MathsGee STEM Community, a South African based, crowd-sourced learning platform has surpassed its 2020 target of 10 000 STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) questions and answers milestone. It has seen a surge in usage during the COVID-19 school closures.
In its quest to provide Just-In-Time STEM support to learners who otherwise would not have anyone to assist them outside school hours, Edzai Zvobwo, created the crowd-sourced MathsGee STEM Community forum. The platform has proven to be a great solution to address the limitations of the traditional learning systems in South Africa.
By definition, crowd-sourced learning is a situation in which two or more people attempt to learn something or gain a better understanding of a specific subject by solving a problem or sets of problems together. The learning approach is based on the idea of knowledge co-creation within a group. For it to work, enough members on the platform have to actively interact by sharing experiences and taking on asymmetric roles.“It was important for us to provide a proven methodology and environment in which learners engage in a common task where each individual depends on and is accountable to each other. Our platform is focused on maths and science from Grade 1 up to tertiary with subjects like data science and financial literacy included,” explained Zvobwo.
This type of collaborative learning may be contrasted with competitive and individualistic learning, with the key difference between these methods being manifested in the way learning goals are structured. The goal structure specifies the ways in which learners interact with each other. On the MathsGee STEM Community platform, individuals seek outcomes that are both beneficial to themselves and to the rest of the group.In traditional competitive learning environments learners do not cooperate but compete to be the best as signified by individual academic grades. In individualistic learning, learners work by themselves and for themselves, to accomplish learning goals unrelated to those of the other members of the group. The 21st century is a ubiquitous information era thus collaborative commons are the best vehicle to scale knowledge sharing whilst ensuring an almost zero-marginal cost of acquisition as written by the economist Jeremy Rifkin.
The MathsGee STEM support process is learner-centered and knowledge is viewed as a social construct, facilitated by peer interaction, evaluation and cooperation. Learners are encouraged to capitalize on each other’s resources and skills (learners asking one another for information, evaluating one another’s ideas, monitoring one another's work, etc.).Fully cognizant of the pitfalls and risks of online forums, MathsGee has proactively developed integrations that will facilitate seamless interoperability with all major learning management systems that are LTI-compliant. LTI is an acronym for Learning Technology Interoperability.
Learners can now enjoy the MathsGee platform directly from their school’s learning management system and teachers can get reports on their learners’ participation on the forum. To further protect learners’ identities, MathsGee has added anonymous posting for all learners.It remains to be seen how many schools will adopt this platform as their extended learner support platform.