RemoteTA is an online volunteering platform, connecting high school students with elementary school teachers. Students act as remote teacher’s assistants and help with various online projects.
Arnuv Tandon, Arnav Kulkarni
The theme for our project is helping teachers educate during school closures (Hacker’s Choice). This ties directly into the target beneficiary of Students and Schools.
When schools closed in the Bay Area, we - as high school sophomores - found the transition to online learning extremely difficult and logistically challenging. Nevertheless, because a majority of our assignments were already completed online – we adapted quickly and were able to continue learning.
With this experience in mind, we thought about elementary schools. They rely heavily on in-person activities, and students are still learning the ropes of technology use. This makes online learning exponentially more difficult to pull off, placing an unbelievable amount of pressure on elementary school teachers. These teachers are now responsible for transitioning their curriculum online and creating all of the corresponding online resources.
We noticed this, and the amount of stress put on teachers with such short notice was appalling to us. To help alleviate this pressure from elementary school teachers across the nation, we created RemoteTA.
What it does
RemoteTA is an online volunteering platform allowing high school students to remotely volunteer with elementary school teachers and help teachers create the digital resources needed to teach online during COVID-19 school closures. Essentially, students act as “remote teacher’s assistants”, helping teachers complete various online projects.
The beauty of this platform is that a majority of the tasks teachers now need to complete due to remote learning - converting lesson plans into online games, digital worksheets, and other engaging formats - are all tasks that are second nature to high school students.
RemoteTA’s volunteering process is best explained by an example. Let’s imagine a scenario where we have an elementary school teacher Mrs.Harris and a high school student Kevin.
Mrs.Harris had a wonderful in-person game planned, intended to engage her students and get them excited about learning world history. In light of COVID-19 school closures, this is no longer a possibility. She has the idea of making an online game, however, she is not sure how to do this and knows it would take hours to implement her curriculum into the game. Now, she has a difficult decision. Does she scrap the idea for the game and do a standard lesson with her students, or does she spend her valuable time and energy making the game?
With RemoteTA, Mrs.Harris does not have to make this decision. She can get the online game she wants while spending a fraction of the time and energy it would take to make the game herself.
She accomplishes this in 5 easy steps.
1) Mrs.Harris creates an account on remoteta.org (a fully functional website) 2) Mrs.Harris briefly describes her project, specifies a deadline, and posts it on the website. It is now visible to thousands of high school students 3) Kevin sees the project and is intrigued. He loves making games and giving back to the community. Consequently, he signs up. 4) Now, Mrs.Harris communicates with Kevin over email to ensure he has everything he needs to complete the project. In this case, Mrs.Harris would likely specify what type of game she wants, how many questions it should have, and the curriculum for her history unit. Kevin can also email Mrs.Harris any questions he has along the way. 5) Kevin works to complete the project by the deadline and then submits it via the website. Now, Kevin has earned volunteer hours and is happy to have helped the community. Mrs.Harris has spent a minimal amount of time and is now able to engage her students with an online game. It is truly a win-win situation
How we built it
We built RemoteTA from scratch, using ReactJS, Gatsby, Firebase, HTML, and CSS. The code and database are structured in a scalable manner (shallow queries and modular React Components). RemoteTA is fully prepared to handle the traffic from thousands of teachers across the nation.
Challenges we ran into
The main challenge we ran into was designing a user-friendly front-end and a scalable back-end for our website. We are both high school sophomores, and there was a learning curve we both went through to create this website. However, determination and desire to make a lasting impact pushed us to pour hours into this project and ensure its reliability and impact.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are proud of how well RemoteTA has been received in the community so far.
During the development process, we wanted to ensure we had a feasible idea. Consequently, we set up a meeting with our old elementary school (Cherry Chase Elementary School) staff and admin team.
While pitching our idea, we walked through the example described above and detailed the potential of our website. The idea was received exceptionally well, and teachers were thrilled at the prospect of high school students helping them create digital learning resources.
When asked the question “Would you use this platform” the answer was a resounding “Yes!”. Their response was extremely gratifying for us. Our hard work had resulted in a viable platform, willing to be used and supported by elementary school teachers.
We began beta-testing the website with 4th grade teachers at the school, garnering valuable feedback and insight as to how the website could be further polished.
During this beta-testing with Cherry Chase Elementary School, we also noticed that there was a need for RemoteTA from teachers abroad who were also coping with the difficulties of online learning. We reached out to schools in South Africa and India, and are currently partnering with two schools in India to complete projects posted by their teachers. 100+ hours worth of projects have been posted on RemoteTA by these teachers, saving them valuable time and allowing students to have a profound and meaningful impact in the community.
What we learned
First and foremost, both of us sharpened our website development skills and learned ReactJS. Additionally, we learned how to structure our database such that it would scale with an increased number of users.
Most importantly, we learned how to use our technical knowledge to shape the world around us and impact those in need.
What's next for RemoteTA
RemoteTA plans to proceed with full steam ahead. We are working with two local district superintendents, several elementary school principals, and our city mayor to ensure the project’s implementation, success, and positive impact in the community. We also plan to partner with various volunteering organizations at our school to increase the number of student volunteers using RemoteTA.
In India, we plan to continue working with teachers throughout the summer, posting on social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp to reach more teachers.
In 2021, we plan to begin advertising RemoteTA in other states – allowing driven high school students to start RemoteTA in their own communities and act as Regional Managers of RemoteTA for their community – allowing for widespread use of RemoteTA and stable leadership
We believe that the win-win structure of RemoteTA - students receive volunteer hours for creating online projects and saving teachers’ time - significantly increases the chances of success for RemoteTA. Moreover, the technical feasibility of this project is extremely high. RemoteTA is ready to be used by thousands, and the only thing necessary for teachers to be able to use the website is an internet connection. This significantly lowers the barrier to entry and allows RemoteTA to scale incredibly fast.