Introducing the Decentralized Learning Economy

Brought to you by CreatorOSQuestbook. YC-W21.

Future of education is online. Not in classrooms.

Here we will layout the specifications for the world’s first University DAO. This DAO will define a decentralized learning economy where teachers will be incentivized only for driving learning outcomes.

TL;DR – Community funds courses. Learners learn for free. Companies that participated in funding the course, get priority access to the course graduates.

While thinking about what learning would and should look like on the internet, we faced a conundrum. For teachers to make more money, they need to continuously increase the size of the classes. For a student to learn better, they want smaller and smaller class sizes.

We studied the data from various teaching platforms – Teachable, Kajabi, Udemy, Udacity and even our own teaching platform. We found that the entire ecosystem for learning online is broken. Running an online course is turned into a popularity contest on these platforms. The more popular you are or your course is, more enrollments you get. Thus, making more money.

No one cares about the actual learning outcomes. The weak response to this problem is a rating system. But it is way too easy to game the rating system to your own advantage. Paying a few people on Fiverr can quickly get you a five star rating. The few courses on these platforms that do care about the learning outcomes, usually get beaten by the other creators who have learnt to game the system.

We wanted to solve this problem. We wanted to incentivize real learning. That brought us to think about how can we solve the conundrum stated above.

There are 2 layers of solutions we’ve been working on.

  1. The Pedagogy layer
  2. The Incentives layer

The Pedagogy layer

Class sizes

The data on this is unanimous. Smaller the class sizes, better are the learning outcomes of the students.

Prof. Benjamin Bloom threw a challenge to the world – to come up with a group instruction mechanism that is as effective as one-on-one instructions. He threw that challenge in 1984, and remains unsolved.

One on one is a two sigma better way of teaching. As we increase the size of the class, the quality of instruction and the learning outcomes start to sharply fall.

We built Questbook, which is an application that will implement the best practices of pedagogy and the incentive structures mentioned below. Questbook allows only for small classes and makes it prohibitively expensive to run large classes.

Teaching format

We’ve been working closely with Jon Bergmann, a leading researcher in Flipped Classroom model.

The fundamental thesis is simple. The instruction & lecturing can happen outside the class, but the applications and analysis must happen in the presence of the instructor.

This is something that most platforms are getting terribly wrong. Most platforms have live classes of teacher reading things off of a presentation. In the online world, there is really no difference between a live video of a monologue and a recorded video. Lecturing should happen in the absence of the synchronous presence of the instructor – through reading material or recorded videos.

The best use of the time of the instructor or teacher is in applying what has been learnt outside the class and indulging in a discussion to analyze the learnings. A teacher can adapt their instructions and provide differential instructions to students depending on what they need.

Questbook implements a chat first asynchronous method of teaching. This is one where all the lecturing happens on videos students can watch at their own convenience and use the chat to interact for more depth with the instructor.

The Economy layer

One of the reasons the incentives are broken right now is that the economy assumes the existence of only two stakeholders – the teacher and the student.

But we know that is not the case. There is a secret third stakeholder – the community.

When community members learn useful skills and ideas, the community benefits. The value of what a learner learns is captured in advancing the community. For example, a learner may get hired for the skills they’ve picked up and drive GDP of the community.

But we tend to leave the community out of the incentive structures, even though that is where the maximum value is getting accrued.

We device a structure where the community pays the teachers based on the perceived value of that course. There are 5 stages in the economy :

  1. Teacher proposes to teach a course with a limited number of students (e.g. 8)
  2. The learners undergo some gating to join the course
  3. Community and companies fund the course.
  4. The course is conducted on a public chat. Upon successful completion of the course, the learner gets an NFT-L
  5. The users who funded this course are given priority access to the graduates of the said course. More they funded, the later their competitors will get the notification of graduation.

In this model, learning is free; not learning is expensive.

Here is a more detailed discussion on the incentives structure.

Crypto

As you’d have noticed we didn’t bring up crypto anywhere thus far. This can run perfectly in the absence of the decentralization itself. However, it needs Questbook the entity to continue to run this platform. We are here to build something larger than a company. We’re here to build something that changes the course of humanity for the better.

Learn Coins

The fundamental medium of exchange in this economy is Learn Coin. Just like any other currency, but specific to this ecosystem.

Ofcourse the coins can be bought on a secondary exchange. However, the cheapest way to earn Learn Coins is to actually add value to the system. You can earn Learn Coins by learning, teaching, committing, or helping develop the protocol itself, and earn platform rewards.

Early members will be disproportionately rewarded by liquidity mining. Liquidity mining is one where new Learn Coins are minted and distributed to members proportional to the amount of value they’ve added to the system. This process is transparent and deterministic – driven by a mathematical equation.

Unlike many (shit) coins in the market, this is a coin that has real uses beyond speculation itself – this includes learning, teaching, voting on what gets taught, and participating in the governance of the decentralized organization.

You increase your wealth by spending Learn Coins at places that increases the worth of the platforms and the coins you continue to own. In other words, if you spend your learn coins towards funding the right courses, the value of the ecosystem increases – making Learn Coins more valuable.

NFT-L

We introduce a new class of NFT called NFT-Ls. These are Non Fungible Tokens of Learning. These differ from the standard NFTs in the sense that they are non tradable. Once you earned it, it is yours forever.

These NFT-Ls can have various opportunities of application, including

  1. Attending advance courses that have pre-requisites
  2. Applying for jobs
  3. Applying for scholarships and grants
  4. Social signaling 😉

Governance

Owning Learn Coins gives you access to participate in improving the Learn Coin protocol and Questbook specifications.

These are done using a Proof-of-stake consensus mechanism. The protocol updates usually would entail

  1. Software updates & bug fixes
  2. Changing the liquidity mining rules
  3. Forking the chain
  4. Addition of new functionality

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