“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
Life is filled with unexpected events. In most cases, we make tiny adjustments and carry on. We trip. We stumble. We pick ourselves up and pay closer attention to where our feet are taking us.
Others force us to rethink what we previously took for granted. These are the big events that come out of the blue, grab us by the collar, and give us a good shaking. The death of a loved one. The sudden loss of a job.
And then there are the colossal events that not only change us individually, but the world we live in. In my lifetime, I’ve seen my fair share of these earth-shakers. The assassination of John F. Kennedy. The legalization of gay marriage. The fall of the Berlin Wall. The election of the first black president, Barack Obama.
The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is one such event. I can’t name a person or place that wasn’t affected. Whether it was the significant loss of life, depression-level loss of jobs, or the widespread adoption of masks, we were forced to deal with something very few of us expected or planned for.
Of course, even the most catastrophic event doesn’t have to be all bad. COVID-19 required us to take a hard look at everything from cleanliness (I’ve washed my hands more in the past twelve months than in the 48 that preceded it), to family budgets, to how we work. In terms of work, millions of us moved from offices to our bedrooms, kitchens, garages, and dining rooms. Many of us are still there and won’t be returning to our old desks anytime soon – if ever.
This move to our homes extended to education as well. My seven-year-old granddaughter is about to complete first grade without having set foot in her school since finishing kindergarten. One of my daughter-in-laws finished her master’s degree via video calls. No matter the age or grade level, we have witnessed enormous changes in how we approach learning.
The Evolution of Tile to Spaces Learning
Early on in my tenure at Avaya, I took the initiative to learn and understand the underpinnings of our cloud-based Avaya Spaces collaboration application. This required me to explore the three APIs that are involved in creating meeting rooms, starting collaboration sessions, controlling media streams, sending and receiving chats, recording meetings, starting and stopping screenshares, etc. I then created a rudimentary web application that mimicked Avaya Spaces without using any of the actual code. Truth be told, I’ve never even seen the Avaya Spaces code.
Thankfully, all of that was in place when I was contacted last summer by ToolWire to discuss adding multimedia collaboration to their Tile distance learning product.
Tile is a powerful learning platform that combines assignments, courses, grading, artificial intelligence, authoring tools, and finally, gamification. However, as important as all these features are, Tile is essentially a self-paced, asynchronous tool that lacks the synchronous aspects of instructor-led virtual classrooms and real-time collaboration. When a professor wants to hold a virtual classroom, or students want to meet on their own, they are forced to leave Tile and turn to off-the-shelf, non-integrated, third-party video products. Not only is this disruptive to the learning experience, any data about a student’s journey discovered in or by the video product is not available to Tile.
Enter the Avaya Spaces suite of APIs. The ToolWire developers took my reference application and within a week, created a rough version of Tile that supported audio, video, chat, media control, and screenshare. My code was still a work-in-progress and I was adding new features on a daily basis. However, since I provided them direct access to the software, what I had running in the morning they had integrated into Tile by the afternoon. I would joke with the developers (big shout-outs to Ashish and Hugo) that they were practically stealing code faster than I could write it.
We quickly reached a point where the feature set was complete enough (in software, nothing is every truly finished), and the collaborative version of Tile went from prototype to an actual product, Spaces Learning — composable education in the cloud. Spaces Learning made its official debut at a prestigious southern university this January and was subsequently pounded on by dozens of students and a very meticulous professor. We are now at the beginning of June and the verdict is in. Spaces Learning does what no other product on the market does today. Not only does it cover all the bases when it comes to virtual education, it does so with a clean, Netflix-like UI that makes learning fun, effective, secure, accountable, and engaging.
Since the January launch, it has become apparent that Spaces Learning can play an important role outside of traditional education. COVID-19 or no COVID-19, virtual learning for higher, middle, and lower education is here to stay, but the need to educate adults (and those of us who pretend to be) in the enterprise space may be even greater. Whether you are a contact center agent that needs to learn a particular skill, a technician that requires a refresher course on the latest router, a programmer looking to explore a new development platform, or a suit-and-tie executive that needs to better understand emerging market trends, Spaces Learning provides a flexible platform that curates content, teaches, evaluates, analyzes, and reports on a student’s progress. It’s an always-on university in the cloud.
To see a day-in-the-life journey of a Spaces Learning student in the corporate world, take a look at this short video:
As a software developer, I’ve been around the block many times, and I have to say that this is one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on (albeit how small my contributions may be). It’s a textbook example of a “composable solution” built using an API-economy mindset, and exactly what I was hoping would come from my “Avaya Spaces Toolkit.” Rather than creating a Lego pirate ship myself, I wanted to pull together and describe all the pieces required to build the ship while allowing the users (i.e. software developers) to express their individual and collective creativity.
I am a forever-learner and have been greatly disappointed in many of the existing virtual learning solutions. Spaces Learning combines self-paced curriculum with real-time collaboration in a way that completely suits how my brain works. I expect that many others will agree.