Sunbird is an open learning infrastructure that is configurable, extendable, and highly modular - a set of common technology building blocks for the creation of multiple digital learning platforms and solutions, enabling extensive use and re-use of technology for education.
It is architected for scale and designed to support multiple teaching and learning solutions supporting multiple languages and available for online and offline use.
The building blocks are called microservices. A microservice provides critical and core functionality that are unbundled from the learning/teaching solution. It encapsulates functionality into atomic, independent, reusable services. Sunbird offers over a 100 microservices which are grouped under various categories and subcategories. To understand the idea behind a microservices based architecture, refer to Thinking Microservices.
A demonstration of some powerful solutions that are built using these lego blocks are,
Going Phygital - Energised Textbook Solution
Sunbird enables the linking of digital content and QR codes through the DIAL framework. DIAL is an open source framework for codifying (providing IDs) and linking physical resources such as textbooks with online resources in a dynamic and extensible manner using QR codes, augmented reality, voice navigation among others. Sunbird offers a range of services for the management and implementation of QR codes through the DIAL module. This module is used in combination of the data services - to offer a robust and iterative solution.
India’s national teacher platform (DIKSHA) is an initiative of the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India. Sunbird is being used as the infrastructure for the DIKSHA platform. One asset which was abundant in the Indian context is the school textbook - every school teacher and student has these books. The idea of energised textbook emerged as a scalable solution to enable teachers and learners to access wider content by bridging their physical world (textbook) with the digital world (curated, relevant digital content). The bridging happens through QR codes in relevant pages of the textbook, which is linked to the relevant digital content, accessible through the app or web interface. In 2020, every textbook issued by the government of India will have QR codes that provide access to quality teaching/learning content, accessible through both online and offline. Over a 100 million children will engage with content contextualised for them by teachers, relevant to their curriculum and accessible at school and home.
Sourcing Contributions at Scale
DOCK is a tool available in the Sunbird suite for the purpose of digitally orchestrating crowd sourcing of content contributions in an organised manner. The tool is primarily supported by the creation portal service and the program service.
On implementing energised textbooks at scale, the Indian education department faced the challenge of creating and sourcing quality content that can impact learning outcomes. Leveraging the DIKSHA infrastructure, a program called VidyaDaan was announced. By enabling quality content contribution at scale, state governments are able to tackle the challenge of ensuring supply of a variety of high quality, relevant content to meet demands of young learners across the country. Individuals and organisations across the country can contribute e-learning resources in the K-12 domain, thus ensuring quality learning continues for learners across the country. By simply registering and nominating themselves on the site, e-learning resources such as concept explanation videos, teaching pedagogy videos, practice questions, lesson plans etc. can be contributed for any grade from 1 to 12 and for any subject as per the learning frameworks of individual states. The contributions are licensed under the Creative Commons framework and can be repurposed and reused across all states. Through a process of review and curation, states will select the best content and link them to their respective textbooks which can then be accessed via QR codes. Data dashboards enable the states to track the status of contributions, the concept coverage and quality of content. This empowers them with data that can be used to make decisions on content curation, concept coverage, under resourced domains and content quality.
Asking Questions Seeking Answers
QuML on Sunbird (Question as a Means to Learn) is a specification for storage, rendering and distribution of questions and tests. QuML allows assessment materials to be authored and delivered on multiple systems interchangeably. It is designed to facilitate interoperability between systems. Questions can be sourced from other repositories just as long as they are written using this markup language. The QuML player is designed to support dynamic question generation, customised worksheets, timed quizzes and other such powerful features.
Questions, worksheets and assessments are widely used e-learning resources by both teachers and students. Using the DIKSHA infrastructure, the government runs nationwide quizzes, provides curriculum linked practice worksheets, self administered assessments and questions banks for competitive examinations.The existing infrastructure through it’s design solves the problems of access to quality questions and ease of creation and consumption of worksheets, assessments. At the centre of this solution is the common question repository called EQB (Energised Question Bank) which powers and enables the creation and consumption of questions in the form of worksheets and assessments. This repository is part of the infrastructure and can be easily populated with questions of all types (multiple choice, fill in the blanks and more). The metadata of each question captures the answer, solution (How to work it out), hints. This enables a question to be reused for various use cases such as assessment, practice worksheet or a quiz. Individuals and organisations can contribute to the common repository by using the QuML specification. QuML and EQB can be leveraged for proctored, mock and timed assessments as well.
Teachers are Learners Too
Sunbird Infrastructure makes it possible to create courses for teachers that can be accessed online and offline through the LMS module . This would enable teachers to be trained at their convenience in their homes or schools. The courses can be linked to digital certificates for teachers via the registry services. Each course can leverage the different content types like videos, worksheets, assessments to build engaging experiences. Performance and engagement metrics can be tracked at an individual and collective level that can be important feedback for course creators and administrators. Upon completion, certificates of completion and proficiency can be issued by the entity providing the course.
As the world shifts from physical, one time training and workshops to anytime, anywhere digital training, it is an opportunity to enable learning at scale for larger groups of adult learners and perhaps even conserve time and cost of training. Teacher courses can be linked via QR codes to teacher training manuals and textbooks, thus making them relevant resources available on demand.
In India, the DIKSHA platform is being leveraged by states to conduct pilots in on demand teacher professional development. The states are looking to award certificates of completion and proficiency based on the metrics generated by the platform. The certificates will be linked to monetary incentives and promotions for teachers. This solution can be scaled to school leaders, administrators, resource persons at every level.
Also, the government is leveraging the DIKSHA infrastructure to run courses on COVID measures for frontline workers across the country.
A platform for talent transformation
LeX by Infosys limited has had various learning platforms and learning engagements but they needed one that could be scaled to meet the needs of the entire organisation. They wanted to build a next-generation learning platform that could be built on 4 core tenets -
- Make it anywhere - Anytime, anywhere and any device learning
- Make it relevant - Real life, best in class, personalised and curated content
- Make it engaging and fun - Gamification, contests, live sessions
- Make it matter - Integrated with HR systems and connected to an employee’s professional journey
All this led to the development of a next generation learning talent transformation platform called Lex by Infosys. The platform was launched in 2018 and is now used by the entire Infosys organisation.
Sunbird as a platform has an extensible schema that promotes reuse and collaboration. They used this concept to build 4 levels of collections of learning content, the platform had a resource which constitutes a micro-learning content, multiple resources put together form a learning module and multiple Learning Modules then are curated to create a Course and finally many courses put together form a Program. The entire flexible schema of Sunbird allowed them to be able to leverage this effectively and it actually solved the need of creating micro to macro learning paths that were seamlessly created and curated using the platform. This was just one of the ways in which Sunbird’s powerful features were leveraged.
Transforming school leadership
ShikshaLokam is an Education Leadership Platform under the aegis of Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiative. It is a manifestation of Societal Platform* thinking, a systematic method to resolve complex societal challenges with speed, at scale, sustainably.
The mission of this NGO is to enable and amplify leadership development opportunities for individuals and institutions engaged in K-12 education systems.
The platform leverages Sunbird to rapidly enable,
- Personalised learning experiences
- Multilingual and interactive content
- Self paced learning
- Assessments and observations via an Android app
- Make data drive decisions
A microservice based architecture allows for rapid innovation for a variety of contexts. Take a look at some of these innovations in Playing with microservices.