Udemy enters Europe with Seven Local Languages

About three weeks ago I wrote an article about European clones, using the example of Spain-based Cursopedia which created an online course marketplace similar to Udemy. I argued that US-based startups usually tend to focus on the English speaking market alone and therefore don’t spend time and money on offering localized versions of their service.

Yesterday Udemy announced that the platform is now available in 9 languages, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Russian and Turkish. Two more languages, Korean and Hindi, are going to be added later this Summer.

I think this shows a distinct difference between the European compared to the US-based entrepreneur’s mindset. Eren Bali, Founder and CEO of Udemy, grew up in Turkey and participated in the launch of a successful startup there before he took the decision to move to the US for his next venture. In the press release he shares some more background on why he believes that localization is important.

“The internationalization of Udemy is a deeply personal project for me. I grew up in a single room schoolhouse in Southeastern Turkey, and while the internet helped me lift myself up in ways I never imagined possible, so much of the great learning content available online is only in English. I couldn’t be more excited to be part of a force that helps remove this language barrier for good, and I hope by localizing Udemy into these 11 languages, we will be one step closer to truly empowering any expert anywhere in the world to give back and teach the next generation.”

And offering content in local languages can pay off quite nicely for both sides involved, the platform and the educator. Targeting Cursopedia’s core market, Udemy announced that one of the first instructors who offered a course in Spanish on virtualization has earned $15k since end of June and a Spanish iOS-programming course earned $32k in two months.

Last but not least, along with the news of adding localization to the site, Udemy also shared that it reached the milestone of 1 million students registered. 50% of the students who visit Udemy are from outside the US and currently Udemy is hosting 600 courses in Spanish and 150 courses in Portuguese.

Of course, just translating the page won’t attract educators or learners in droves. The European market is scattered, there are several startup hubs across the continent and each of them is very unique. Hence, there needs to be a lot of marketing and grassroots work to be done but that again is something the team at Udemy is known for.

Berlin-based Lingoda enters the crowded ESL Market with Online Language School Concept

Get our latest Startup List: Language Learning Europe, featuring 80 Language Learning Startups across Europe.

Berlin-based Lingoda is a new player in the online English learning space. The platform offers a mix of self-paced video based learning material, group classes and individual classes with a tutor. The premise is that the learner will be speaking English fluently within twelve months.

Continue reading Berlin-based Lingoda enters the crowded ESL Market with Online Language School Concept

European MOOCs focus on Quality, US MOOCs on Cost – Interview with iversity’s Hannes Klöpper

iversity which had started as a “collaboration network for academia” back in 2008 soon pivoted to become one of the emerging European MOOCs. And though the German startup cannot compete with the massive funding rounds of US-based platforms like Coursera, Udacity or edX, iversity’s co-founder and CMO Hannes Klöpper sees some distinct differences that give European MOOCs advantages in their local markets.

As iversity is currently working on the launch of its 10 MOOC Fellowship courses, I wanted to catch up with Hannes and see where iversity is headed in the coming months.

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Germany: Baden Württemberg declares Social Media Ban in Schools over Privacy Concerns

In Germany data privacy protection is taken very seriously. With the NSA leaks it has become once again one of the hot topics of the upcoming Bundestagswahl (federal elections) but discussions around the topic are basically held on a monthly basis.

Yesterday the ministry of education in Baden Württemberg sent out a letter to all teachers in the state in which it explained that the use of social media in education is banned. Needless to say that this decisions has stirred up some passionate discussions. Today the ministry underlined that the letter does not set up new rules but simply clarifies already existing rules and regulations for the use of social media in the public education system of the state.

There are three main issues. The first one has to do with the location of the servers that host the social networks and therefore also host the data of teachers and students. Those servers are for the most part outside of Germany and hence usually in countries that have a less strict approach to data privacy.

Secondly, social networks tend to be advertising supported, hence the user pays for the service through sharing her personal data. Especially Facebook seems to breach a couple of terms in the German Telemediengesetz according to Jörg Klingbeil, appointee for data privacy protection in Baden Württemberg.

Last but not least, the ministry and teachers who also took part in the creation of the guidelines fear that students who are not using social networks like Facebook might get disadvantaged when teachers and students use those platforms to create study groups or use them to coordinate school related events and such.

Of course, this letter of advice leaves open a lot of questions and creates new grey areas. For example, is it OK for teachers to use Twitter to have an #edchat after school in which they naturally talk about school related topics. The only way teachers were on the safe side would then be to not use social networks at all which is also the worst of options.

The only approved option of using social media in the classroom now is to cover it as a topic and talk about the functions, opportunities and risks but without forcing the students to join one of the networks.

This story shows the differences we have in the European Union when it comes to data protection vs. facing the reality of technology taking over our daily life. The UK-based Education Foundation just published a Facebook Guide for Educators in which teachers find case studies and examples of how to use the social network in a school setting.

All of the above might leave an interesting option for the creation of a new education startup open, a German Edmodo, if you will. This network needed to be hosted entirely in Germany and complies with the data privacy protection laws. Of course, it needed to be paid or financed by the state as ad-based revenue would not be allowed. Looking at the success of Edmodo in the US it is somewhat astonishing that nobody has cloned it so far. Maybe based on the bad experiences with Studi-VZ.


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?