Article courtesy of SocialTimes Feed
That crunching sound you hear is software eating the world, and TechCrunch is always looking for ways to pull a chair up to the feast. For example, we have CrunchBase for startup data and CrunchBoard for jobs, and once upon a time there was CrunchPad, too. Not everything works out, but today with high hopes we are launching CrunchU, which is a collection of 30 online courses that we are offering to TechCrunch readers in partnership with Udemy, a San Francisco-based startup dedicated to “democratizing education by making top quality content from the world’s experts dramatically more affordable for anyone, anywhere.”
We like the sound of that, because we all have a lot more to learn, and keeping it real and affordable is what education should be all about. Our initial course line-up includes offerings from TechCrunch friends, like 500 Startups’ Dave McLure on “Raising Money for Startups” and Eric Ries on “The Lean Startup,” as well as experts Gagan Biyani on “Introduction to Growth Hacking” and Russ Fradin on “Startup Hiring.”
We have a certain bias for startups, no surprise, but there is lots of other brain candy in the course mix too, like starter courses on Android and iOS, Ruby and jQuery, as well as gamification, programming for non-programmers, SEO, and in case you just want to have fun, digital photography.
Our plan is to introduce new courses each quarter, based on what we learn about TechCrunch readers’ likes and dislikes. We also have the option of creating courses on our own, with the help of Udemy’s awesome course-creation tools. If you have an idea for a course, or want to teach one yourself, learn more here.
So if you have a minute, check out the CrunchU course catalogue and find some educational itch you want to scratch. The tuition sting is teeny, but here’s a 50% off discount code: CrunchU50. It’s good from today until May 18.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Udemy launched in 2010 to help students of all ages continue their education through video-based, online courses — and in turn, give teachers (and experts) a way to make a buck by sharing their knowledge with the masses. Capitalizing on the growing interest and buzz around online learning and MOOC platforms pioneered by sites like Khan Academy, Udemy has been on a mission to create the largest online destination for on-demand, online courses.
The popular MOOC platforms like Coursera, Udacity, edX and Khan Academy are all, in one way or another, on a similar mission; so, to differentiate itself, rather than offer classes for free, Udemy offers both free and paid courses, putting it more in the vein of platforms like Skillshare and Lynda.com.
Since raising $12 million in December, Udemy has been looking to continue differentiating itself from the increasingly crowded market for online courses by giving students access to its catalog on the go. Today, the startup released an iOS app — its first native mobile product — in an attempt to make it easy for users to discover and take courses from their smartphones.
The Udemy marketplace is growing fast, and now offers more than 6,000 courses on a range of topics from web development and business to photography, music and fitness. Udemy has added 1,000 courses since December, a big uptick from October, when it added just over 400 courses to its platform.
With its new app, Udemy now allows users to browse and sign up for both free and paid courses, giving them access to video lectures, articles and presentations while on the go. The app also lets students save their courses for offline viewing to peruse during their morning commute, along with the ability to watch video lectures in multiple speeds. Courses in double-time.
Udemy’s iOS apps don’t yet offer the same social elements available in its Web product (those that allow students to interact with their peers, for example), but the founders tell us that these will likely be coming in future updates. In turn, with its iOS app now live, Udemy will look to bring its online learning marketplace to Android, so look for that in the coming months.
Since launching in January, the founders say, over 15,000 additional experts have committed to share courses on Udemy, including familiar names like Dan Rather, George Lucas, and Randal Kleiser.
Since December, Udemy has grown from 400K registered students to over 600K, and a quarter of its approved instructors have pulled in at least $10K by offering paid instruction through Udemy — and some have even pushed into the six-figure range.
Udemy takes 30 percent of those earnings, co-founder Eren Bali told us in December that, over the last nine months, the company has seen steady 20 percent month-over-month growth. Sources also tell us that Udemy has generated over $15 million in total revenue since its launch, which continues to grow. A number Udemy will look to grow as it pushes onto mobile.
For more, find Udemy in the App Store here.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Online video education is a hot space right now, thanks to the likes of Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity, StraighterLine, Lynda.com, CreativeLIVE (and many more), which are collectively on a mission to democratize education and bring affordable, online learning tools and courses to a global audience.
While the rising tide of video-based learning has lifted all boats, it’s also led to some crowding. With more and more players entering the space, it’s become important for startups to try to set themselves apart from the pack and show evidence of workable business models.
Launched in 2010, Udemy has approached differentiation by working to become the go-to marketplace by which anyone and everyone can host, offer and take a video-based online classes. With a growing uncertainty over the role teachers will play in the future of education and higher ed classrooms, smart education companies are looking for ways to empower not only formally-trained teachers, but educators of all stripes.
To do so, Udemy is today introducing a new version of its course-creation platform geared specifically towards teachers. The platform aims to bring expert and novice educators alike greater control and ownership over their online content, helping them to organize and structure that content through a curriculum editor and a more robust toolset for managing and promoting their courses.
Having experimented with different approaches to the presentation and distribution of digital ed content, specifically in regard to their effect on learning outcomes, Udemy concluded that one of the most critical components — and oft-overlooked — is a well-structured curriculum. So, the startup rebuilt its curriculum editor, which now encourages teachers to build an outline as the first step in the course creation process.
Using the new curriculum editor, teachers can drag and drop lectures and sections to organize their content into a more structured course. On top of that, considering that many of Udemy’s teachers are in fact real world experts and not those well-versed in pedagogy, the startup has re-tooled its course creation process. Once they’ve outlined their course, they are served step-by-step guidelines and best practices that touch on everything from planning to promotion.
The idea, if not already clear, is to help streamline the course creation process and make the onboarding process smoother for those not already familiar with Udemy or technology like it. The teacher UI has essentially become “dummy proof,” as it maps out guidelines for course design and delivery.
Udemy Co-founder Eren Bali tells us that the most requested feature among instructors was more advanced marketing and promotional support — especially critical for the increasing set of Udemy experts looking to earn a steady income from their courses. The Teacher Redesign, then, naturally takes advantage of Udemy’s built-in marketplace, but instructors can now also offer discounts to prospective students with coupon codes — or offer their content through the startup’s affiliate program.
To further support teachers, Udemy has also made an effort to build out support communities and now offers a customized Facebook group called “The Udemy Faculty Lounge,” for example, which gives instructors a forum to share best practices, content and connect teacher-to-teacher.
Considering the importance of the job they do every day, teachers tend to be an underpaid segment of the workforce. Dwindling resources, tight budgets and an increasing amount of noise being made about technology’s potential to undermine their position in the classroom, all have an adverse effect on teacher morale, with student engagement often suffering as a result.
Finding ways to empower educators with technology and digital learning tools is becoming all the more important, and sites like TeachersPayTeachers that offer teachers supplemental compensation for the work they do every day (with the additional time-saving benefit of not having to reinvent the wheel every night, which then frees them up to focus on, say, how to personalize instruction) can play a key role in improving learning outcomes — and the system as a whole.
Like TeachersPayTeachers, Bali tells us that Udemy recently had its first instructor reach $1 million in sales, an important milestone in terms of demonstrating the value of the marketplace model — along with validating Udemy’s approach.
The million-dollar milestone and the redesign of its teacher-facing UI come on the heels of strong growth for the startup over the last year. Over the last nine months, the co-founder said, the company has been seeing steady 20 percent month-over-month growth. To date, instructors have published 5,000 courses on Udemy in subjects ranging from self-help and design to photography and programming, with 1,500 of those being paid courses — a number that has increased 7-fold since last year, Bali said.
Video of Udemy’s new teacher-facing course creation platform below:
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Teaching. In spite of George Bernard Shaw’s now infamous “those who can’t do” proverb, teaching is one of the most important professions out there. Even for the many self-taught coders out there, at some point along the way, we’ve all had our lives shaped by a great teacher — in the classroom, or out. That’s why, on the whole, teacher compensation in the U.S. is embarrassing. To pick on marketers, some might see the fact that the average marketing manager makes twice the average salary of just about every type of teacher as just a wee bit backwards.
Luckily, there are a number of startups that are starting to change that, thanks to the Web and the growing popularity of open, online educational platforms. For example, Udemy, a web platform that allows anyone to host and take online classes, this morning announced that its top ten instructors earned a combined $1.6 million over the last 12 months.
Of the top ten, all made over $50K in the last year, with highest earner at over $200K. Though Udemy courses focus on everything from design and corporate training to programming, most of Udemy’s top ten teach courses on the latter and are heavy on entrepreneur-focused content. And given the popularity of CodeAcademy and others, this isn’t surprising.
And the number of platforms offering or facilitating online courses, video and otherwise, (often free) is growing fast, including Khan Academy, 2tor, Udacity, Pathwright, StraighterLine, TED Ed, Course Hero, etc. Considering the high cost of education, the more, the merrier.
But the number of platforms where teachers make money is far smaller. Udemy offers courses for free, or for $20 or $250 a pop, and take 30 percent of those fees. Since Udemy is available to all teachers, and content on most subjects, there’s a lot of potential, and based just on the platform’s top earners, the startup is making money.
Give teachers technology that makes their lives easier, flips their classrooms, or allows them to make extra income, and you’re on the right track. It’s a little know secret that teachers are/can be extremely active and supportive early adopters. ShowMe’s CEO San Kim talks about this a lot. Given this to be true, it’s no surprise that Engrade founder Bri Holt told us that, since teachers generally don’t get much discretionary spending from schools, they tend to pay out of pocket for new technologies.
While they love to be early adopters and early testers, Holt says that banking on teachers isn’t such a great business model. Instead, for ed software (as in Engrade’s case), make schools and districts pay — they have budgets. Or, there’s Top Hat Monocle, which is finding success (surprisingly) charging students for their learning tools, while teachers use it for free.
If not saving teachers money, then help them make money. Of course, for Udemy, most of thsoe instructors outside the top ten aren’t making nearly enough for it to be a full-time salary, and those who do make money are generally experts — established names. It’s a model that’s been proven out by Lynda.com, which has been around for years, but is saw $70 million in revenue last year without having taken a penny of outside funding.
Lynda.com makes sure that the quality of its affordable, paid online course material is of high quality by hand-picking instructors who are experts in their field. And not just experts, but those who are experts and great teachers, which don’t always go hand-in-hand. But the Lynda co-founders told us that nearly 90 percent of its educators earn their entire annual income by producing videos for the platform.
But it’s not only video. One big, under-the-radar success story is TeachersPayTeachers, an open marketplace in which teacher can buy, sell, and share their original lesson plans. Like Lynda.com, the startup is not only making money, it’s profitable and self-sustaining without having taken any outside investment.
Teachers on the site passed $7 million in earnings last week, with the highest earner (a kindergarten teacher from Georgia named Deanna Jump) having made a total of $700K on the platform. She’s currently earning $60K per month, the startup’s founder Paul Edelman tells us. Yep.
For a historical perspective, Edelman tells us that, in 2011, teachers on its platform collectively made $3.4M. Today, that’s jumped to $7 million today, and since sales are growing at an average of 300 percent annually, the founder expects to hit $10 million by the end of the year and $24 million in 2013. Edelman has to be feeling good about the way things have worked out.
A former teacher, Edelman launched TeachersPayTeachers in 2006 and sold it to Scholastic later that year. But the recession saw the site’s growth dwindle, so Edelman offered to buy back the site. Scholastic agreed, so Edelman bought back his site in 2009 and it’s been profitable ever since.
As to the business model? The site is subscription-based, with two plans: A free option, which gives teachers 60 percent of all sales, and a premium membership that runs $57 a year and allows teachers to keep 85 percent of their earnings. Compare that to Udemy’s flat 30 percent cut, Pathwright’s 4 percent cut of sales, and Lynda’s $25 subscriptions (granted these three sites focus on courses, not lesson plans), and it might seem surprising that TeachersPayTeachers is growing like it is.
But Edelman tells us that the site hit 700K registered teachers last week, which is about the same number of teachers as the popular, venture-backed Edmodo, and 3.5x the size of Udemy’s entire user base.
Regardless, each of these sites, along with WeAreTeachers — an online community for teachers which allows them to collaborate and submit ideas for cash and prizes — are finding traction, adoption among the world’s savvy educators, and more importantly, are offering them supplementary online revenue streams. It’s still too early to say just how big these platforms will become, but with startups like Pathwright and Udemy opening the doors of online courses to one and all, there’s a lot more competition for eyeballs and dollars ahead.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Editor’s note: Guest contributor Patrick Gibbons is a Las Vegas-based writer and researcher focusing on education policy and reform.
Computer technology has penetrated the classroom for thirty years with little impact. After hundreds of “disruptive” education startups, the best innovation in education is still the chalkboard. This isn’t the fault of the entrepreneurs, but the fault of an education system which resists innovation at every turn.
Many K-12 education technology startups target teachers and administrators by offering tools to become more productive: Lesson plan sharing, gradebooks, training tools, whiteboards and more. Devin Coldewey called them “practical” in his TechCrunch post “If I Were A Poor Black Kid” Inadvertently Touches On Sad Education And Tech Truths.” Coldewey concludes that education needs top-down reforms that utilize these practical technologies. He sincerely believes these technologies can improve teacher and administrator efficiency so the “overworked” staff can gain control of their “oversized” classes in the “pitifully insufficient” resourced schools.
Unfortunately, the top down “practical” approach won’t work for some very good reasons. Essentially, the education establishment doesn’t want to be disrupted and they will leverage the $597 billion spent annually on K-12 public education to prevent true disruption.
To innovate in education, entrepreneurs need to understand some key education statistics. The fact is, despite thirty years of technological progress and innovation, American schools provide the same results with more resources at their disposal. Between the 1959-60 and 2007-08 school year, per pupil spending grew from $2,741 (in 2009 dollar values) to $11,134—an inflation-adjusted increase of 306%. Over that same period the number of students per teacher fell from 26 to 15.3 while the number of students per school employee fell from 16.8 to 7.8.
Despite more money, more teachers and more computers per pupil, student achievement in K-12 education has been stagnant for forty years. So why hasn’t money, teachers and technology worked?
American public education is a monopoly where the bureaucracy and administrators act more like Soviet commissars than corporate CEOs and entrepreneurs. They don’t want to be disrupted—they like things just the way they are.
Let me give you an example from my research in Clark County Nevada (you may know it as Las Vegas) home of the fifth largest school district in the nation (operating budget of over $2 billion!).
In 2009, I interviewed several local principals. One principal discussed how his purchase request for new Dell computers was denied by the district bureaucrats because the computers came with 21 inch monitors. District rules prohibited monitors larger than 19 inch—despite the fact that Dell was selling the 21 inch monitors for less than the 19 inch. There were many similar stories of frustration.
Anyone who has ever run their own business should immediately see the problem. Principals have little control over the resources in their school. Everything from teachers to textbooks is rationed by a central office commissar – sometimes approval requires the rubber stamp of several bureaucrats (up to seven in Clark County). The central control of public schools is an essential ingredient to prevent disruption—it allows the establishment to build alliances by co-opting players from the teacher union to the for-profit corporation.
The result means technology is treated as a cost, not a means to increase productivity and reduce costs. Using technology to actually increase productivity and reduce costs would mean reducing the demand for teachers, administrators and central office commissars. Co-opted for-profit corporations also prefer the larger, less competitive market because it is easier, and cheaper, to sell to the “edublob” than hundreds of thousands of autonomous and competitive schools.
In other words, you can’t sell technology that increases productivity and truly disrupts—only technology that pretends to do both.
For the disruptive education startups, forget about selling to the public school districts. Take your products to the entrepreneurial schools—private schools, virtual schools, charter schools, home school networks or even directly to the students. These schools and organizations only exist by convincing parents to enroll their children—they are hungry for ways to improve.
Finally, if you are up to the challenge, figure out ways to improve access to high quality teachers. In a country where it is almost impossible to fire bad teachers, the teacher quality gap in the United States is a major problem. According to Eric Hanushek at Stanford University a good teacher averages 1.5 years of learning gains from their students while a bad teacher averages just 0.5 year gains. In other words, a good teacher gives a 1 year learning advantage for their students compared to bad teachers. Now multiply those results over several years.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of education startups trying to attack the problem from the bottom up. Several tutoring services like WizIQ, Udemy and BlueTeach (to name a few) connect teachers with students. At the other end you have peer-to-peer education networks like Student of Fortune and OpenStudy. There are also startups mixing tutoring with adaptive-learning (the program adapts to provide lessons covering the subjects where the student is most deficient) like Grockit and Sophia Pathways. There are even specialization services like CodeAcademy which provide students a platform to develop computer programming skills.
Finally there is, Khan Academy, a free service offering more than 3,000 lessons on YouTube. Khan also integrates quizes to assess student ability and redirects students to the relevant lesson when they struggle.
Not all of these programs will succeed, but they’re all bypassing the flawed school system to offer education services whenever, wherever to whoever. This is the only way to have a chance at disrupting education.
Image credit: Getty Images/Sean MacEntee.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Online video education is a space that is growing rapidly, and even attracting the attention of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who thinks that web-based learning sites will revolutionize education. Today, Udemy is launching as a learning site that aims to democratize online education by enabling anyone to teach and learn online.
Udemy, which was incubated at the Founder Institute, provides the basic tools so anyone can create their own online course in minutes on any subject they like. Educators can upload presentations, videos, and write blog posts for their online course.
Udemy also enables instructors to engage with their users, providing participants with the ability to “subscribe” to courses so they are more engaged. They can also ask questions via the discussion boards and publish links and comments on course to Twitter and Facebook.
One of the most compelling features of Udemy is the live virtual classroom, where
instructors can host a live video conference with students using Udemy’s proprietary live video technology. Udemy Live has a whiteboard, presentation viewer, chatroom, and file-sharing component. Over 10 videos can stream on Udemy Live and 1000+ users can watch a session.
Founded by Gagan Biyani, Eren Bali and Oktay Caglar, Udemy hopes to become a portal for any education content, from a yoga class to a calculus seminar. While the online video education space includes a number of worthy competitors including EduFire and Myngle, Udemy ‘s live video technology is impressive and fairy simple to use. And perhaps as more universities and colleges offer online resources for students, video startups could license their technologies.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch