All posts by Kay Alexander

Kay Alexander is the Managing Editor of EDUKWEST Europe and Creative Director of Winkler Media.

StepUp.io Review: Loop Educational Videos until you get it

At EDUKWEST we have written a lot about curating existing educational content on the Internet instead of reinventing the wheel all over again by simply adding more content on the growing pile. There are startups like MentorMob, Learnist, Veri, Ginkgotree and others that enable educators to create curated lists or courses based on videos, articles or other freely available content like OER.

Pitch StepUp.io Edtech Innovator AwardKirsten recently spoke at the EdTech Innovator Award in London and StepUp.io was one of the six startups in the pitch competition. Although the team wasn’t award a prize, she found it an interesting idea worth to get covered on our site.

StepUp.io, a London-based edtech startup, fits into this overall trend of curation. What it does is to provide learners or educators with a tool that cuts educational videos into bitesized chunks that can then be learned at individual pace or repeated as many times until mastered.

There are a bunch of use cases one can imagine but probably two make the most sense to us: music and languages. Coming back to the point of a ton of free video lessons being freely available on YouTube, one have a good basis to learn an instrument or language from scratch. The problem is that most tutors who upload videos don’t have the skills required or patience to insert repetitive sections into their videos. Most of the videos deal with a problem but simply run through the explanation without repeating the concept enough times so that the student really gets it.

Of course, you can pause and rewind a video in the YouTube player by hand but let’s face it, it does not work very well and is kind of annoying. And this is where StepUp.io comes in.

You can embed the YouTube video you want to learn with on the StepUp.io platform and chunk it into bitesized learning modules. Each module can then be looped until mastered. You can also create your own learning curve by combining chunks, stepping up your game so to say, until you are able to watch the entire video in one take.

I think StepUp.io is a really useful tool for self directed learners and independent tutors who publish video lessons on YouTube. It adds a great learning experience to an otherwise pretty linear way of consuming educational videos.

The issues I see for StepUp.io are how to build a community that will create video lessons on the platform. In order to achieve this the platform needs to offer better ways to find and categorize learning content and also create learning playlists similar to MentorMob or Learnist.

All in all, I see StepUp.io in its current form more as a feature than an independent product. Adding more structure and building a community around the content might elevate the product into a real learning platform.

And having Bernard Niesner of busuu as a mentor through the Founders Forum for Good it will be interesting to follow StepUp.io’s progress in the months to come and to see Bernard’s potential impact on product and strategy.

 

France puts another 8 million Euro into its FUN MOOC project

On January 16th the first MOOCs of France’s platform France Université Numérique officially launched. During a press conference Geneviève Fioraso, France’s minister of higher education and research, shared that over 88.000 people have entered one of the 25 MOOCs offered by FUN.


Ouverture de la plateforme FUN – France… par fr-universite-numerique

On average there are now 3.300 learners per MOOC. The most popular course at the moment is “From manager to leader” with more than 14.000 learners.

Based on this initial success the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research announced that in 2014 another 30 MOOCs are going to launch on France Université Numérique offered by the following group of universities that are going to join the project

  • H.E.C.
  • l’E.N.S. Cachan
  • l’E.N.S. Lyon
  • l’Ecole des Mines d’Alès
  • le groupe INSA
  • Grenoble I.N.P.
  • l’université Joseph Fourier de Grenoble
  • l’université Toulouse 2 Le Mirail
  • l’université de Lorraine
  • l’université de Strasbourg
  • Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
  • l’université Paris Sud

To finance this extension the Ministry will allocate another 8 million Euro in 2014. 5 million Euro will be invested in the creation of MOOCs for vocational training. With the French government fighting high unemployment rates in the country and pledging to create new jobs this surely makes sense. Of course, one might doubt that taking part in a MOOC will lead to a new job but at least those who do won’t appear in the unemployment statistics.

The other 3 million Euro will be invested in the necessary equipment to create the content for MOOCs. The project dubbed “CréaMOOC” is going to provide universities with fully equipped film studios. I wonder if funds for training staff are also included as a studio alone won’t be enough to produce quality content.

“The digital revolution is on the move. It is at one a chance and a challenge for an university in motion. A chance to rethink the creation and transmission of knowledge in an interactive way. A challenge to create an efficient and innovative university that is open towards the world and all the public. Students like employees or job seekers, young or retired.”

says Geneviève Fioraso.

German Tutoring Platform tutoria partners with ZEIT

Munich-based tutoria announced a partnership with the ZEIT publishing house. Under the partnership readers of the ZEIT magazine and newspaper get access to preselected tutors from the tutoria platform through a newly launched portal called ZEIT NACHHILFE.

Besides private tutoring at home ZEIT NACHHILFE offers parents and students learning material based on ZEIT content and analytics through the tutoria portal.

Over the years a lot of news outlets have started licensing their content to learning providers. For example, the language learning community busuu.com partnered with The Guardian to add content for its learners of English and Paris-based goFLUENT announced a partnership with the New York Times News Syndicate to add videos and articles from the Harvard Business Review.

It is always more interesting to learn with current content rather than from a textbook that is five or ten years old and deals with topics that are already outdated.

The trend of opening up the back catalog was subsequently followed by film studios that now license parts of their movies to edutainment startups like English Attack! or Viki.

I think partnerships between established news outlets and education startups make a lot of sense for both sides. Readers tend to be very loyal to the publications they choose. Hence those readers who happen to be parents will be very open to give a learning product that uses content from their prefered news source at least a try. On the other hand, ZEIT can bind their readers to the newspaper and magazine even more as it can now offer an additional service.

This is not the first educational offer ZEIT has launched. The publishing house also invites learners to different holiday courses through its portal ZEIT SCHÜLERCAMPUS.

Spanish Course Marketplace Floqq raises another $500k Seed Round

NEW: Get our latest EdTech Funding Report Europe 2016.


According to startup blog Loogic the Spanish course marketplace Floqq raised another $500k seed round lead by Cabiedes & Partners with participation of 500 Startups and a group of business angels.

Floqq already raised a €405k seed round from Cabiedes & Partners last year and also participated in the Startup Chile incubator program. All in all the total funding raised is around $1 million according to CrunchBase.

Floqq targets students who want or need to learn new skills for their careers. The startup wants to bridge the gap between what young professionals have learned in school and university and what they actually need to know for their jobs. But there are also courses that cover more leisure topics like cooking, learning languages or crafting.

According to Loogic, Floqq has delivered more than 200.000 lessons since its launch in March 2012. The new funding will be used to expand into Latin American markets and should also give the startup an edge over its Spanish competitor Cursopedia.

via Edsurge | Loogic

BYOD – Why not an Ubuntu Edge or an Ethical Fairphone?

Today the makers of the Ubuntu operating system launched a ballsy campaign on Indiegogo. They are aiming to raise $32 million for the Ubuntu Edge, a prototype smartphone that the Ubuntu team sees as a proof of concept.

The promo video starts with the Ubuntu mantra

“Convergence is the future of computing.”

This essentially means that one operating system is going to be the basis of all devices you might want to own. For example the Ubuntu Edge smartphone will be so powerful that it has the same computing power as a desktop computer. Hence in the convergence scenario instead of switching from your smartphone to a computer at your workplace you would simply dock your Ubuntu Edge to a bigger screen and keyboard. This is also the strategy that Microsoft is more or less following with its “Metro” design of Windows Mobile Phone, Windows RT and Windows 8, but instead of one operating system Microsoft is running three.

Of course, there is the question if we really need another (mobile) operating system besides iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone. But as most Ubuntu users are enthusiasts of the operating system there might be a sizeable market, something Ubuntu is trying to find out with the Indiegogo campaign.

The project already raised more money than the most successful Indiegogo campaign today. With more than $2 million and 30 days left Ubuntu might be able to reach the $32 million goal. What I find particularly ballsy is the fixed campaign model they chose. If Ubuntu Edge does not reach the $32 million goal all money is going back to the funders.

I think the Ubuntu Edge has some great features and you should watch the promo video in order to get a good overview. The price for the device is of course a bit hefty. On day one of the campaign you can preorder a Ubuntu Edge for $600, about the price of an unlocked iPhone 5. After the first batch of 5000 phones is gone the price for an Ubuntu Edge is going to be $830. And you have to wait until May 2014 for the first devices to be shipped. But all that won’t scare away real tech geeks and Ubuntu enthusiasts.

This campaign also reminded me of another smartphone that raised money via crowdfunding. The Dutch Fairphone wants to be the first ethically sourced smartphone. Many components and minerals used in smartphones come from regions where people suffer in order to provide us in the developed world with our favorite gadgets.

Fairphone’s premise is to only use “fair” components in order to create the first truly ethical device. And the price is right, as well. Other than the high end glitzy Ubuntu Edge a Fairphone is priced at €350 and the tech specs aren’t that bad, either.

The first batch is limited to 20.000 Fairphone devices, 11.648 have been sold until today. So the choice is yours. Do you want to have the next iPhone 5S, a new Google Nexus, a one of a kind Ubuntu phone, an ethical smartphone or none of the above?