How WebRTC ushers the next wave of e-Learning innovation?

Recently I attended the first webinar by Tsahi Levent-Levi, co-founder of testRTC on How WebRTC ushers the next wave of e-Learning innovation. I was quite impressed with the information provided in the webinar and decided to summarize it for everyone who is interested in implementing WebRTC in education space.

The purpose of the webinar was how WebRTC can help in education space, and what comes to mind when we talk about innovation.
The webinar focused on following points:

 – What is WebRTC?

 – Where can WebRTC be implemented in education industry?

 – What are the challenges of implementing WebRTC in education industry?

This is a transcription cum summarized format of the webinar –

The webinar started with the primary agenda.

– What is WebRTC?

– When and Where we can find WebRTC when it comes to education?

WebRTC offers real-time communication natively from a web browser. WebRTC facilitates video conferencing session can be done using a browser with WebRTC. The sessions can be accessed from any browser, without any bulky software installation. What makes this possible is the media engine inside a browser with a Javascript APIs on top of it.

WebRTC is a technology, not a solution. WebRTC enables building something like Skype or Crowdcast. At the end of the day what we are dealing with the piece of technology or the building block, and we need a number of such building blocks to develop one such service.

Now if we look at WebRTC, it is the intersection of two different worlds one is the traditional Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) like the voice calls, video conferences these are the ways to do VOIP and the other one is Internet or the Web, which works differently with different notions.

WebRTC sits exactly at that point in between the intersection of the two worlds which makes a challenge for developing, testing, and all other services using it. It has different values for both the people using VOIP and the people using Web.

Who is using WebRTC?

Bigger brands have already implemented it, and others who have something to do with communications is using WebRTC. All the companies who are planning to do, exploring, adopting and improving communications are on WebRTC.
Example: Facebook Messenger, for all the messages and voice calls it uses WebRTC, Skype has WebRTC, Slack just launched video calling which is powered by WebRTC. If you look at Comcast, it uses WebRTC to share video files from their phone, Cisco has the internal messaging tool Spark which they use for internal communication and sharing. Snapchat acquired the company called AddLive to use video calling, group video calling with WebRTC.

Diving into Education Space

Different companies, vendors, and ideas have adopted WebRTC in the education space. Different use cases can be used to understand the utility of WebRTC.

Where do we find WebRTC in education?

Education has been working through classrooms, the idea was to give lessons to the class in real or physical state. Now the new idea is to virtualize. Virtualize everything, virtualize the teacher, virtualize the students. Here everything is virtualized.
It is now possible to conduct online classes where a virtual teacher is available, and there is no classroom. A student can be at home and take lessons.
Use case – Joining lessons online from home, if the student is not well he/she can attend lessons by being virtually present in the classroom and attending online, and by not missing the sessions.

1.  Private tutoring
It is the one-on-one lesson in the classrooms; it has been gaining traction because

-The student needs help with a particular subject or topic
If the student is not able to work out a concept or an exercise at school, students turn to private tutoring for help. The current model of education worldwide typically works this way.

– The parents/students wants it
If someone wants to learn something privately like say take guitar lessons or maths lessons, he/she would need a private tutor for this. One can now easily access online classes available on internet.

– Crowdsourced, so students can practice. (model typically used in language learning)
Thirdly, the teachers now can be crowdsourced, like if we look at some education services they decide to hire some tutors from other countries for the language classes so that anyone can connect with native speakers and practice with real time sessions.

2.  Webinar style
Webinar style is much more interesting, the presenter can use screen-sharing, videos, pictures, sidebar chats to share interesting ideas or concept with others. Webinar comes in different shapes and sizes.

If you are going to develop webinar platform, think about the user interaction. You need to make sure what kind of support you need like would your platform support voice, video, sidebar chat, sharing etc. during the webinar.

Webinar is similar to broadcasting, but the interactions between the presenter and the attendees is an interesting format for learning.

Example: Brands have started using Facebook live as the webinar platform to reach out and engage their target audience directly.

3.  I see you all
It is just opposite of webinar, practical lessons are the key here. The idea is ‘I see you all’, sessions involve students doing something before the camera, and the tutor can see everyone and help the students in a group. This mode of learning facilitates group interaction and more inputs/interaction from a particular student to the group. WebRTC plays a major role in this model.

Example: Yoga classes, Fitness classes

It is easier to develop such sessions, and also reduces the friction of entering into such physical classes.

4.  We help each other out
– Online courses
With already recorded sessions students can login, read, listen to the lessons online and can ask the questions online. Moreover, a teacher helps the student out at their convenience & time.

– Student learning groups
Learning groups for the students can be virtualized and the teachings can happen online. Students can complete assignments in groups, ask questions to other students rather than a teacher. Here students can interact with other students instead of only connecting with the teacher.

5.  In the exam – with you
This is one of the trends that is catching up – virtualizing the proctors. The exams are taken online or at home, and students use their camera or share screens with the virtualized proctor. Proctors checks with the help of camera or by recording, if the student is cheating or impersonating other during the exam.

We have got all of these different types of use cases that are out there that are no longer bound to a classroom or to something that has been implemented in the education space. It is not only virtualization that can help, but we can do much more with the current models we already have.

So the next question arises that are we still limiting ourselves to what we consider education or is education simply about learning?

Education is all about learning something new. Many platforms have come up who promote learning but not in a traditional way.
Example :
We Rehearse – find actors for practicing their roles online with coaches and other actors.
If you want to do it online instead of doing with anyone else, you can do a role with someone of your domain and who has your expertise and you can get that feedback online. – follows peer programming model

How is an education product built?

If you are planning to develop an education product/service you will be going through this stack and challenges in every part of the stack

 – Product/Service
What you are planning to offer to your customers, there are many things to decide, lot of mechanics in the product which is not directly related to communication but with business strategy.

 – LMS
After the business strategy comes the LMS, it is related to the teaching part. Some of the questions that you might need to answer here are – Is your support available online in the teaching room without a teacher, how will you schedule them, you will have quizzes, games, certifications, how are you going to engage, certify students after the course completion etc. LMS controls the flow of the teaching model and the interaction within the teaching environment.

 – RTC
The final part of the stack is the real-time communication, one needs to make sure when working on a new education product, RTC comes at the end. Now there are various features that can be used while working with RTC.
    – Voice/Video or both
    – 1:1/multiparty/broadcast
    – Messaging
    – Screen sharing
    – Document upload/sharing
    – File sending
    – Whiteboarding or Collaboration
    – Recording
    – Device accessibility

Approaches to Development

When it comes to development, typically there are three different approaches to building a WebRTC based educational product.

 – CPaaS
A CPaas is a cloud based platform that helps you add real-time features to the product. It does not require any backend or external interface.

 – Outsource RTC development
One can also outsource RTC development, and only work on the first 2 parts of the stack – product business strategy & LMS. Companies can connect with different vendors who have expertise in integrating RTC with the product that is to be built. It is the responsibility of the RTC development vendor to develop, test and then provide the product after completing the whole process. Hassle-free approach towards getting the product done.

 – Bring everything in-house
The last option is to bring everything in-house, go for your own development. But, as the process of RTC development is complex, one can choose an open-source platform or commercial platform or even integrate both.

One can use an hybrid approach, combining all the options depending on the product or services.

Tsahi suggested that one can go for outsourcing in the initial stages of the development and then consider in-house team for the later stages or maintenance of the services/product. But it would depend on many things like the brand, developers, outsourcing company etc.

Things to Remember
If one is willing to use WebRTC in their solution, they should be aware of the following points:

Compliance & Regulations
Regulations are different in different countries, so one should be aware of those. Everything that is there in the compliance should be followed.

Geography has a huge effect
Geography affects the impact of WebRTC a lot. There are countries where CPaaS has limited reach. To ensure robustness of the product or the service, the infrastructural resources present in the current environment should be evaluated.

Scale isn’t easy to accommodate for
Doing one-on-one session is fine, doing thousands of session simultaneously is a bit harder. One needs to evaluate how the product scales and test at different levels while scalingInfrastructure scaling is where the due diligence needs to be done based on the reach the product/service is aiming for.

It isn’t just RTC
All the three things are related to RTC, but it is just not about RTC, the product should be able to do multiple things like messaging, screen sharing, file sharing, videos, etc..

The day after
There is a day after, after you launch, run your service, how do you know it is working?

Service might be up, but nobody will be able to make sessions because something can be broken inside. You need to check all such things you will not get any indication from anywhere. You have to monitor on daily basis how it is working, it is successful or not.

A bit about testRTC :

testRTC platform is equipped to test WebRTC services. It allows you to assess devices, browsers (types and versions) with load and regression testing. These qualifying criteria are crucial in providing detailed knowledge of your platform. Thus letting you provide best services to the clients.

Overall the Webinar experience was great with Tsahi, one of the most engaged webinars that I have attended.
You can access the replay here – Webinar link | testRTC official link

We are very excited for the next webinar and intend to cover the complete series by testRTC.

If you were in the webinar and I have missed something important here from the webinar, please do leave a comment.

And if you learned something new today about WebRTC, give Tsahi and us a shout at @tsahil & @rtcwebdev