Yesterday Chegg announced the acquisition of Internships.com for $11 million in cash and stock, an acquisition I had predicted would happen when I came up with three potential acquisition targets in May, shortly before Chegg gobbled up live tutoring platform InstaEDU. OK, I admit that I had InternMatch on my list but I will book this under another Kirstradamus prediction that occurred, anyway.
Last week I hosted our first EDUKWEST Live event in London with our friends and supporters at Macmillan Digital Education. We put a lot of effort in the preparation of the event and naturally I was thrilled to get such amazing feedback from the audience. If you missed it, don’t worry. Here is the recap and it won’t be the last event we will be hosting this year.
The topic of this inaugural event was tutoring, a booming vertical in the UK. And looking at the latest edtech headlines from across the pond, it also is strong in the States.
Part of the event was dedicated to a short presentation in which I focused on some general thoughts and big trends including the threat Google has become to edtech startups that are too close to Google’s core product: search. The edtech startups I see as mostly endangered are marketplaces and directories.
For a couple of weeks there have been rumors about a new Google service based on the Hangouts infrastructure. Called Google Helpouts the service offers live video interaction with experts who can charge the caller through Google Wallet. Google is apparently taking a 20% cut.
This reminds me of a similar service Skype offered back in the days when it still belonged to ebay. Through a so called Skype expert directory educators, trainers and consultants could charge for Skype calls by the minute and then got paid via PayPal which, conveniently, also was (and still is) owned by ebay.
Today a video of Code.org is making the rounds on social media and various tech blogs. You see a lot of high profile tech and pop culture leaders talking about their experiences of learning how to code and how it changed their careers.
The conclusion of the video is that we need to teach coding in schools and everything is going to be peachy for our kids in the future. They will work for awesome companies like Facebook, Valve, Dropbox etc have amazing offices, get free and healthy lunches and extra possibilities to spend their free time. Heck, even their clothes will be washed for them!
Though I agree that we need to teach more coding in schools, I think the message of this video (and others that went down the same road) is misleading. I am probably going to write a longer post about that on Big Think, but here are some initial thoughts.
Yesterday, I had a brief however interesting exchange with Benjamin Riley on Twitter about one of my latest posts “In the search of 100.000 Salman Khans”.
— Benjamin Riley (@benjaminjriley) February 22, 2013
Benjamin asked what about 1000 teachers collaborating on video lessons like the folks at Learnzillion. Though I think they are doing a great job, it is simply not the same. We are talking about Jamie Oliver vs. FoodTube. Let me explain.
Back in January I predicted that italki will give it another shot and probably raise some more money. Well, yesterday I received an email from Kevin Chen in which he announced just that, a second angel round.
Though Kevin did not disclose the actual numbers, he wrote that the funding is “in the hundreds of thousands, and less than a million” with participation of individual angels as well as angel funds.
I have known italki for a very long time. It must have been the second or third platform I signed up for back in 2008. It was also one of the platforms that actually delivered students that were willing to pay for my teaching.
If you followed my posts about italki over the years here on this blog and over at EDUKWEST you know that the team managed to run the platform for years on a very low initial budget. The reason why those angels invested in italki is that the platform is apparently showing some good organic growth in terms of revenue and the new round will be used to bring italki to global scale.
Looking at what is left on the market after the past couple of years, italki might have a good chance to gain traction. Most players (which where all better funded) from back in the days are either in the dead pool or very close to go belly up. Hence there is a growing group of independent language teachers with at least some experience on the market who look for new platforms to offer their services on.
And according to italki more than 900,000 people are using (have used) the service up to today. This is, of course, just a friction of the traffic Livemocha or busuu are seeing, but for a service that focuses on live lessons, it is likely the biggest group of learners / teachers today.
As a little downer I will share with you that I know people from my Deutsch Happen project who have been using the italki platform to ask questions and get answers without ever having had the intention to pay for lessons with a teacher / tutor. Though with the relaunch of the marketplace this Q&A element of italki might not be an integral part anymore, it has surely had its part in the 900,000 people using the service. You know me, I’ve never been one to cheer on vanity numbers.
The relaunched italki is clearly focused on student and teacher discovery. It offers three different types of live learning: with an language exchange partner (free), with a community tutor (free or low price) and with professional teachers (regular price).
The payment system is still based on credits which makes it easier for students to pay through a large choice of different online payment methods.
Of course, it is hard to say if the last man standing will succeed in the end. But growing revenue based on students who are willing to pay for teaching services is not a bad sign. And the italki team is now very experienced in growing a service organically over years and I doubt that their style will change with the new round of funding.
If I was still teaching online for a living, I would gladly reactivate my italki account to give it a try.
Earlier today I had an interesting Skype chat about the possibility of me launching a MOOC for German. During this talk I had a somewhat Faustian inspiration: what if the classic publishing model wasn’t as bad as it seems?
Yes, I know – me on the side of the dinosaurs and selling my soul to the devil. But let me explain. Publishers used to be the ones who disrupted the market back in the days, like the record industry disrupted sheet music. The book print had an equally big impact on society (if not bigger) as the Internet has today. And while the old model might not work in a proven and mature market like books and newspapers anymore it could be a winner in a new and unproven market like online courses.
Publishing online courses, may they be MOOCs or whatever you call them, is still in its infancy. And right from the start we get high quality courses for free like the ones from MIT, Coursera or Udacity. So what about selling online courses?
To me sitting down and developing a complete online course without the prove that I will get paid for it makes no sense. I have lots of stuff on my plate, and I won’t do work in advance without payment anymore. Think I am getting older (and wiser?). Hence, the only bait I would swallow would have $£€ signs all over it.
And I guess, I am not alone. With the exception of the ones specializing in exactly that, every teacher avoids creating course material like the plague. Why do you think publishers can sell textbooks? And why do you think there are people who create them? Hence if you want to get a good teacher to sit down and create a course the benefit must be an offer one cannot refuse. And as laying cut off horse heads in teachers’ beds at night is not legal, and most teachers don’t own expensive racehorses, this benefit is probably an advance on the course itself.
The problem is, the platform that offers this advance needs to be sure to be able to not only get their money back on the sales but also eventually make profit. Which makes discussions like this far more interesting for me.
If the platform is refusing to pay an advance on the course it basically says that they are not sure (enough) to be able to sell the course. On the other hand, they want to tell me that there is no problem for me to sell the course if I do the work in advance. Something does not add up, Watson.
Part of today’s discussion was that the platform is 100% positive to get me 10.000 students by the time I deliver the course. Now, if they are sure that it is possible to get these students to sign up for the course there should be no problem in paying me in advance for the course and then pay me a small percentage as ongoing royalty for every student that will take the course, right?
This kind of model worked very well for some hundred years in the offline world and I think it would be an interesting model for the new online market. Startups nowadays use to have tons of cash lying around which they usually blow on Google Adwords, “social media experts” and so on. But the real problem is to attract great teachers / content creators as you cannot lure them with promises, vanity numbers and marketing talk. And even if you get them to start the project 90% won’t finish it as there is no real benefit in doing so.
Therefore, instead of blowing your money on Google Ads and call center agents that bug your teachers why they did not create a class yet or signed up for the premium feature, take some of that cash, give it to great online teachers and get some great courses in return which you then can sell for a profit.
Not sure if after this post I still qualify for further talks but that’s my bottom line anyway. If you are willing to pay me in advance, we can talk. If not …
It’s up to you to decide if this is a good or bad thing, I for once say it is better than most stuff we have at the moment. I have always been a fan of production quality and thought that education needs to get out of the nineties and get more “sexy”. I wrote about that in my post about the new and innovative YouTube channels last week.
Today, TED announced the launch of their own YouTube channel in the education vertical and I think the most interesting part about it is the way they come up with their videos as it reminds me of the way Hollywood is doing its movies.
As you might have noticed, I did not write a post yesterday though the goal was to write one article a day. Well, I think I have kind of an excuse: I had a slipped disk and did not really feel to do anything that day. Luckily acupuncture and some herbal infusions brought me back to (almost) normal life which means you get a new post today!
Before I get back to talking about the future of making a living as an online teacher, I have two interesting items on the agenda I would like to write about. The first one is the rise of online translation services.
Yay, the “new” iPad is here!!!…meh. But the thing is that Apple does not need to bring out cutting edge, insanely great devices at the moment. Even their old iPhones, iPods and iPads are playing in another league compared to any other device on the market. And the new iPad is proving this once more. Even with some rather small improvements it is selling like crazy, and currently it seems to be nearly impossible to pre-order one online as Apple’s servers are constantly down.
Hence, rather than concentrating on the new iPad, I think it’s worthwhile to talk about the iPad 2 which now starts at $399.
Today a shorter article on emerging business / revenue models in education. Edmodo, the secure social network for K12 schools and teachers announced their API today along with the launch of their own app store with 35 partners.
As Chris and I were asking ourselves the question about Edmodo’s business model on review:ed, now we finally know where the money shall come from as the startup promised to offer its platform for free, forever after their recent funding round of $15 million.
OK, let’s go ahead and train the old blogging muscle, shall we? For the last couple of weeks I have been down in the engine room and up on the commando bridge figuring out the route for 2012. That’s why you did not hear or see that much of me lately, but there has been the successful re-launch of review:ed which I’m co-hosting with Christopher Dawson regularly once a week now. This Friday Chris and I will meet for the 10th time, already, and I really love this fixed point in my calendar. It’s always a pleasure to do the show with him and our guests.
But that’s not the (main) topic of this post.
My second prediction for 2012 is about two of the oldest players in the language learning community space, Palabea and italki.
Both disappeared from the main screen about two years ago but none of them ever hit the dead pool though we have to say that Palabea has been very close to a cardiac arrest. But looking at some of the recent posts, I predict that both will attempt to make a comeback in the first half of 2012.
As I have been pretty busy with working on EDUKWEST up to now, I did not had the time to write down some predictions for 2012. But better late than never! Here is my first look into the future.
Salman Khan is going to make an offer to Henry Reich, the creator of Minute Physics to join the faculty of Khan Academy. Probably, this will happen in the first quarter of 2012, latest by June.
SO LO MO (social, local, mobile) was one of the buzzwords this year and even the topic of LeWeb in Paris.
Smartphone devices and tablets are evolving rapidly in shorter product cycles and the digerati are always after the next big app. For some weeks it was Oink, Kevin Rose’s first product out of Milk, now it is Path, the limited social network that only lets you connect with a small number of close friends and family.
Since I watched a talk with Clay Shirky about how technology changes society at the moment when it becomes technically “boring”, e.g. the most part has access to it and knows how to use it, I have been thinking if we are actually moving too fast and hence only the ones who can keep up with the latest gadget trends benefit from them.
Audrey Watters wrote an analysis of the current state of business models in education titled “What’s the Future of the Ed-Tech Business (Model)?” on Hack Education that meshes well with my Sunday post on Big Think about Khan Academy and the potential shift towards free education.
Audrey bases her post on the example of Rosetta Stone as she had the possibility to talk to CEO Tom Adams (former class mate of hers) during the Startup Weekend EDU in Washington. The language learning market is of course a very tricky and crowded one compared to rising verticals like math education.
What tickled my fancy are the open questions Audrey leaves us with like the following at the end of her post:
Sell to schools? Sell to teachers? Sell to students? And in any of those education markets, how do you compete with “free” — even when what’s offered that way is actually of inferior quality? Will learners demand high quality ed-tech? Will they (be able to) pay for it?
So, here are my thoughts on future business models in education.
In a guest post Christopher Grant whom you might remember from several interviews (Sclipo, emagister and review:ed) he lays down why user experience is becoming increasingly important in education.
Abril Educacao continued its shopping tour and acquired the Brazilian publisher Maxiprint.
The second guest post of the week came from James Ashenhurst. He shared his thoughts on the future of textbooks, becoming a hybrid between book and application.
GlobalEnglish announced a complete relaunch of its brand along with the launch of three new, communication and collaboration centered products.
Chegg enters the daily deal space with the Chegg Deals platform. Another step towards the goal of becoming the place to go to for students.
The $35 USD tablet effectively became a $50 USD tablet but it is reality as promised. The first 10,000 Aakash devices are going to be shipped to schools.
As a defensive answer to Amazon’s new Kindle line up, German booksellers offer their own e-readers at competitive pricing.
LearnBoost launched the Spanish version of its LMS. The translation has been crowdsourced by the users and more major languages will follow in the weeks ahead.
PointScribe tries to raise money via Kickstarter to port its technology that enables children to learn handwriting and cursive on their own to the iPad.
On Sunday I reflected on the iPad and its importance when teaching special needs students.
In EDUKWEST #74 I had the pleasure to talk with Osman Rashid, Co-Founder and CEO of Kno. As you know, I have been rather critical about Kno from the start and therefore it was really interesting to talk to Osman and get his point of view.
In EDUKWEST #75 I talked with Tim Brady, founding partner at imagine K12. Tim was Yahoo’s third employee right after the two founders and has a tremendous knowledge and track record in the Internet industry. We talked about the incubator and the first class that graduated recently.
Sunday’s Big Think post was about Steve Job’s last “One more thing” and how Siri will replace learning.
And last but not least, After Hours brought you all the interesting news that we could not cover on EDUKWEST.
YouTube launched a dedicated channel for teachers. Here educators can find and share videos with best practice tips, classroom activities and so on.
sofatutor, a Berlin-based startup in the online video tutoring space relaunched its website and opened its own production studio.
The science and researcher platform Mendeley in partnership with PLoS invited developers to create apps that make science more open.
The domain Languages.com is up for sale. Perfect fit for language or translation business?
Rosetta Stone launches new Experience Kiosks in malls across the US. Visitors can actively interact with students and Studio Coaches.
“This is not a dream, this is reality” India’s $35 USD tablet will ship on October 5th.
My thoughts on the results of the babbel survey about learning types and having a plan for learning a language.
Teacher resource site BetterLesson raised $1.6 million. A growing market?
ShowMe added some new features to its platform, making it easier to browse the video lessons.
Project WissensWerte is civic education for the YouTube generation and something I’m planning on writing more about in the coming weeks.
Thanks to Google you can read the famous Dead Sea Scrolls online.
Popplet is a new and easy to use brainstorming and mindmapping platform.
Teagueduino lets you build small, computer controlled machines and teaches you essentials in coding.
Wacom introduced three new Bamboo tablets which are great for interactive whiteboards.
The dream of every IT admin who needs to prepare multiple iPads in school or in a company: Griffin MultiDock.
Thoughts on the launch of the Kindle Fire and its potential in the classroom.
Why digital media is competing with the information learned in school and how this can be used to flip the classroom.
Value your Education – my interview with Lexiophiles about what makes a good teacher and the future of education.
Last but not least, my 10 minute video recap of all the stories that did not make it on EDUKWEST in form of a blog post.
The open source learning management system (LMS) Moodle launched a mobile app that enables teachers to interact with their students via iPhone.
Google+ Hangouts got some really powerful features like recording, Google Docs and screensharing and something similar to a basic interactive whiteboard.
Microsoft and Comcast both announced new programs to support under-served students of low-income families with cheap broadband Internet access, discounted hardware and software as well as free digital literacy training.
Amazon lets you now use your Kindle to borrow digital books in over 11,000 US libraries. All you need is, of course, a Kindle and a valid library card.
Grockit changed its business to a “one-for-one” model. This means that for every paid subscription to the service one student in need will receive free access to the service. The social learning network also launched a Facebook integration of the f8 conference.
Only 3 days after Google released the API for Google+ Hangouts, a German startup called Conceptboard launched a very sophisticated whiteboard as free integration.
A report by Reuters underlined that the ESL and online education space is booming in Japan. The reason is increased fear for jobs amongst the white collar workers who are widely known for their poor English skills.
This week’s EDUKWEST interviews included an update with Nathan Parcells of InternMatch about the recent funding round and the new features, my interview with Derek Muller of Veritasium in which we focused on how to shoot educational videos for YouTube and an “on tour” interview with Armin Hopp and James Shepard of digital publishing / speexx about the company’s recent relaunch and the new product features.
My monthly guest post on ESL Library was about the Implications of English becoming a basic skill into today’s society. What is next for the ESL space?
The Sunday post on Big Think / Disrupt Education was a reflection on what I learned from talking to Derek Muller and what needs to be done to make science videos more effective and engaging. Only Getting the Right Answers is Wrong
Last but not least you can watch a rundown of all the stories in education that did not make it on the EDUKWEST blog in the second episode of After Hours.
My closing statement for this week’s MRU is that we’re looking for additions to the EDUKWEST Newsteam. If you’re interested in becoming a writer you can send me your application via LinkedIn or Twitter.
Those of you who find value in our articles, who want to support EDUKWEST and make it sustainable are more than welcome to make a donation if your monetary situation allows it, of course.