February 24, 2011

Teach or Learn Online, Web Stores for Online Courses

Online learning is evolving rapidly and soon you will be able to Teach or Learn online at Web Stores for Online Courses.

A web store enables Teachers and Learners to find each other and connect anytime and it makes the whole process so simple that anyone can be a Teacher or Learner. Teachers benefit by sharing their knowledge with a much wider audience and getting paid (if it is a paid course). Learners benefit by learning new subjects easily anytime.

As a Learner, when you want to learn something new, you would search the web store for courses already posted. When you find a course you like, you can immediately start watching it. If it were a paid course, you would pay the fee before starting to watch it.

As a Teacher, when you want to share your knowledge, you’d provide it as a course (a video, audio, presentation or a mix of all) at the store. Upload your course, set a price (or make it free) and immediately make it available to online Learners. It is a great way to share your knowledge and also make money. The web store markets your course to the widest audience and helps you connect with the Learners. For paid courses, you make money each time a Learner buys your course. If you have courses/content that is already developed, the web store provides an easy channel to get more Learners.

While many Universities provide their class courses as online courses (for free) e.g. MIT’s Open Courseware or Stanford’s iTunes University, and have high quality content from the best Professors in the field, the web stores go beyond that. They enable anyone to be a Teacher or a Learner, with courses on almost any subject e.g. from SAT Test Preparation to how to setup Apple’s Thunderbolt and more. And, while learning a course, you could get help from the online community. 

With this background, a few web stores for online courses are listed below.

Some caveats
1.       The online courses space is new and the stores have limited content right now.
2.       All the stores listed currently use Flash – a major drawback – which means you cannot watch the courses on newer devices such as Apple’s iPad, iPhone. The courses work on PC’s and Mac’s.

Khan Academy – Free courses on a wide variety of subjects from Math & Science to Finance and Astronomy. Each course is about 10 min each with high-quality content and is posted on YouTube.

Very impressive to see how a single Teacher (Salman Khan) can generate so many courses. Although the site is not a web store as discussed above (not meant for other Teachers) but is notable for the large amount of high quality content.

Academic Earth provides free classroom courses from select Universities and professors e.g. courses from Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley professors and more.
High-quality but limited content.

OpenSesame – an eLearning store with a 70/30 split i.e. 70% of the course price goes to the Content Provider
Very limited content at present

LiveMind is a store where online courses are scheduled and then taught in real-time.

The real-time teaching of the courses is a plus and a minus. The plus because learners can ask questions in real-time, minus because the classes have to be scheduled just like a real classroom which will limit the number of learners for any course.

At Udemy store, most of the activities are behind a login wall, which makes it difficult for new users to sample

odijoo an eLearning store with a 90/10 split. 90% of the course price goes to the Content Provider
odijoo currently makes it difficult to sample anything or learn about the courses

inspireme elearning store opens in Mar 2011 with SCORM compliant courses

Which Web Store should I use
At this point, Khan Academy is the only store for online courses that is usable, and it is meant for Learners (not Teachers).

Academic Earth is a good idea but with limited content. The Universities involved seem to be unwilling to part with more of their content.

All the rest of the stores are at very early stages with limited content and functionality. Online learning is a critical need and these stores or newer ones will be there to meet the need.