Employee training can be quite the drag. Think large binders filled with laborious instruction or dry presentations that can drone on for hours.
Versal wants to build a better way for employers to offer online training and empower team members collaborate more fluidly with their peers.
After focusing primarily in the education space, the company is expanding its Versal Business offering with a new beta release. The platform uses an easy-to-follow web interface that’s become popular with teachers over to the corporate world and seeks to translate this to a more corporate environment.
Versal was originally built for teachers, so it already was designed to be easy to use without a lot of technical knowledge. The main area in which it’s extendable is through a vast collection Versal’s gadgets, which can be used to embed interactive experiences on one’s training site.
Versal CEO Gregor Freund says the core mission behind Versal is to democratize online learning. Building a learning site shouldn’t involve knowledge of HTML or style sheets.
“Our biggest challenge and biggest interest is that anyone can create online courses, and that's a completely new experience,” he said. “The platforms out there are way too complicated and way too inaccessible.
Just like in education, the corporate environment usually sees instructors who want to bring in their own content. They may have a large collection of presentation decks or Google Docs files that they’re eager to share with learners in order to make the experience more collaborative and engaging.
This particular aspect remains a work in progress, with the focus right now on allowing a course creator to invite other authors and assign particular levels of access. There are also several tools to embed text, graphics, or videos into the courses. This feature is one that the team behind Versal is paying attention to, as it could impact how best to evolve the software.
Versal Vice President of Corporate Strategy Allison Wagda said the goal is to enable instructors’ use of their own content so they aren’t pigeon-holed into making something work that isn’t designed with their purpose in mind.
“In a corporate environment, we’ve found that the instructors like the idea of bringing in their own content,” she said. “With viewer gadgets and our other tools it helps to prevent information silos. Anyone is able to build training materials and train each other. It creates a true peer-to-peer learning environment.”
One of the tools that connects to Versal is Disqus, which powers discussion forums and content across many sites on the web. It’s one method that Versal employs to try and make the platform a central tool for connecting shared information, Wagda said.
“Central training teams can keep the knowledge flowing so people aren't duplicating efforts or being left out of the loop,” she said. “One of the goals for us is if you can have teams that are experts on different areas of the company creating content, sharing it with Versal, but contributing so that they build a central knowledge repository.”
Given that the rollout of the newest build of the business platform has the beta tag, there is still room for growth. A more native commenting tool, much like what is found with Google Classroom, could be of use for larger teams. And given how many companies are using Slack or other social tools, deeper integration with such platforms would be welcome. Freund said he wants to keep Versal flexible, so he’s open to exploring other integration down the line.
Anyone can try out a free Versal account to dabble with what the platform offers. Business plans begin at $150 per month for up to 50 different learners, with plans available in larger increments for bigger organizations. More specific details about the expanded Versal feature set for business can be found on the company blog.