What do you get when you combine advances in streaming technology with education? A Star Wars analogy (to follow).
Grokit, social network launched in 2007 for education and test preparation, announced Wednesday the launch of Grockit TV, a service that will produce a series of videos on test-prep and educational courses for live streaming or download.
Courses will take place twice a week and will include 16 hours of instruction and four hours of admissions guidance, and students can access the course via live streaming or they can purchase the course as a download. The live stream option is free and allows students to interact and ask questions via chat, as well as invite friends to study with them. Students can also choose to receive email reminders to log into the next study session. For those who can’t stream live, or those who want to be able to go back and review previous sessions, full courses can be downloaded for $99.
The live course set-up is fairly simple and easy for users to engage. Students log in to chat rooms while the instructor teaches the material, and moderators are available to answer any questions that students may have.
Grockit CEO Farb Nivi believes that the timing for such courses is perfect, as streaming technology is now at a point where students can truly engage with the material.
“I think of this as my Star Wars episodes one through three,” said Nivi, in an interview with VatorNews. “The reason George Lucas did episodes four through six first was because the technology wasn’t available for what he wanted to do in the first three episodes. It’s the same for what I wanted to do with Grockit TV. This has been my dream, but 12 months ago the technology just wasn’t available.”
Nivi used an example of a time he tried to take a course through iTunes U and the stream resolution was so low that he couldn’t read what the instructor was writing on the white board. “Twelve months ago, the stream quality just wasn’t that good,” said Nivi.
Testing out online
The San Francisco, Calif.-based startup tested the waters very quietly back in August with its first course for the GMAT, the test that is required for MBA admissions, which Nivi taught himself. Despite not releasing any information on the course until a week before it was set to begin live streaming, over 1,000 people enrolled.
“I’m a little embarrassed to say what our original goal was,” said Nivi. “It was definitely less than 1,000. We were thinking maybe a couple hundred people would enroll.”
The company also noticed an interesting sharing trend. Because Grockit is a social-networking site for education and test preparation, students can connect through their Facebook accounts and share badges they receive for educational improvement, such as answering 10 questions correctly. Those shares bring in a few people. But when students shared the live course event on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, they brought in double-digit numbers of people per share.
Test prep and college admissions
Nivi said that he would be open to partnering with major test prep companies like The Princeton Review, which may be interested in utilizing Grockit TV. Nothing is in the works, however. But Nivi, who was actually named National Teacher of the year in 2001 by the Princeton Review, stresses that Grockit is not a test prep company. The difference between Grockit TV and run-of-the-mill test prep services is that Grockit TV is free while boasting top instructors and admissions consultants.
“Most students have to be pretty rich to take a college admissions course, as these consultants would normally cost $4- to $5,000 to work with, but we’re going to bring in top instructors and consultants to do full 20-hour courses for free,” said Nivi.
Nivi’s goal is to go beyond test prep and admissions courses to take Grockit TV into the K-12 realm and higher education. “I want to have the top math professor at MIT teaching a course on calculus for Grockit TV,” said Nivi.
Udemy, an online course platform, also offers free video courses while also enabling users to teach courses of their own online. The site currently offers full videotaped courses from top universities throughout the United States, in addition to some test prep material for the SAT and GMAT. The difference is in the interactive features offered through Grockit, which, in addition to being free, also allows students to ask questions and chat with other students.
The next course will be on the SAT, which will begin in October and will also be taught by Nivi. Grockit TV will provide courses on the LSAT and the GRE in 2011. And, just yesterday, Grockit became the first educational app on the Google Apps marketplace.
Image source: benchmark.com