Online learning promises to bring choice and access to education. But it requires incredible discipline to read, watch recorded videos, and do exercises alone for an extended period without real-time support. MOOCs have a completion rate of only 3-15% which is far too low to support kids’ education needs.
Outschool, on the other hand, offers live online classes where kids and teachers meet in small groups over video chat. Kids can ask questions, show off work and be challenged by the teacher and each other. They can also access far more subjects and teachers than are available locally. Learning this way is engaging, exciting, and personal because of live interaction and broad choice to find the right class at the right time.
Live online classes remove the trade-off of choosing learning that is either local but with limited flexibility or options, or online but without human connection.
Surprises with live online classes
Outschool has now delivered over 100,000 learner hours to 10,000 families. Classes typically have 3-8 kids and a teacher, all joining from different locations. We’ve seen our platform used in many unexpected ways. Here are a few:
Most kids attend class using a laptop at home, but some have even been able to join from a smartphone in a car, as well as from libraries, bookstores, coffee shops, and even, in one instance, while on a cruise in the Atlantic Ocean. It shows how far video technology and availability of fast internet have advanced, and the flexibility that offers for learning.
We expected mainly older kids to use Outschool. However, kids as young as three years old love taking classes, like Mommy/Daddy and Me: Fun with Robots, 123s - Counting to 10 and Story Time and Sign Language. Younger kids need help getting started but become independent surprisingly fast. Parents enjoy connecting with other families through the classes as well as valuing the learning.
Kids who are shy, or have learning differences like autism, giftedness, and ADHD, thrive on Outschool. One teacher brought together a group of non-verbal kids for a poetry class where they shared their work in the chat window. Together, they used the format to form connections around a shared interest when they would have struggled to do so in-person.
We hear comments like this from parents all the time:
“This was my son's first experience of online classes. He loved it! He was excited about the facts he learned and was able to relate them to his other knowledge. He said he loved that he had access to communicate with the teacher and give his thoughts. I haven't seen him this excited to learn in a long time!”
See for yourself with this short video including snippets from an art class:
Most teachers on Outschool are experienced with teaching but new to live teaching online. They've adapted their style and curricula to fit our format and have discovered new tools for classroom management, such as breakout rooms, whiteboarding, and the mute feature. They tell us how surprised they are at being able to build relationships with learners all over the world:
“Today I am feeling tremendously blessed to be a part of the @outschooler community. Outschool has allowed me to expand the reach of my independent tutoring practice to three continents!” - Teacher Karen Wieland
“I am big on relationship building and I didn't think that would work in an online class but it works rather well.” - Teacher Michaela Sellers
Classes that kids want
Outschool is a marketplace of live online classes for kids, available directly to families and taught by independent teachers. Teachers are free to offer the topics they’ve always wanted to teach. They delight us with creative ideas like Learning Spanish Through Taylor Swift Songs or How to Draw Manga Cats. They succeed in the marketplace by making great classes that kids actually want.
We never expected that Outschool would be used for group music classes, fitness, cooking or field trips. We've seen all of these and more, with courses like Playing Guitar Like A Rock Star, Beginner Tap, Let's Get Cooking - Italian, Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes and even Basic Horse Care. These are a few examples from over 4,000 classes on Outschool.
Fun, interest-based classes inspire kids to love learning, but teachers also offer longer courses in academic subjects. Kids can choose to catch up or accelerate in traditional school topics, as well as to go deep on their interests.
Our marketplace has grown to sell $250,000 of new classes each month. Outschool grows because kids are engaged by the live online format, but also for these reasons:
Affordable compared to tutoring or local learning. Group classes mean that families can pay less and teachers still earn more than they would through 1:1 tutoring. Teachers don't need to pay for physical facilities and parents don’t need to spend time or money to travel. Outschool democratizes access to high-quality learning.
Variety. As a marketplace, rather than a controlled curriculum, Outschool gives families access to a far greater range of learning options. This allows learners to follow their interests and fill in gaps where their schooling doesn’t meet their individual needs.
Natural, social growth. Enrolled families share classes with their friends to help get a good group together. They’re excited to share since, unlike most tutoring, homework help or test prep, the class topics are actually interesting.
Global reach. Families and teachers from different locations, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds meet around a shared interest. This helps to build empathy in a world that's in sore need of it. No topic is so niche that it can’t find some interested learners from around the world.
Learning outside of school
When Mikhail Seregine, Nick Grandy and I started working together in 2015, we saw there were already plenty of efforts to bring technology into the classroom. Some provided tools for school teachers including communication tools like ClassDojo and Remind. Others sold technology to districts, like Instructure and Clever. AltSchool and Khan Labs have even tried creating whole new schools around technology.
In contrast, we saw a need to enable learning outside of regular school. Schools seek to provide a common base of knowledge for all kids using a standardized curriculum. Having that common base is incredibly important. But a fixed, centrally-designed curriculum delivered locally can’t be expected to cover every individual need or interest.
What if there were another place for learning that could fill gaps in schools' curricula, satisfy individual interests, and react quickly to fast-changing technology, society, and workplace? An online consumer marketplace allows for evolving curricula, and the flexibility for teachers to design for unique needs.
You could think of it as a second type of school that complements local learning. Every kid with fast enough internet, anywhere in the world, can access it. It grows naturally through families’ desire to learn in small groups. It improves with growth since more classes mean more learners’ individual needs being met.
That’s our vision for Outschool. We believe it can become every kid's second school.
If that sounds like an interesting and worthy project please reach out. We’re hiring engineers and a community manager. If you’re a teacher, or have an interest or skill that would be fun and valuable for kids, consider offering classes. We’d love to hear your ideas!
“There's really just something magical going on here. I've been teaching for over 25 years and these classes are consistently amazing to teach. I get to teach what I love, students choose to join, it's a recipe for happiness.” - Teacher Kristin Garn