Video is so much more than just a source of entertainment. In the past, I've talked several times about how exciting it is to think about what video can do for education by adding shelf life to lectures or allowing students around the globe to interact and share in a lesson. Now a new company, called Udemy, is hoping to use video to turn the entire educational model on its ear.
Gigaom profiled Udemy yesterday, and the story held my rapt attention from beginning to end--not because of the writing (which was excellent), but because of the topic. Udemy (pronounced "you to me") has serious plans to break our education system and replace it with something that, on the surface, appears to make tons of sense.
Specifically, they want to democratize education. They want to allow students--any student, regardless of location or background--to connect with teachers and professors directly, and even buy lectures and class materials a la carte. The eventual idea is that students could receive instruction from multiple professors at multiple universities--course credits and even degrees would no longer be tied to a particular institution.
The technology is already falling into place. After a million dollar funding round, Udemy has built a system that allows professors and instructors to upload video, slideshows, and other course materials. Students can then log in and download, watch, and learn.
Originally, the Udemy team was interested in real-time learning... meaning a live event, where the classroom simply goes online. But the early users have been far more interested in an on-demand, a la carte approach to using the system. Teachers load up the materials, and the students can find and interact with them at their own pace and on their own schedule. If you think about it, it's a lot like what the cable companies are going through... viewers want on-demand, a la carte television now... simply following a pre-established broadcast schedule is no longer flexible enough for the masses.
Does Udemy have a shot at succeeding? Way too soon to tell, but I can promise you I'll be rooting for them. There are about a hundred different ways that video could possibly change or augment how we go about doing education... and this is only one of them. But change must come. It's inevitable. The on-demand nature of online video can deliver the same knowledge to students online in ways that are faster and cheaper. Video is far too powerful for the education world to ignore.