterative Holy Trinity cycle with a large number of people and also to find people who would contribute to the same topic would be another extra hard challenge. So I minimized the scale and I came up with this experiment. I’ve thought of logic tests, math tests but the participants weren’t equal in that position and I remembered a challenge that a Concept Artist gave us at the university as a workshop class. The challenge was; to create your own planet and then to create creatures that can live in that planet’s conditions and finally to give them a social structure. This allowed us to research together and no one was humiliated because of their ignorance. It was a great social, collaborative brainstorming session.
Now that you know the content part of Paileia, shall we continue to user side of it? The user profile varies and to make them all satisfied may seem hard but actually, even though I’ll try to come up with a solution there will always be someone who won’t be satisfied with my attempt. That’s the law of nature but it doesn’t mean that I didn’t try. I tried and these are the solutions and insights that I’ve gathered.
So let’s talk about the user personas, you remember Mustaqbal. Well, he is an extreme end user we have but we also have people who live in cities with more ordinary lives. Here’s an example of our possible user profile:
Paileia truly can help all of these people to learn about the topics that they are passionate about also they can become contributors if they want to share their experiences or informations to help other people.
Even before Project Paileia existed, I’ve interviewed some high schoolers, university students, young adults and adults with at least one hobby.
- The general answers were:
- A motivation to learn
- Can’t really focus
- My own language
- Don’t have any planned curriculum
After gathering all of these insights I told to myself “They really want to learn I and they are trying to learn somehow but they are too distracted by their everyday habits.” So I came up with an idea, creating a platform that can help them focus and I wanted to make it free because money isn’t attractive when you‘re about to spend it.
I told you about how contents made through it’s way to our platform earlier. Now I’m going to tell you how users(learners) will interact with them.
The User flow
Let’s say that our user wants to learn about graphic design. So she finds a course about it on Paileia and she enrolls. While scrolling through the content she realizes that by default she can’t access to second week’s contents just yet. So she doesn’t have to worry about planning her own calendar. This method will help learners to overcome learning anxiety and it’ll hinder burnouts that can occur because of learning anxiety.
“Okay, I just need to make it through the next 2 hours, then I’ll only have 6 hours left, and that won’t be so bad.”
— David Blaine
Instead of giving full access to all of the lessons at once we’ve segmented courses into chunks in order to make education effective. You can read about this method in this article.
When our user starts her first lesson she can also read the transcript, read the translation of lesson, can preview the books and she even can take notes while listening to lesson.
Much like chunking method we use for weeks, Paileia recommends users to take breaks after 40 minutes. It’s our way to implement Pomodoro technique to our platform. It’s not mandatory but the alert will be shown until the user disables it.
Finally, when the user completes the lesson she can ask any question she has about the lesson or the overall course at the discussion boards.
This is how Project Paileia works.
The User Interface
Finally, we’ve reached a point that we can visually see this project. Before I even start to sketch the user interface, I researched the possible websites that are education-focused and successfully managed to gather a crowd to collaborate without thinking about the market norms.
The websites I spent a lot of time are; Coursera, Udacity, LinkedIn Learning, IDF and, the website I’m so impressed by, Viki.
Viki is an Asian Drama streaming service and it has a strong community and lots of contributors. Subtitles are added by users, not by the Viki team. On Viki, you can see the contributors and how much they’ve helped. Viki also uses a badge system that rewards contributors’ actions to ensure continuity like Paileia does.
After researching about education websites I saw a similar pattern and based on those patterns I’ve created wireframes to A/B test. I’ve tested those wireframes on three people and the results made designing the final version much easier for me.
But note that I didn’t add too many details like footer bar or the navigation bar instead, I’ve focused on the content because this isn’t a final product but an idea that I wanted to share.
The Last Words
I hope that this case study was clear and legible. In this case study I’ve tried to make use of the readings and studies I’ve studied. Because I truly realized that design, isn’t just the graphics or the pixel measurements. If the design is being made for the human. Then we should include scientific studies to our design process. Anthropology, psychology, neurology, sociology, physics etc…
I’m might be a newbie but I don’t think that ‘user-centered design’ can be done without the assistance of those studies.
PS, I’m sick of creating visual for aesthetics sake.
(1) Imagine you learn it, I mean Smith wrote in the 1700s, but imagine you learn yourself, right. You open up your computer, you put on your computer browser, and out comes some new stories. And one of news stories is in a country that you don’t belong to. India, Argentina United States you know, Australia. Some place you don’t know about. Some place that is not where you are. Thousands of people died. They died of a salmonella epidemic, they died of an earthquake, they died of, of a factory fire.
How would you respond?
Well, this actually isn’t so strange to you, because if you open up your browser every day, thousands of people often die. So how do you respond? Well, I bet, I bet you, you know you say, oh, well that’s too bad. That’s unfortunate. Then you go about your business. And Adam Smith says that, that when exposed to the death of thousand of strangers. We will remark our disapproval, and say, oh, how what a terrible world, and then we will go on our life, and that night we will sleep with the most profound serenity.[source: Empathy and its Limits, from Paul Bloom’s course on Coursera]