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Jul 20, 2013 11:27 AM EDT

Versal Wants to Flip the Model of Education With Interactivity and Customization (EXCLUSIVE)


Not even two weeks old, Versal has entered the arena of online learning with one major difference from its competitors: course creation.

Upon entering the company's website, the course creator is the first item on the menu and it is the feature founders Gregor Freund and Gene Linetsky have built the company for.

Freund, Versal's CEO, said his company is a tech provider for individuals and institutions.

"We're trying to harness the computer for what it is really good at," Freund said.

Versal allows any user with an idea to log on, create a course and invite anyone to take it. It is also available to college instructors to use as a component for their courses.

Freund said education is currently being "short changed" and Versal aims to open the realm of interactivity in the classroom and in people's homes. It is for anyone with an idea for a course.

Allison Wagda, VP of marketing, said the site's tools are open to any kind of instructor and, unlike Coursera and EdX, it does not have affiliations with colleges.

Freund said the inspiration for Versal came when he was six years old at a museum in Munich, where he grew up. The young Freund approached an attraction that allowed visitors to press a button to activate an electrical response. Thus, the model of interactivity was planted in his head.

Freund comes from a long line of technology and along the way he developed a passion for education.

The course creator does not require users to know how to code, but instead uses JavaScript to run various "learning gadgets." The creator template looks and feels like a blog and the gadgets can simply be added and subtracted with ease. The creator also allows the user to create a comprehensive course with numerous lessons under the same umbrella.

Wagda said it was important for instructors to be able to "create something in the same environment it will be used."

The creation template is also an accurate depiction of how the page will look for those taking the course.

"It's a problem if the instructor can't see what the student sees," Freund said.

These courses are also available to be viewed on a wide range of devices, like the iPhone, iPad, PC and more.

In one sample course, available to view on Versal's website, a 3-D model of a face can be turned in any way the user could want to. The course came from Scott White, a college instructor who did not want to teach 3-D modeling on a white board. Instead, he created a gadget of a 3-D face for Versal.

Versal also has a foundation, in its own name, for offering free education to the parts of the world that truly need it. Transformative education, the first part of the foundation, is for anyone with a specific skill, like building a "clean water system in impoverished desert regions with locally available materials."

The foundation, which also includes foundational education for basic reading, writing and arithmetic, is aimed toward helping underdeveloped parts of the world with education and cash grants. The grants can range anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000 and go toward building the course and making it available where it needs to be.

Versal's portability and customization features do not limit it to inside a classroom or at home. It can be used in many different ways, Freund said, which is exactly their goal.

"We are a tech provider," Freund said. "How to use our tools is up to the consumer."

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