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Gamified and collaborative digital learning open-source platform with a blockchain-based system to facilitate crowdsourced learning and the implementation of personalized education strategies

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Social Digital Lab (Gamified and collaborative digital learning open-source platform with a blockchain-based system to facilitate crowdsourced learning and the implementation of personalized education strategies)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2018-09-30

The global e-learning market is a rapidly growing market, valued at 150B$ in 2016. It is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 5% from 2017 to 2024. Simultaneously, the market, saturated with similar solutions, is going through a phase of profound change with the traditional self-paced e-learning market declining to the benefit of more interactive & engaging solutions (game-based learning, etc.). Digital solutions are getting more accessible in the public sector. Plus, while digital learning solutions were already common in the corporate market for more than a decade, they are now transitioning to more efficient ways to solve the business and education challenges of tomorrow. Indeed, teachers need affordable, reliable and user-friendly authoring tools to help them imparting knowledge and skills through play. Simultaneously, learners want attractive, collaborative learning materials they can access anytime, anywhere and on any device.
To face these challenges, Social Digital Lab (SDLab) comes with several innovating assets: it combines a blockchain-powered marketplace and a LCMS platform created to fill the needs of both learners and trainers. In the EdTech sector, the Blockchain has an assured disruptive potential as it enables new ways, more participative and secure, to share knowledge and give certification of skills. With SDLab, we plan to establish a collaborative environment for content creation and learning-content sharing. In other words, we are aiming to create the first blockchain-based gamified and collaborative LCMS platform. The purposes of this feasibility study were a) to complete our market study: gain a better understanding of our clients’ needs and competitors, b) to complete our risk assessment study and to conduct a freedom-to-operate study, c) to evaluate the technical feasibility of the innovating parts of the project and d) to get a better understanding of our clients’ expectations for the authoring tool through methods stemmed from the UX Research field and from qualitative and quantitative studies of our targets. Based on these studies, we moved forward our business and marketing plans: scheduled the short, middle and long-term evolution and elaborated the most relevant strategy to ensure a successful commercial exploitation.
Our feasibility study led to 2 main conclusions: our innovation has an important market potential and it is the right moment to commercialise it. It confirmed the validity of our technical solution and approach and highlighted our main area of improvement. Indeed, there is much to do in regard to the marketing/communication aspects of our proposal. Phase 1 enabled us to clarify our vision and strategy, redefine our main targets and elaborate a new communication strategy.
Our work plan for the feasibility study was composed of 6 tasks. From the beginning of the project phase covered by the Phase 1 to the end of the period covered by the report, we achieved all the planned tasks. In this section, we include a quick overview of the main results achieved for each task.

Task 1. Complete our market study
During phase 1, we completed our market study. It included several phases: a. market analysis, b. market opportunity, c. competitive analysis, d. barriers to entry and overcoming them and e. business model. Our market analysis confirmed that the global e-learning market was a growing market (5% CAGR from 2017 to 2024) but going through a phase of profound change with the traditional self-paced e-learning market declining to the benefit of more interactive & engaging solutions (game-based learning, etc.). As we propose a gamified social platform, this change constitutes a windfall effect.

Task 2. Complete our risk-assessment study
Our risk-assessment study led to the identification of 14 risks, the majority of which expected to have a medium or medium high importance on our activity. Several measures were planned to mitigate, transfer or avoid the risk.

Task 3. Complete our FTO study
Both the USA and the EU have reduced the patentability of computer programs, including blockchain-based implementations. To be patentable, an invention should not only be a “generic computer implementation” of an abstract idea but should instead be a “technical solution to a technical problem” with a clear “technical effect”, new usage based on an existing technology are therefore not patentable. As a result, we cannot patent every aspect of our innovation, but other companies can’t prevent us from operating with this technology as long as we do not solve a given technical problem in the same way. Phase 1 enabled us to identify several patents related to similar topics to ours and to identify several of our patentable innovations.
Concerning the other technologies we intend to use in our platform, in its current stage, SDLab was developed using web technologies distributed under open-source licenses, allowing modification, redistribution & commercial use as long as the project provides attribution to the authors of the original code and don’t hold them liable.

Task 4. Technical, practical and economic feasibility
On the technical level, the technologies we develop our solution with are tried and tested. As most features already exist on competing platforms (though in a less advanced state), their technical feasibility is beyond question. Only 3 of the planned features (certification and IP protection system, AI for the authoring tool, AI for adaptive learning) represent a technical challenge. However, the question is not if we can implement them but how
On the practical level, our team is composed of experienced developers who have already contributed to develop SDLab and are totally familiar with the technologies it uses. They represent about 1/3 of our workforce.
On the economical level, developing our digital solution is mostly a question of skills and time and doesn’t require specific materials, save for top-of-the-range computers for our employees. The development is made with widely spread technologies, languages and open-source computer libraries.

Task 5 and 6. UX research and prototype development
we led a mixed methods research aiming to better characterise one of our main targets: Secondary and Higher Education teachers. The purpose was to confirm their needs (UX, features, etc.). Consequently, the feedback received concerned mostly existing platforms instead of the UX provided by our solution. This resulted in UX guidelines and their application to our solution (development).
Our category of product has passed through different phases over time. Firstly, traditional e-learning material were known for the minimal interaction they proposed and their poor engagement capacity. Interaction was, indeed, limited to clicking arrows to browse through images and text-filled slides. With the banalisation of the Internet and the spreading of broadbands connections, e-learning evolved into a more interactive, animated and attractive way to impart knowledge.
2012 was called the year of the MOOC as these, then innovative, courses were made known to the general public after 6 years of restricted audience. They enabled learners from all over the world to follow video-based courses from prestigious universities. However, after an initial hype, they suffered from the lack of engagement of their audience and from a low rate of completion of the courses (10% in average). Certificates appeared, supported by renowned education institutions. At the same time, LMS platforms became more and more sophisticated, going from a technology-centric/feature-centric model to a learner-centric model. As a result, the User eXperience (UX) of these platforms was considerably improved and features such as gamification, social learning and mobile learning were integrated or made possible. LCMS, tools that combine learning management features with an authoring tool appeared along the evolution of LMS. These last few years, the blockchain technology have met a growing success as companies and institutions realize its potential in other sectors than the financial sector. The number of solutions on this market is rising quickly. Indeed, blockchain in Education is a topic of growing interest, as highlighted by Forbes in August 2018, as its potential is yet to be harnessed. Both companies and education institutions begin to consider how this technology could improve their activity.
Social Digital Lab (SDLab) comes with several innovating assets: it combines a blockchain-powered marketplace and a LCMS platform created to fill the needs of both learners and trainers. Furthermore, SDLab will contribute to address two EU-wide challenges: a) the development of skills in the workforce and particularly the ICT-related skills and b) the development of education through new technologies. The benefits of SDLab will improve the quality and efficiency of vocational and initial training, contributing to the development of lifelong learning and benefiting society as a whole. Compared to existing solutions, SDLab, as a tool that encourages collaboration among teachers across Europe in a way that is respectful of their IP and perspectives, seeks to give teachers the opportunity to collectively reach the highest quality and efficiency possible. The main goal is to diminish inequalities between territories and education places. Plus, e-learning courses bring in environmental benefits (nearly 90% less energy & 85% fewer CO2 emissions per student per 10 CAT pts, according to a study from the Open University) as it doesn’t require commuting or printing the material while helping isolated students to access high-quality and highly-engaging material.
Second page of SDLab's brochure
First page of SDLab's brochure