Stanford Debuts Class2Go, an Open Source Online Ed Platform

Stanford’s new platform for online education will be released to the public for free as an open source project, Tech Crunch reports. Stanford has been a pioneer in massive online open courses — MOOCs, which many hope will transform higher education — but Class2Go is not meant to be a clone of other platforms already out there. Designed and implemented as a non-for-profit project by eight Stanford CS engineers, Class2Go is meant to provide a completely unique experience to its users and supports not only course-like projects but even those mostly dealing with collaborative research. The ambitious functionality doesn’t make it unwieldy; on the contrary, the aim of both the design and the implementation was to make it easier to use, portable and easily able to work with with other systems.

Tech Crunch’s Rip Emerson explains that when the designers say “portable,” they mean that the system is “platform agnostic,” meaning that if users want to utilize documents put together on any word processor, or videos uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo, they can do so on Class2Go without issue. The problem sets are maintained in the format used by the Khan Academy, which means they are easily moved across to other systems without issue.

In terms of interoperability, Class2Go’s website reads, “we don’t want to build or maintain more than we have to,” so it stands on the shoulders of, or relies significantly on, other services to run, like Khan, Piazza, YouTube, Python Django, Amazon AWS, Opscode and Github. Furthermore, designing the platform for both teaching and research means that the platform will leverage data to inform and evolve pedagogy, as well as to give them a glimpse into the efficacy of lessons, teaching style, tech tools, etc.

The biggest appeal of Class2Go, however, is that it is open source. Developers have already said that they are committed to maintaining this freedom and openness even as the system is maintained and upgraded. This means that the system is free to use and gives users the flexibility to modify it to suits their particular needs. Institutions and individuals who have balked at offering online courses because of the expense of purchasing a learning platform now have a chance to embrace the new teaching paradigm.

And that’s where you start to see what might be Class2Go’s biggest appeal. A big complaint against existing platforms (and really, educational technology as a whole) is that it is more concerned with progress for the sake of progress — even if that means technology replacing teachers (the human kind) altogether. Instead, the most successful edtech platforms (and this is obviously especially true for MOOCs, given their structure) are those who truly empower teachers, designing their platforms in such a way as to optimize a teacher’s ability to teach effectively, control their content — and engage their students.