Teaching with PerfectLearn

PerfectLearn’s beta testing phase is coming to an end. That is, in April I will officially launch PerfectLearn. What this means is that I can start using PerfectLearn in another online project of mine: YouProgramming.

Creative Space

Creative Space

YouProgramming is a project that I started well over a year ago (and then put on hold while I was building PerfectLearn). It’s both a website and an accompanying YouTube channel aimed at teaching people how to program. The various programming courses (for both the Java and Python programming languages) consist of a series of screencasts and supporting materials in the form of PDF files.

PerfectLearn is unique in that it can be used by teachers and students to help organize their teaching materials and personal knowledge, respectively.

PerfectLearn is unique in that it can be used by teachers and students to help organize their teaching materials and personal knowledge, respectively. What’s more, PerfectLearn’s versatility makes it an ideal tool for course instructors to use for planning, building, and organizing (online) courses. One of the features that I am already adding to PerfectLearn to make it more suitable as a teaching tool is the ability to (partially) automate the generation of the accompanying learning materials for each part of the course, as an ebook, based on a selection of topics stored in PerfectLearn.

What this all means is that over the course of the next couple of weeks I will start building courses using PerfectLearn followed by publishing those courses on both YouProgramming’s and PerfectLearn’s YouTube channels. I will keep you all posted as to my progress.

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PerfectLearn Version 1.0 Beta User Feedback

Two weeks ago, I published the beta version of PerfectLearn and asked a number of people who had expressed a desire to try PerfectLearn to start testing it. These two weeks have been quite a ride. But, first things first. The quality of the feedback from the beta users has been nothing short of fantastic. Thank you.

The quality of the feedback from the beta users has been nothing short of fantastic.

Several bugs have been found and fixed. One of the bugs, specifically, turned out to be quite a nasty one. Luckily, switching to the PostgreSQL database has fixed the issue completely.

Using PerfectLearn

Using PerfectLearn

In addition to fixing the bugs, I have also decided to implement some of the suggestions based on feedback from the last two weeks. Two features specifically, have already been implemented: the (inline) quick help option and an interactive component for displaying related topics. A short screencast demonstrating the two features is available on YouTube, here.

Both features were straight-forward to implement and provide value to the user. On the one hand, the quick help option helps users to familiarize themselves with some of the applications’s more prominent user interface elements. On the other hand, the second feature, the related topics component, improves the user experience by showing only the necessary navigational information —the topic context— while at the same time making it possible to interact with said navigational information. In this respect, it’s important to note that the previous version of PerfectLearn displayed related topics, as well. However, it did this in a completely static way not allowing for the user to filter the related topics by association type and member role, respectively.

Finally, I hope (and expect) to finish PerfectLearn’s beta testing within the next fortnight. I feel privileged to have the users I have. I only hope that PerfectLearn lives up to your expectations.

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An effective teaching tool

Recently, I published an article in which I outlined the process of importing The CIA World Factbook into PerfectLearn. Together with the article I also uploaded a screencast to YouTube showing the result of the import. What I didn’t expect was the nature of the feedback that the article, and more specifically the screencast, would generate.

PerfectLearn: an effective teaching tool

PerfectLearn: an effective teaching tool

Several people have contacted me asking if PerfectLearn, together with a pre-loaded version of the CIA World Factbook data, could be made available for teaching purposes. That is, people saw that a tool like PerfectLearn in combination with a compelling dataset can be be used as an effective teaching tool. In some respects, this surprised me.

Since I started building PerfectLearn I have consistently focused on a very specific type of user: the individual learner.

Since I started building PerfectLearn I have consistently focused on a very specific type of user: the individual learner. I always imagined PerfectLearn to be used like how I use it; that is, as a tool to help an individual manage their personal knowledge. I definitely did not picture PerfectLearn being used within a group setting as a tool for a teacher to complement and enhance the teaching process.

At this stage in PerfectLearn’s development, I still think that it is of vital importance to maintain the focus on the individual learner. Nevertheless, this insight into using PerfectLearn as a teaching tool has provided me with several ideas on how to adapt PerfectLearn to make it a useful companion for teachers to help them enable even better learning experiences. In that respect, your feedback in the form of suggestions, comments, and ideas are more than welcome.

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