Thinkific Reports a 200% Increase in People Making Courses and Raises $22M

IBL News | New York

Course-creation platform Thinkfic announced that it raised $22 million in new funding led by Rhino Ventures, which was already an investor. Previously, the Canadian startup raised $3 million.

Vancouver–based Thinkific claims that over 50,000 users have earned over $650 million by building and selling online courses through its platform. The startup company also reported a 200% increase in people making courses since March.

“We have been profitable for many years [since 2018], but we chose to raise this additional funding to accelerate innovation, and scale our team,” wrote Greg Smith, CEO & Co-Founder at Thinkific in a blog-post. The plan is to grow from a current team of 180 employees to 500 people within a year or so. “We want to help one million knowledge entrepreneurs grow successful businesses in 5 or 10 years.”

The company – which competes with Udemy, Teachable, and Skillshare, among others – highlights stories like those of John Michaloudis, who was able to grow an Excel course to $20,000/month in just 6 months, or Tim Vipond, co-founder and CEO of Corporate Finance Institute (CFI), who’s been able to train 600,000 financial advisors.”

“Our users want control over their brand, own customer relationship, and build their own sustainable businesses,” explained Greg Smith. The firm doesn’t take a cut of the revenue from creators nor charges transaction fees, contrary to its competitors.

“Thinkific’s business model, user numbers, and ~ 150% year-over-year revenue growth tracks, by stage, very closely to Shopify which is now Canada’s most valuable public company,” stated Rhino Managing Partner, Fraser Hall.

The company was built out of a need of Greg Smith when he wanted to offer an LSAT class online as an instructor. Along with three more co-founders [in the picture below], he created Thinkific to enable entrepreneurs to build and commercialize courses of their own.

 

Teachers Worldwide Find Creative Solutions to Avoid Education Disruption Due to COVID

IBL News | New York

The education of over 90% of the world’s enrolled student population–nearly 1.6 billion learners–continues to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teachers have worked individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments. For six months now, teachers around the world have been finding creative approaches to face school closures, adapting and improvising to keep their students learning.

There are many inspiring stories on how teachers kept doing their job throught the crisis. They remind us that teachers are a vital lifeline for their students.

Some teachers travelled for hours each day to establish small learning groups around a laptop, others walked door to door to distribute thousands of much-needed school meals during the lockdown, yet others delivered their classes from the back of a truck.

“This crisis has created an unprecedented context that has brought to the fore teacher leadership, creativity and innovation,” said a recent report by UNESCO.

“In the majority of cases, teachers were forced to act without much warning and with little time to prepare. Curriculums were modified or condensed, lesson plans adapted, working methods turned on their heads. But, whether via the internet, mobile phone, television, radio broadcast or the mail, teachers continued to provide an education to their students.”

In countries with poor connectivity, where over 40% households do not have a computer or online access, many teachers have prepared take-home packager for their students, along with digital communities and support groups on Facebook and Twitter.

In order to celebrate teachers’ leadership during the COVID-19 crisis, UNESCO plans to celebrate their work on October 5th, with World Teachers’ Day, on the anniversary of the signature of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.

The organization has released an event’s website.

A Startup Company Raises $16M for User Interface that Adds LMS Capabilities to Zoom

Mikel Amigot, IBL News | New York

ClassEDU Inc, a startup company led by Blackboard co-founder and former CEO Michael Chasen, plans to launch at the end of October a powerful LMS interface for Zoom that adds into it live assessments, attendance tracker, proctoring tool, and gradebook, among other capabilities. [See below the video showing the platform]

Washington DC-based, Class for Zoom announced this week that it closed $16 million in seed financing. Early prominent investors in Zoom, along with Deborah Quazzo, Partner at GSV Ventures, and other edtech venture capitalists participated in the funding.

“Teachers using Zoom today need frictionless tools to take attendance, hand out assignments, give quizzes, grade items, or even talk with students one-on-one,” said Michael Chasen. “We designed Class for Zoom to feel and work like an in-person classroom.”

Zoom web conferencing is currently used by over 100,000 K-12 schools and colleges across 25 countries, becoming de facto a learning platform. ClassforZoom.com took advantage of the Zoom phenomenon and built on top of this platform, attracting plenty of capital. For its initiative, it used the software development kit that Zoom makes available to third-party developers.

Due to COVID, students and teachers needed a better tool than Zoom to complete their daily learning tasks.

“Class for Zoom fills a major pedagogical gap at a critical time, by making the virtual classroom feel and operate more like the traditional classroom,” said Lev Gonick, Chief Information Officer at Arizona State University and board member of ClassEDU.

The app, designed for small virtual or hybrid classrooms, is still in development. The price of the product hasn’t been announced yet, although Michael Chasen disclosed that it will be sold to schools as an annual subscription.

 

Another startup built expressly atop of Zoom is Grain.co, which lets users take notes and share clips from video calls on other media platforms. It attracted $4 million in April 2020.

The University of Illinois Had a Comprehensive Anti-Virus Plan, but Students Partied On

IBL News | New York

The most comprehensive plans to limit the COVID-19 virus’ spread can break down when students party on.

The New York Times yesterday narrated the case of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where over 40,000 students take tests twice a week, cannot enter campus building unless an app vouches that they test negative, and everyone wears a mask.

University scientists developed a quick, inexpensive saliva test, and other researchers put together a detailed computer simulation, modeling the movements of everyone on campus–including some little partying of students.

However, enough students continued to go to parties even after testing positive, dismissing commands from public health officials. Common sense was absent. Partying after receiving a positive test result wasn’t on anyone’s expectation.

Some fraternities and sororities, as well as some off-campus housing, throw large parties and gatherings ignoring containment plans.

Some of the infected students even tried to circumvent the app so they could enter buildings instead of staying isolated in their rooms, university administrators said in a letter to students.

Last week, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reported an uprising in cases and imposed a lockdown. Students had to stay in their off-campus dorms.

Some of the students who tested positive even tried to circumvent the app so that they could enter buildings instead of staying isolated in their rooms.

Analysis: UX / UI Will Determine the Success or Failure of Your Next Web Project

IBL News | New York

Today, creating memorable and effective user experiences adjusted to the target audience determines ultimately the success or failure of any web enterprise.

Consumers have millions of products to choose from. What separates the excellent from the mediocre comes down from the user experience.

The UX (user experience) design process starts by understanding the psychology of the user. It needs to effectively address the user’s desire to find the information quickly and convince him or her to come back.

The UI (user interface) layout should be designed to engage the audience, identifying the type of actions the user will take, whether it’s requesting more information, signing up for a service, or purchasing a product.

That’s when visuals, blocks of content, intuitive navigation, logical structure, call to action buttons, and other interactions will all come together.

UX and UI designers will start by keeping sight of businesses’ branding, marketing goals, and corporate strategy. They then put themselves in the user’s shoes, anticipating their motivators and turn-offs. Instead of making assumptions, by conducting user testing, surveys, and research on how people interact, it removes the guesswork and provides a starting point.

Consider also that consumer habits change. A website that left people satisfied two years ago, may now be less effective. It’s interesting to check the latest trends in web design.

Tools like FlowMappStormboard, and Whimsical can help construct user flows, determining how a design needs to be structured to later building a wireframe and prototype. Lastly, usability testing is the final step before the project goes live.

The golden rule on UX, UI, and usability processes, is to keep users at the center.

ResourceUX design process: a simple (but complete) guide

 

President Trump Pushes Universities to Reopen Despite a Spike of Virus Infections

IBL News | New York

President Trump urged universities to continue reopening their campuses, even as some institutions have reported clusters of COVID-19 outbreaks and hundreds of new cases.

We have learned one thing, there’s nothing like campus there’s nothing like being with a teacher as opposed to being on a computer board,” Trump said during a White House press briefing yesterday. “The iPads are wonderful but you’re not going to learn the same way as being there.”

President Donald Trump blasted universities that have canceled in-person classes, arguing that the virus is akin to the seasonal flu for college students–despite the commonly shared view of health experts that the novel coronavirus is deadlier than the flu and more easily transmitted.

“For older people and individuals with underlying conditions, the China virus is very dangerous, but for university students, the likelihood of severe illness is less than or equal to the risk of the seasonal flu.”

Currently, universities are rethinking opening plans after a spike in infections in the last week as students returned to campus. The pressure is mounting to close campuses. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill decided on Monday to suspend in-person classes for the fall. Notre DameMichigan State University, and The University of Pittsburgh also pivoted to online-only classes for undergraduates before they arrive on campus.

The COVID-19 virus is already spreading through colleges mostly because of off-campus parties, and daily life in sororities and fraternities. A recent example was known yesterday. Last weekend at the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, bars and sidewalks were crowded with sorority members and other students reveling in their return-to-school rituals, sparking the fury of university officials.

Also, yesterday, The New York Times linked at least 251 cases of the virus to fraternities and sororities across the country, including in Washington, North Carolina, Berkeley, Calif., and Oxford, Miss.

 

More Colleges Expected to Follow UNC’s Switch to Remote Learning Amid a Surge of Covid Cases

IBL News | New York

Experts predicted yesterday that many colleges will follow the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s decision to backtrack plans to reopen its campus for in-person learning and shift to remote learning amid a surge of COVID-19 cases among students.

For now, two major research universities have announced to reverse plans to resume in-person instruction, although at a smaller scale than UNC. The University of Notre Dame decided yesterday to suspend in-person classes for almost 12,000 students, moving undergraduate classes online for two weeks while keeping students on campus. Michigan State asked undergraduates who had planned to live in residence halls to stay home.

Crowded, mask-free parties at Oklahoma State University, Notre Dame, Iowa State, Villanova, and other colleges took place over the weekend. The lack of social distancing, along with dorm contact environments, are predictable scenarios for the spread of the pandemic–epidemiologists claim.

UNC-Chapel Hill decided to move all undergraduate classes online starting today Wednesday, while it offered students the opportunity to cancel residence hall requests with no penalty.

The announcement on Monday followed reports of four Coronavirus clusters over three days in dorms, apartments and a fraternity house. As a result, 130 students tested positive.

As of Monday morning, 954 students were tested, 177 students were put in isolation and another 349 in quarantine.

This week, UNC’s infectious disease experts are making changes to de-densify campus.

“As much as we believe we have worked diligently to help create a healthy and safe campus living and learning environment, we believe the current data presents an untenable situation,” UNC-Chapel Hill’s Chancellor, Kevin M. Guskiewicz, and Provost, Robert A. Blouin, wrote in a statement.

In April, the interim president of the UNC announced that he wanted all campuses to re-open in the fall. In August, the UNC Board of Governors announced their mandate for campuses to reopen. Last week they all got their way, with the dorms at UNC re-opening at full capacity, despite faculty and staff workers’ protests.

Yesterday, the editorial board for the Daily Tar Heel, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s student newspaper, called out university leadership after the outbreak.

“Everybody told the university not to reopen, and it was only a matter of time,” said Nikhil Rao, a student government senior adviser who has participated in online meetings with provost Bob Blouin every month since April along with other student leaders. “I would be shocked if I didn’t know this was going to happen.”

Meanwhile, university officials are blaming off-campus parties and activities for the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Children’s Learning Worldwide Is a Priority But 818 Million Students Lack Basic Hand Washing

IBL News | New York

Access to hand washing stations, cleaning and disinfection, and safe toilets are key requirements for safe reopening children’s schools worldwide –United Nations officials told IBL News.

There are 1.6 billion students in 190 countries. According to UN data, roughly 43%, that is, 818 million lack access to basic handwashing facilities at school, with soap and water. A third of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The COVID-19 virus pandemic has created the largest disruption to education ever recorded. And the lack of hand hygiene and clean water in half of the student population dramatically aggravates the crisis.

“Access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services are essential for effective infection prevention and control in all settings, including schools”, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, General Manager at the World Health Organization, this week. “It must be a major focus of government strategies for the safe reopening and operation of schools during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.”

A report built on reopening guidelines published on Thursday 13th by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, encouraged governments to seek control of coronavirus spread by balancing the need for implementing public health measures against the social and economic impacts of lockdown measures. There is substantial evidence of the negative impacts of prolonged school closures on children.

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director at UNICEF, stated, “We must prioritize children’s learning, making sure that schools are safe to reopen.”

Resource: Unicef.org: 2 in 5 schools around the world lacked basic handwashing facilities prior to COVID-19 pandemic 

 

The University of Arizona Becomes a Relevant Player in Online Education by Buying Ashford

IBL News | New York

The University of Arizona (UA) made a big play into the online market by acquiring the for-profit college Ashford University–with 35,000 students–and is creating a new private, nonprofit entity called the University of Arizona Global Campus.

The move, announced on Monday, shakes up the online higher education sphere and can signal more changes.

This way, the University of Arizona will become a relevant player in the digital education and compete with Arizona State University (ASU), University of Phoenix, and Grand Canyon University.

The Tucson-based public university–currently with only 4,200 students enrolled online–said that the Global Campus will focus on students who are typically underrepresented in higher education, like older adults, parents, and veterans.

Ashford University, a fully online university property of Zovio Inc. (Nasdaq: ZVO) education technology services company, moved to the Phoenix area from San Diego last year. Ashford is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges’ Senior College and University Commission.

UA is purchasing Ashford University for $1 from Zovio, but will share 19.5 percent of its tuition revenue for 15 years with Zovio, formerly known as Bridgepoint Education. In addition, Zovio will still provide education technology services to the Global Campus under a long-term agreement, UA said.

The transaction is expected to be completed later this year, after regulatory approvals are granted and the deal is finalized.

A similar, controversial arrangement deal was reached between Purdue University and Kaplan University, resulting in the formation of Purdue University Global.

The newly created Global Campus will be a private nonprofit university, not public like UA. It will appoint the initial board of trustees with long-term membership on the board, along with a president for the Global Campus.

View: Education and Training as a Tool to Attract Customers and Enhance Presence on Google

IBL News | New York

Organizations are increasingly using education and training-based content as a tool to attract customers.

As the effectiveness of traditional online marketing continues to decline, education-powered marketing is gaining ground.

It not only builds trust with customers by providing them an intellectual betterment, but it also fuels existing content and marketing strategies.

Google’s craving for renewed and original content gets answered with new education and training related lessons, lectures, and resources.

This valuable knowledge posted online can be enhanced with certificates. Innovative organizations are understanding the importance of providing some sort of certification.

This is a list of some of the companies that apply education-based marketing:


• Hubspot

• Adobe

• Nvidia

• IBM

• Salesforce

• Databricks

• Hootsuite (Hootsuite Academy)

• Slack

• Autodesk

• AWS

• Mint

• Microsoft

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