Gooru Powers Personalized Learning With Open Content

EdTech, Learning, Online & Blended, Platforms & Data, PreK-12

“We leave the content and the pedagogy to the experts, and we support their practice by building a platform that brings these things together” said Dr. Prasad Ram (Pram), founder of Gooru (@Gooru). The personalized learning platform organizes open content, and brings together a community of expert teachers.

Steering platform development is the Gooru Schools Collaborative —Riverside Unified, Santa Ana Unified, Val Verde Unified, Partnership to Uplift Community (PUC) Schools, and Leadership Public Schools (LPS). The California districts and charter networks, with support from Schwab, Hewlett, and SCE have made K-12 learning open to all through Gooru. “It’s been very powerful, very exciting to see these schools come together and create a platform and support neighboring districts,” said Pram.

“Gooru has become the engineering arm of our curriculum development process,” said David Haglund, Deputy Superintendent in Santa Ana. “This is the collaborative magic that makes true edu-tech partnerships,” adds Haglund (@hagdogusc).

Backstory. Pram started his career at Xerox Research, launched a company and joined Yahoo and later Google as their CTO for India engineering. He developed Gooru as a prototype while at Google.

Pram and Amara Humphry, a Stanford design grad, formed Gooru as a nonprofit, in 2011 to honor the human right to education. The initial vision was “the search engine for learning.” It has evolved, with the help of district and charter partners, into an open platform for personalized learning. Pram calls it a “free community-led platform that empowers all teachers and students with quality learning resources and real-time data.”

Personalized learning. Gooru delivers an open, online learning experience in which students, teachers and districts access and contribute to a dynamic catalog of learning resources.  In 2014, Gooru added an assessment and analytics system. To date, over a million questions have been contributed by teachers and counting. Next school year, Gooru will be extending support for Smart Balanced states with aligned formative assessment.

Gooru enables students to track their progress against standards but it’s not a learning management system (LMS). Pram sees LMS as becoming massive enterprise systems, “Gooru wants to facilitate the learning space, not attendance, homework management, and gradebook.”

Riverside uses Haiku, LPS uses Illuminate. Santa Ana recently adopted Canvas from Instructure. Haglund noted that “one of the reasons we went with them was their desire to fully integrate with both Gooru and Google Apps.” Silverback is another learning platform (recently adopted by the El Paso ISD) that has a tight integration with Gooru.

Most districts using Gooru also have a commitment to Google apps and chromebooks. Pram said their intent is to support all devices.

Path forward. The Gooru Schools Collaborative has personalization strategies, crowd sourcing of open teaching and learning resources. Haglund is excited about new discussions about micro-credentialing, “which may blow the walls off the the schools for some kids.” The Gooru Schools Collaborative is “engaged in developing a learning continuum for both student and adult learners, which has greatly assisted our content development work,” according to Haglund.

Gooru digitized Santa Ana’s 80 K-12 units of study making it easy for teachers to customize the units to be responsive to the needs, interests and competencies of their students. Students are assigned lessons that are differentiated to their particular level or area of interest.

Pram and Haglund share a common curiosity about capturing and tracking student learning. “We are trying to determine how we can know–track, certify, acknowledge–when a child has encountered and then mastered a concept in routine interactions with learning experiences inside or outside of a classroom,” said Haglund.

What’s the value add? Pram points to more than 100,000 collections of open content on the site and the community they are inspiring. With an active community of teacher contributors, Gooru is focusing on making the highest-quality materials discoverable and dynamic. Looking forward, Pram sees an opportunity to provide insight so that educators and students can make informed choices with data.

Pram is quick to recall Brian Greenberg’s comment, “We’re not one algorithm away from educational transformation. This is not like transactions on Amazon. Interactions between students, teachers, and communities matter.”

But on the path forward, he is audacious, “Airbnb owns lodging experience, Uber owns transportation experience without having to create the infrastructure for lodging or transportation. We want an open platform where everyone can innovate on learning experiences.”


This blog is part of the Learning Platforms Series brought to you by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For more, stay tuned in for the final published project, Getting Smart on Next-Gen Learning Platforms and check out additional posts in the series:

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