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Coursera @ HackDuke: Code For Good

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This past November, Coursera sponsored HackDuke: Code for Good, a two-day event at Duke University that focuses on using technology for social good. Coursera was involved in the education track, which encompasses hacks impacting K-12, higher education, and accessibility to education. As an organization that envisions a future where high quality education is accessible to anyone, we were excited to partner with students making strides towards this ambitious goal.

We sent a handful of our engineers to Durham, North Carolina to see firsthand what could be accomplished. While partnering with students through 24-hours straight of programming, we were nothing short of inspired with the level of talent and creativity exhibited. Passion in the education space is a key hiring criteria at Coursera, and we were invigorated by the innovation and ingenuity from the students.

HackDuke culminated in a frenzied two-hour period of science-fair style demos, where students showed off what they had made to teams of judges (one of which was comprised of our engineers!). The top three projects in each category got to demo on stage to a final panel of judges who chose the winners based on alignment and impact in each of the categories. As a sponsor, we offered the winning team in the education track a trip out to our headquarters in Mountain View, and participate in meetings with engineers, designers, and product managers to further encourage innovation in the space. Here below, we have the winners of the Education Track: Samuel Walder and Neville Jos from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

While we highly recommend you check out all the projects, here is a sample of memorable hacks demoed:

JustRead This duo wrote a smartphone app that could read any text you pointed to. Someone learning a foreign language could say “just read” and it would proceed to read the page of text aloud. Another use case would be for someone visually impaired to be able to hear anything read back, even an entire book.

LeapVersal The software challenges the user to try to learn the hand position for each letter in the American Sign Language Alphabet by replicating it. Using a LEAP Motion (a sensor which can detect hand/finger position), it can verify whether the hand position is correct or not.

LectureGauge LectureGauge provides an elegant way for students to express their level of understanding during a class, and includes a live dashboard that the instructor can use to view real-time feedback. The best use case would be for large auditoriums filled with students; it can become challenging for the instructor to get real-time feedback from students who may think the pace is too fast, or the material a little confusing. This would help the instructor adjust accordingly, so everyone is learning well together.

Note: Getting a pulse on an online classroom can be even more challenging, but also fruitful because of the number of learners. Curious how we do it? Check out this blog post.

Written by Dennis Li, Software Engineer on University Product and Betty Tsan, Head of Recruiting at Coursera