This is a talk I gave at the SEA (Secular, Eclectic, Academic) Homeschoolers Conference in Shepherdstown, WV on June 2, 2017 edited to work as a blog post. We also had a great Q&A session with teachers joining over videoconference but unfortunately weren't able to record it. If you'd like to talk with us and ask questions about Outschool, join one of our Learning with Outschool videoconferences.
Hi, my name is Amir Nathoo and this session is on live online classes. Thank you all for joining.
I proposed this session because live online learning is a relatively new format. But one with very interesting characteristics that I think make it beneficial to homeschoolers, and give it the potential to transform K-12 education.
First I'd like to introduce our team. I’m one of the founders of Outschool, along with Nicholas Grandy and Mikhail Seregine. We’re based in San Francisco. Each of us has more than a decade of experience in technology as entrepreneurs and at tech companies. In 2015 came together with the aim of using our technology knowledge and love of learning to build great products that could transform education.
Both of my parents were teachers so I’ve thought for many years about how technology could be applied to education. And when I learned about secular homeschooling from a friend in San Francisco who was homeschooling her kids, I was inspired by this innovative community who were using new approaches to tailor their kid’s learning.
I’ll also briefly introduce our company. Outschool is a marketplace for live online classes for kids. We cover all ages K-12, and all subjects from core to supplemental - anything our teachers are inspired to teach and that our learners want to hear about. Parents use our website to easily find and book classes. Teachers use it to advertise their classes and run their classes with our classroom tools.
If you’ve ever bought something from Etsy or booked accommodation on Airbnb you’ll have an idea of what our website does. But instead of crafted goods from artisans, or space in a person’s home, our site is for online classes for kids.
As a marketplace, Outschool is very different from an online school. We don’t have a set curriculum, or fixed staff. Instead teachers propose what they would like to teach - we vet the classes for quality and secular nature, and do background checks, then make the classes available for anyone to enroll in instantly. As of this week we have 180 active teachers who offer 1,141 different classes, a far greater selection than you’d find in regular school or even online schools.
Before kicking off the Q&A and discussion, I’d like to define live online learning and talk about its characteristics. Live online learning is where small groups of learners, led by a teacher, meet online over videoconference to learn a topic.
It’s collaborative. Meaning that it involves other people - it is guided by a teacher and participants learn from the teacher and their peers.
It’s accessible. By which I mean that classes are available anywhere with an internet connection. And they are affordable since the costs are split between multiple participants, there’s no costs for physical locations and there’s limited administrative overhead.
And the learning is personalized. Learners can choose from teachers from across the world and from a much wider selection of topics, schedules and levels than might be available locally. Teachers can tailor the experience in real-time according to the learner’s needs.
Looking at these characteristics you can see the differences with other types of learning. For example, learning with online content such as Wikipedia and Youtube is certainly accessible and personalized. But not collaborative.
Public school is free, available in most places, and ideally, is collaborative. But a fixed curriculum, large class sizes and limited choice mean it isn’t personalized.
Tutoring is personalized and involves learning with another person. But is too expensive for most people to use this for most of their learning.
Live online learning combines these valuable characteristics. It offers parents an accessible way to broaden their children's education with personalized instruction from independent teachers and interaction with their peers.
We see a future where in-person learning is enhanced by live online learning to offer a breadth and depth of educational opportunities not possible today. We see kids who love to learn taking responsibility for their own development, and customizing their curriculums to follow their unique interests, strengths and challenges.