Designing a Solution to Online Learning

Educational Technology is currently a buzzword, and many startups have developed around ideas about how to use technology to better the educational landscape.

One idea that has rapidly gained traction is online learning. From Coursera to Code Academy to taking university classes online, there are many ways to try and learn a new skill from the comfort of your home.

However, most people who have taken an online course have probably zoned out during the video or online lecture, wanted to ask a question in real-time but couldn’t, or waited until the last minute and zipped through multiple videos, not retaining any information.

According to PEW Research, 60 percent of adults feel that an online course does not provide an equal educational value compared with a course taken in person in a classroom.

onine course

This issue can extend to learning skills that aren’t necessarily school related. Have you ever tried to cook something, gone on YouTube to watch a video about how to do it, followed those instructions, but still been unsuccessful? Did you wish you could ask the person on the video a follow-up question?

Online learning, while very popular today, has definite limitations. In addition to possible misunderstandings and the lack of ability to communicate with the instructor, many students find it hard to motivate themselves to stay on schedule or pay attention during online lectures.

Grasp, a wearable education device, seeks to minimize some of those limitations. It was designed by Akrash Sanghi for his Master’s thesis at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design and is controlled via a smartphone app.

The innovative tool aims to place the teacher/instructor in the room with a student, for a more collaborative learning environment. The device perches on the user’s shoulder. It contains a microphone, a camera and a laser pointer, enabling interaction between instructor and pupil. The user can converse with a distant instructor via a Wi-Fi internet link or on a phone.


The benefits are two-fold:

1 – An interactive learning experience: a teacher can directly instruct you as to what (or what not) to do in order to facilitate the task at hand. The speaker allows you to hear instructions, the mic allows you to ask questions and to reply to what you’ve been told, and the laser pointer can be used by instructors to outline what to do when verbal communications just don’t cut it.

2 – Motivational: with an instructor “peering over your shoulder” while you work on an assignment or watch a video, you are much more likely to pay attention and stay on task.

Sanghi explained his motivation saying, “Learning new skills which are more physical and instructional in nature has always been limited by the constraint of a mentor and the learner being present in the same physical space.”

To this end, Grasp allows for learning tasks in addition to those done on a computer. The tool can help with physical tasks that you might not be familiar with, such as cooking, fixing an engine, or doing a homework assignment.

The images below provide some insight into Sanghi’s design process, including sketches and prototypes:



Privacy and comfort remain concerns. Sanghi admits certain limitations of the current prototype, such as “size, comfort while wearing it, weight, etc.” that prevent it from becoming immediately usable.

However, with so many people going online to learn new skills or take classes, the idea of improving remote learning is important and valuable to the field of education. Some traditions are around for a reason: having a teacher in the same room as you is helpful and there is currently no way to duplicate that experience for those taking online classes or learning at home.

While Grasp isn’t immediately viable, it is an interesting idea for a solution.

You can check out other projects that Sanghi has worked on here.