There’s no disputing the fact that education has left the building. But the online shift that education has taken goes beyond just a format shift—it’s also in the midst of a crowdsourcing evolution. A number of startups have emerged to tap into the expertise of the crowd—from sites like Udemy, which allow anyone to take or teach a course on virtually any subject, to companies like Hyperink, which allow anyone to write and publish an ebook on a topic they have mastered. A new site, MentorMob.com, aims to do something similar, but with a Wikipedia-style twist.
MentorMob.com launched Monday as a free online learning platform that lets anyone create or take a course on any topic, from academic subjects to how-to guides. The courses are organized as “Learning Playlists” that include titles like “Obedience Training a Dog,” “Mental Golf Game Tips,” “How to Scrapbook: Supplies and Ideas,” and “How to Home Brew Beer,” among others.
The site currently features some 300 Learning Playlists and the aggregated content is a mix of videos and text. But a crowdsourced educational platform isn’t anything new. Udemy is probably the most successful attempt at crowdsourced education, so what makes MentorMob.com different?
“Udemy provides a way for instructors in various topics to create online courses, moderated only by themselves with various forms of digital media (videos, PDFs, slides, etc),” MentorMob CEO Kris Chinosorn explained to me. “Udemy allows creators of courses to make money by charging users for these courses. MentorMob differs in that it is a free platform that allows anyone to create courses, Learning Playlists, curated from existing content from anywhere on the web - articles, videos, blogs, images, etc.”
Another important difference: a MentorMob course (Playlist) can be created by one person, or it can be opened up to the collaboration of a number of people, a la Wikipedia.
This is a pretty interesting idea—it shifts educational power distribution away from the teacher/student model to a more open, democratic shared-knowledge model. Of course, you run the risk of getting incorrect information (as anyone who has intentionally messed with a Wikipedia article just to be a jerk knows), but the wealth of information currently available on the Web is simply too vast to ignore. MentorMob doesn’t necessarily offer an alternative to the traditional classroom, but it definitely makes finding relevant information online easier and more efficient.
The Chicago-based company is currently in the process of raising a round of seed funding. Earlier this month, fellow crowdsourced educational platform Udemy raised $3 million in a round of funding led by Lightbank.