We now live in a modern age; an age with a plethora of technology. We aren’t constrained to pen and paper – we have computers, smartphones, tablets and more. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could somehow unify all these technologies to enhance student learning?
7Wonders comes from a play on the term ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. They are immense sources of knowledge not only for us as individuals, but as society. We learn everyday about how Egyptians lived based on what we observe at the Pyramids of Giza, and likewise for the Great Wall of China.
I chose to undertake my Final Year Project in the subject of eLearning, as it’s an area that I have been passionate about; anything that can enhance our lives or learning, if you look at my Interests page, you’ll see how I think it makes a difference.
Back on the subject of eLearning, when I was in Secondary School and in Sixth Form, at the start of every lesson we would have a short quiz based on what we had been taught previously. It was a very effective tool in reinforcing our learning and to identify our weaknesses. That said, all I had was a mark in most cases, and I would have sift through the questions and try and work out where I had gone wrong, such as an incorrect calculation, or term used. There should be an explanation available to all, regardless whether they got the question right or wrong, furthermore, there should be portals to read further on the subject. My peers and I shared websites and books we read, and that was fundamental in furthering our studies, but peer learning shouldn’t be only within friendship groups. It should apply to the entire class.
What does 7Wonders offer?
In comparison to existing platforms available, such as BlackBoard, Instructure CANVAS, Moodle, Desire2Learn and so on, 7Wonders offers a true peer learning experience. In addition to set assignments from teachers in the form of quizzes, students are able to set their learning peers quizzes, which whilst unassessed can make an impact on the student learning experience. Likewise, many platforms offer ‘Early Warning Detection’, there is no central mechanism for this. In 7Wonders, we use Markov Chains to establish a predicted value for student performance. If it falls, for example 15% based on the previous two weeks, we should have alarm bells ringing, in the form of emails to the tutor of the course, a personal tutor or advisor and the student to try and get them back on track. Henry Ford said "Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal". In reality, should you deviate from performing well, it’s hard to get back on track. 7Wonders tries to mitigate that risk.
7Wonders is written as a Java Servlet Project, running on a Tomcat server, with a Postgresql database backend. This allows easy change management and affordable solutions to be created. One of the main issues in education at present affecting inner city schools particularly is budgets. Some schools are unable to afford solutions from eLearning corporations. With 7Wonders, all you need is a computer, and you can run it from there.
Web frameworks come courtesy of the Twitter Bootstrap, which enables responsive design, which embraces the concept that you can learn whenever, wherever on whatever device you want. Students AND staff are no longer contrained to desktops or laptops to complete work. In addition, MathJax is used, to allow entry of TeX on pages, meaning that mathematical formulae appear crisp, clean with a facility to zoom in and view the raw TeX code. This is complemented with Font Awesome which replaces the ‘glyphs’ typically provided by the Bootstrap with webfonts, like the way MathJax works. This means that if you are visually impaired, or may use 7Wonders zoomed in, everything is crisp and crystal clear regardless of zoom level. No-one shold ever suffer because of screen resolution, zoom or impairments.
There’s a lot more involved, such as PGP encryption utilities to protect the central database and validation utilities available for Twitter Bootstrap making it a very user friendly, secure and forward thinking solution.
Version Management is important too. I use Atlassian’s JIRA system to log faults, feature requests and suchforth for this project, meaning that I can stick to the Iterative Software Development scheme for Software Engineering, and have a very much audited progression of this project. This protects issues from occurring in a real-life LIVE environment, with development on the next version taking place in a DEV environment.