AN MQTT-BASED JUST-IN-TIME CURRICULUM FEEDBACK SYSTEM

I. Zualkernan

American University of Sharjah (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
A curriculum is the backbone of any formal education system. A curriculum is a reflection of a society’s vision of the skills, competencies and attitudes expected of its members. Increasingly, there is a trend towards creating federated curricula that consists of a common core that can be adapted locally as needed by the various stakeholders. A classic example of this approach is the United States’ Common Core Curriculum. Curricula are not static and evolve over time as a society’s needs change. Most countries implement elaborate but conservative curriculum feedback processes that typically take years to make significant changes to a curriculum. However, now most curricula are available in digital format as websites and some attempts have been made to model curricula in XML or JSON formats that can be directly manipulated by computers. Some of these efforts to also conform to existing common educational data standards like the “The Common Education Data Standards (CEDS).” Despite these advances, the current curriculum feedback processes tend to be mostly traditional in scope. This paper provides the design of a system called the Just-in-time Curriculum Feedback System (JCFS) which allows various stakeholders in a society including students, parents, teachers, educational administrators, and society at large to provide immediate feedback on various aspects of a formal curriculum. The key contribution of this system is to severely shorten the traditional curriculum feedback process by exploiting technology originally developed for Internet of Things (IoT). MQTT is a light-weight messaging protocol for IoT based on the “publish-subscribe” model. This protocol is implemented on top of the TCP/IP protocol and hence supports clients for most computing devices ranging from laptops, mobile phones and even embedded systems. MQTT is a peer-to-peer protocol where clients communicate with each other using a message broker. One key aspect of MQTT is that if the clients are not alive, the message is queued until the client device comes online. Because of this property, this protocol is well-suited for developing countries where the Internet and power infrastructure tends to be highly unreliable. MQTT clients can either publish or subscribe to hierarchically structured “topics.” Topics in MQTT naturally translate into the various levels of a curriculum. For example, one national curriculum for grade II Mathematics is described in terms of UNITS (e.g., 1. Concept of Whole Number), SCOPE (e.g., 1.1 Numbers 0-9) and Student Learning Outcomes SLO (e.g., 1.1.3 Count objects up to 9 and represent them as numbers). A teacher who is interested in comments related to the SLO 1.1.3 in the example above can subscribe to the topic by using an MQTT message like “subscribe Grade II/Math/1/1.1/1.1.2.” Subsequently, all comments related this learning outcome will be automatically delivered to this teacher. A teacher can also choose to make a comment on this topic by using an MQTT message like “publish GradeII/Math/1/1.1/1.1.2/Suggestion for improvement/ …” etc. This message will be automatically received by any teacher subscribed to this topic. In addition to being a message broker, JCFS also provides users with advanced statistical and analytical techniques by interfacing with the R system. This special component can be used to discover patterns in curriculum feedback based on various facets of society like geography, socio-economic status etc.