I just took a cab in the pouring rain over to Vator.tv headquarters to shoot some video updates on edu2.0 as well as my upcoming corporate e-learning company and education platform company. Here's the video update on edu2.0; sorry for the not-so-great-lighting!
After much deliberation, I've finally decided to create two more education companies in Q1 2008.
My current online company, edu 2.0, is focused on schools (K-12 and college) and is growing by a healthy 10% every week. Its e-learning platform is already quite advanced and getting better every day. But since corporate e-learning is a multi-billion dollar marketplace, it seems silly to not leverage my investment in the edu 2.0 e-learning platform and apply it to the corporate space. Especially since I used to be a corporate instructor and have decent experience in that area.
The first new company will take ownership of the edu 2.0 e-learning platform and license it to whoever wants a state-of-the-art education platform to build on. edu 2.0 will license the platform from this new company.
The second new company will also license the e-learning platform and then re-license it on a subscription basis to corporations that want a low-cost, feature-rich, web-hosted e-learning platform for teaching employees and customers.
Any feedback on the wisdom of this plan is most welcome!
For me, the most exciting thing after getting my first office was getting my first desk. There's something very official-feeling about coding behind a real desk versus hacking from your living room couch (not that there's anything wrong with that).
Here's a picture of my first wrap-around desk at ObjectSpace:
In a previous lifetime I used to be a professional instructor. I taught advanced programming and design in both an academic and an industry setting, and created a very nice set of lesson plans. Towards the end of my teaching phase, I lamented the fact that when I stopped teaching, my experience would essentially vanish and be wasted. Fortunately I was able to secure a book publishing contract and capture my knowledge of one subject - UNIX - as a successful book from Prentice Hall.
My experience, however, was a rare case. The wisdom and knowledge of most good teachers is usually passed on to a relatively small number of students. This is of course very inefficient; there should be a way to capture the best teaching practices and make them freely available to anyone who wants to learn. I call this "amplified teaching" because it amplifies the education impact that a single teacher can have on the world's population.
In some respects, this is what books are meant to be. However, books aren't free and books don't interact with students. If a student gets stuck on a particular point, it requires human intervention. We should be able to automatically handle many common student questions so that teachers can focus on the more subtle points or on inventing new fun projects.
I firmly believe that 50%+ of what teachers currently do can be captured and reproduced using computer systems. Does this mean that teachers will no longer be necessary? Not at all. What it means, however, is that the responsibility of teachers will shift from teaching the basics using traditional means to facilitating more advanced approaches like project-based learning. This is a win-win situation. Students will be able to learn the basics at their own pace in a personalized manner, and teachers will be able to contribute at a higher level than they're currently used to.
One of the things I've learnt during my years in product development is that the last 10% is really at least 30%. I expected the creation of edu 2.0 to take about a year, but it looks like the total amount of time will be about 18 months. That's not too bad, but psychologically the last few months has been quite grueling.
The main thing that I've always strived for is to be proud of the products I've been involved with. I think the next major release of edu 2.0 will meet that criteria, at which point we'll start promoting the site. In the meantime, it's back to coding!
Since the public beta of edu 2.0, we've been working on improving the user experience as well as adding various new features. For fun, we're keeping a daily journal of our progress.
Much of the time has been devoted to adding features like forums, email integration, RSS integration, 3rd party news feeds, and various social networking functions. They're all important features to have on an education site, but not particularly enjoyable to implement.
The rest of the time has been spent on adding more interesting features like support for project-based learning, webquests, and other types of educational material.
We hope to add the remaining must-have features like calendar support and user page creation in a couple of weeks, at which point we'll start marketing the site. We're revamping our home page next week to better communicate what the site does, based on early user feedback.
I'm most looking forward to working on the cool education ideas that I've been gestating for the last few years, but this first phase is essentially the price of entry to get to that point.
Once the final must-have pieces of edu 2.0 are in place, I'm planning on using the software to teach a computer science course on the Internet; I used to be a professional computer instructor and would love to share some of my lessons learned. I also have no doubt that using the system for delivering my own materials will yield a ton of ideas for improvement.
Every so often I get an email that alerts me about a repayment; so far Peter has paid back $34 and is on track to pay back the entire loan amount. When the loan is repaid, I can loan it back to another applicant. According to Mike-Cannon Brookes, a fellow Kiva enthusiast, they have a repayment rate of around 96%.
I'd like to join Mike in offering a loan challenge; if you read this blog and decide to loan a little money via Kiva, email me the loan details and I'll join you in the loan.