Review:ed 2010 – July to September

The third quarter of 2010 started with the sale of eduFire to Camelback Education which led to various posts on the business model of live lessons itself and the question if those platforms and services ever take off.

Other big topics were the PR battle between Livemocha and Rosetta Stone around the launch of their new flagship products Active Courses and TOTALe, the rise of Udemy, the pivot of YongoPal and the growing necessity of tracking and recording learning in the new decade.

July

The second half of 2010 started with Jon Bischke’s announcement that his startup became part of Camelback Education. On the one hand, it was nice to see that Jon led his company to an exit, of course. On the other hand, I asked myself: why so quickly. Jon has been one of the thought leaders of educhange and leaving eduFire behind after only two and a half years could also be interpreted that he did not believe in eduFire reaching critical mass any time soon, if ever. In the end, I respect that as a personal decision and anyone needs to know about his/her parting of the ways.

The second bang that month was Stefan Booy leaving Myngle, the closest competitor to eduFire. Myngle had already lost a few of its key managers in previous months but I felt, the loss of Stefan who brought some interesting concepts and innovation to the company in his role of head of education was particularly disadvantageous for the company, so was the time.

Those two events plus the one and a half years of blogging about the two companies and therefore closely following their development led me to a blog post called “Why Live Lessons are FNACs” and I still think it is relevant today. I’ve still to come across the startup in our space that is able to build a sustainable business on live lessons alone.
Live lessons are too expensive and too inconvenient for the customer whilst the possibilities in the asynchronous learning sector still continue to grow with new applications and exciting devices.

Nevertheless, WiZiQ launched a new version of its center piece, the virtual classroom. While it now has the appeal of a more sophisticated web meeting application, many educators on the platform (me included during my test month of July at least)  were not 100% happy with that move as the technical requirements to use this classroom grew significantly leaving many students in less developed parts of the world out.

Once again, the question if tech for tech’s sake or using tech based on the least common denominator is the way to go.

Related Links:

  1. eduFire is now part of Camelback Education
  2. Myngle looses its Head. Again.
  3. Why Live Lessons are FNACs
  4. WiZiQ launches New Virtual Classroom

August

August started with two very interesting articles about how we needed to track, analyse and store learning and therefore knowledge in the years to come. This inspired me to write an opinion piece for the Fifth Conference on my concept of the Knowledge Graph which I hope to spread in 2011. Thank you for all the interest and inspiring comments and contacts.We now have to work on making it a reality by integrating it in exciting learning products.

The team at Udemy did not take vacation but curated 600 courses with over 12k video lectures from universities like Stanford, MIT, Duke etc over the summer. Their commitment was then rewarded by a $1 million USD seed round. In fact, Udemy decided to close the round at $1 million as they had initially wanted to raise $500k only. Gagan then gave a detailed overview on how all of this became possible on EDUKWEST.

Darien Brown, Co-Founder and CEO of YongoPal wrote an interesting piece on the educator’s responsibility to deliver economic value for their students. It is based on his own experiences pitching the service to students in South Korea and how they reacted on the concept. Great read, if you are interested in that part of the world and it shows how to reevaluate your business model based on first hand input.

Rosetta Stone launched a new customer care center on Facebook. Together with its launch of the new Rosetta Stone TOTALe version 4 the company became increasingly active on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, engaging with users and animating them to participate in chats and quizzes. Competitors like Livemocha and Busuu are also actively using social media to engage with users and promote their products and looking at the growth of Twitter followers and Facebook fans it is pretty obvious that the concept works.

First rumors of WiZiQ planning to raise the fees of their premium subscriptions came up leading to heated discussions from both edupreneurs and non profit teachers alike. My question here was and still is what WiZiQ intended to do in order to justify such an increase as from my perspective being in the for profit education camp it could only be acceptable if the platform actually drove students and hence sales for those teachers.

Talking of WiZiQ, Vikrama Dhiman who worked for the company as Product Manager wrote an interesting article on the seven reasons why platforms like WiZiQ might never take off. I think he made some valid points here.

Related Links:

  1. Bill Gates and Marco Masoni on Online Education – Why We Need a Learning Graph
  2. The Walled Gardens and the Wild Forests – Recording Knowledge in the New Age
  3. Udemy launches Udemy Academic with 600 Courses – 12k Video Lectures
  4. The Educator’s Responsibility to Deliver Economic Value
  5. Rosetta Stone: 1st Company with a Facebook Customer Care Center
  6. WiZiQ about to Raise Premium Membership Price to $120?
  7. Seven Reasons Online Learning Platforms Might Never Take Off
  8. Udemy secures $1 Million USD Seed Round by well-known Angels
  9. EDUKWEST #36 with Gagan Biyani of Udemy [Video Interview]

September

September began with the launch of the new flagship products of Livemocha and Rosetta Stone. Over the months Livemocha took some shots at the top dog while Rosetta Stone did basically nothing to engage in a knife fight with the up and coming language learning community. My point was that both should focus on their core customer groups who are, to my mind, totally different from one another, hence apples and pears. However, the Livemocha commercial featuring some yellow boxes was brilliant :).

Grockit took the economic of the free model and turned it upside down by offering free access to live streamed classes with top teachers on their new channel Grockit TV but then charging for the recordings. I think, it makes a lot of sense for education as repetition is key to learning and hence a recording is far more valuable than a live class.

The team at YongoPal decided that what they had built to this point was not at all what they needed to offer their students. Hence they sat down and completely rebuilt the entire service from the ground. Again, I highly recommend to follow the company and its founders on their road to success.

Darien then wrote a follow up to Vikrama’s post on learning platforms, with the result that he thought the teachers themselves were the biggest problem why the services did not work.

This third quarter then ended with the great news that Salman Khan received a $2 million USD grant from Google to grow the Khan Academy. If you don’t know Salman Khan yet, he has done a lot of interviews since then and you should not forget to also visit his website KhanAcademy.org.

Related Links:

  1. Apples & Pears: Big Launch Day for Rosetta Stone and Livemocha
  2. Grockit launches Grockit TV – Live Streamed Classes
  3. YongoPal Sucks! Conclusion: Let’s fix it
  4. Everything you know about learning platforms is wrong!
  5. Khan Academy receives $2 million USD from Google
  6. This Week in Startups #94 with Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy
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  • http://www.facebook.com/gmachlan Louis George Machlan

    Geez, I could have just waited for these nice and consice recaps. The only thing missing is some nice pics! Thanks for the short version of the year that was.

    • http://kirstenwinkler.com KirstenWinkler

      Well, then you just have to wait for the rundown of 2011. See you in twelve months! :P

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