Ari Bader-Natal

Grockit Answers (2011-2012)

Answers to the question that you’re about to ask
One of my favorite projects at Grockit was a little web application that I designed and built to un-break YouTube for learners. The comments below a YouTube video are the last place that you would look for thoughtful discussion or assistance when you're confused. YouTube isn't the only one to blame here, though. When you start digging deeper, the root cause is that the web wasn't built for video. The original HTML spec didn't mention it. Browsers added support for video via plugins, but this meant that the web treated video as a black box. Even worse, as a two-dimensional black box. Video has a third dimension, time, that was lost entirely. And having a thoughful discussion or asking a question about something you see in a video is pretty difficult without a way to point to it in the timeline. Thankfully, video (and audio) are now first-class citizens in HTML5, so we can finally revisit the video-as-a-black-box limitation. I wanted to show how a meaningful Q&A-format discussion could happen around a specific moment in a web video. It was a fun project and a fun tool. I just scratched the surface.

After first building and announcing the site, I made a number of additions based on the initial feedback. Here are a few:

Discussions update in real-time
When groups of students are watching the same video at the same time, newly-posted questions and answers are live-updated on all connected viewers.
Video search results can be embedded in another website
When you search for a video on Grockit Answers, you can now embed the results onto your own webpage.
Videos and questions can be shared through Edmodo
Any video, question, or answer can now be shared with others through Edmodo.
Grockit Answers now powers all Grockit video courses
Grockit Answers now powers thousands of Grockit's SAT and GMAT video courses, providing the opportunity to ask questions and offer help around every question video explanation on the site.
Improved moderation for classroom discussions
Moderation controls are now more readily-accessible, simplifying the process for a teacher to get started using Grockit Answers in their classroom.
Activity updates for teachers and moderators
Once a day, teachers and others who moderate videos receive an update listing all new Q&A activity on those videos.
Tools for moderators
For the educators out there, I'm happy to say that we developed a number of additional features with you in mind. You can create a Q&A page on a video that only you and your students have access to, and you can moderate the conversation to get additional controls and deeper insight into what’s happening.
Syllabus enhancer
Finally, and most exciting, you can add these Q&A pages to your own course websites, easily replacing links to YouTube or Vimeo videos with your moderated discussions.

While I never published any papers about Grockit Answers, it is occasionally cited: