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31 Comments

Would somebody be willing to provide long term, real teaching?

Hello indiehackers,
especially those who already created or just think to create courses, schools, and any other teaching materials.

I noticed the trend that - from my point of view - is ruining the base concept of learning - the quality. Most course makers act in the simplest way: record the video of them talking or showing something and... that's it. Personally, I watched several pretty useful courses done in this way, but besides I watched a lot of other videos that were just a waste of my time. And, regardless of the quality of videos, I found this way of learning quite ineffective.

I understand, it's pretty convenient to create an "evergreen" resource that would sell itself while you are laying on the beach but what about a slightly different approach?

Imagine, you not only create some content, but you also provide feedback, answer questions, check exercises, do 1-on-1 sessions, and even exams? The same as in the university but it's not, it's just inside your course? From my experience (as a mentor), I see this approach the most effective. It definitely should cost more but not insane much as bootcamps, universities, or colleges charge.

What do you think?

  1. 3

    That's what communities can be great for.

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      Absolutely but the problem is all the communities I know are very hard to integrate with the learning process. Do you know any that aren't?

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        It's in portuguese, but PythonPro in my opinion is doing a great job combining video+async messages+live sessions.

        One of the challenges is that you can't have just comments because if I am a new student I will probably struggle with the same things someone else struggled 1 year ago and I won't scroll through endless threads of discussions, etc.

        EdX and Coursera got it pretty well, mixing sync/async, free and timed courses

      2. 1

        I guess it depends what you class as learning.

        It's well known that the completion rate of courses is very low. And from my experience it is usually a lonely process with no real opportunity to discuss things with others.

        Then I look at my experience at Ministry of Testing. There's been a generation of testers grow up through there. Participating. Helping each other. Attending online Masterclasses. Coming to (online) conferences. Hosting their own meetups. Attending workshops. Writing. Speaking.

        Some have never paid a thing, others are hardcore fans. They do what works for them.

  2. 2

    Awesome question @Zencentric! I totally agree that set it and forget it video courses are poor when it comes to learning. Today people are trying to be different by running their courses live, but that is - in my opinion - the completely wrong idea. While the tech startups are raving about how meetings suck and remote and async is the future, they are trying to get all students to sit on Zoom at the same time listening to a lecture which might as well be pre-recorded.

    Learning is more effective if it is active. You need to do more than watch videos and read text. You need to think and reflect. You need to create. You need to assess and analyze. You need to collaborate, belong to a community and feel seen.

    @firefields and @pawel_cubitoo mentions mentorship which is awesome! A lot of research points to the effect of having a mentor or a tutor help you through your learning journeys. Check Bloom's paper about the Two Sigma Problem for example.

    @HugoCast mentions Forte Labs, where Tiago Forte (the founder) wrote a super interesting set of tweets about what you should expect from the future of online courses

    @JHopsWrites mentioned peer review - that is something I have a lot of experience with. I co-founded www.peergrade.io, the largest online peer feedback solution on the market. We specifically started Peergrade to improve on the experience on Coursera. That requires great feedback rubrics, moderation tools for the instructors and reviews-of-the-reviews interactions.

    @rosiesherry has a great point about communities and how online learning can be lonely. Communities are out there, but as @Zencentric writes they are not tied into the course experience. I think this is the biggest unsolved problem yet in online learning!

    We are working on our approach to a solution. Eduflow (www.eduflow.com) allows you to build and run online courses with more than videos and quizzes. We support discussion forums, live calls, peer review, video submissions, and much more. We support grouping students and differentiating the courses based on who you are and what you do.

    Check it out, and if you have any questions I would love to answer them :).

    1. 1

      Presentation via only a narration over powerpoint slides isn't the way to learn for most of us. It'll probably work for simple topics but it will definitely not work for more complex topics.

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      I'll definitely be checking out eduflow! Was it Teachable that went through YC or was that you guys?

      1. 2

        We went through YC with Peergrade, our first product.

    3. 1

      Wow, thanks a lot for your comprehensive response! Many thanks for providing valuable links, I'll check all of them.
      Totally agree with your point about live lectures - they can be prerecorded and it's much more convenient for students. But again, lectures are not everything.

  3. 1

    I think the bar for quality is nonexistent. But that’s what happens when you democratize something.

    The ones that do quality and do with endurance last. Treehouse school is a great example of this. They were recently of The SaaS podcast and I loved their creators’ way of looking at building an online code school: niche, hyper quality and endurance over the long haul.

    Courses are very click baity today.

    1. 1

      I have the same feeling :(

  4. 1

    @Zencentric Agree with your observations. Set it and forget it is suboptimal, and unrealistic for quality learning. Passive learning is also largely a myth, at least to move from beginner to novice. There's a UChicago study about this phenomenon - watching videos of experts causes viewers to overestimate their ability to perform the task themselves.

    Access to expertise (e.g. office hours or coaching), peer to peer learning communities, and feedback on work are some of the ways course creators should be differentiating.

    That said, the format of a course really should depend on the target outcomes and the target student. Bootcamps, universities, and colleges offer a significant transformation through their learning experiences, which is quite a bit different from an online course about making high quality data dashboards in Tableau.

    I've also worked for online training companies that employed full time teachers, and others that worked with contract instructors. Content creation is a highly sought-after skill, and is compensated significantly higher than some of the other work you're describing in the experience (grading, answering questions). From my experience, to make the unit economics feasible and scale operations, organizations move to specialized roles for different parts of the experience.

    1. 1

      Thanks for your note. But my other observation about bootcamps, universities, and colleges is they rarely teach well. If there are gems, they 98% self-taught even in university. So, I'm just trying to figure out if there is a way to teach online well - to get great results?

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        See any course by Seth Godin at Akimbo

      2. 1

        I do think it's possible to get great results online. My hypothesis is you can't get great results (as in ability to do something you couldn't do before) simply through watching or reading. You need practice and feedback. Which I think we agree on.

        There's definitely an opportunity to do it well. My previous point was more that there are some significant challenges to doing it at scale, which ends up leading to compromises. And I think nearly all learning companies, including bootcamps and universities, experience this. Also, it's really, really difficult to measure learning outcomes, and in my experience this leads organizations to look for simple proxies like completion rate or star ratings. So again, it's possible, but there are significant headwinds against doing this with rigor at scale.

        There's also a demand side problem where people want the cheapest or fastest option, which some of the less rigorous offerings out there are happy to deliver.

  5. 1

    Loved reading everyone's comments! I studied a lot of the course creators mentioned and ended up modelling Y Combinator to offer what we hope to be one of the best educations and resources founders have. We modelled Y Combinator as YC doesn't give you a course or tell you how you need to build your startup. They enable founders to self-direct their education based on their own skills & interests with guidance from experts. You to be able to learn the way you want in our youtube style content layout and inside our community. There's no lectures. No forced syllabus. No homework. No tests. Just a focus on tangible outcomes and results. I hate the cost of education so we made it super cheap at $30/mo considering there is so much facetime involved. The reason all the youtube gurus courses are $997 and $1997 is because they compete with one another on the paid advertising platforms. If you offer a cheaper course you can't compete to acquire customers as you'll get outbid. Figuring out unique ways to monetize building a brand, audience, community etc. is really the only way to compete

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      There's no lectures. No forced syllabus. No homework. No tests. Just a focus on tangible outcomes and results.

      If there is nothing why would students pay? ;-)

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        haha they pay for office hours, Q&A calls with experts and community discussion. We subsidize the cost with our software deals and discounts that everyone would use so it's really free for years

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    I try to do that with me mentoring platform and (soon to come) courses — i am still drafting the initial content and features but you can already see the initial foundation here: https://cubitoo.com/en/user/account/new

    1. 1

      Thanks, I will look!

  7. 1

    I thought the model used at trydesignlab.com was pretty good. they have four week courses and it's mostly project work where you get paired up with a mentor who marks your work and has a weekly call with you.

    I encourage my students to reach out and find their own mentors, because there are so many aspects of design, different disciplines and philosophies that they need to get a mentor they aspire to be like. been randomly paired with someone can be really hit and miss. I once started a General Assembly course and got a refund after week one when I realised I was more experienced than my mentor and they had basically just finished the course I was taking and that was their experience.

    1. 1

      I checked them and I like what they do. Unfortunately, there is no way to see it live for free :((

      I once started a General Assembly course and got a refund after week one when I realised I was more experienced than my mentor and they had basically just finished the course I was taking and that was their experience.

      Wow, so strange. How come?

  8. 1

    I really like how the folks at Forte Labs do it. They teach 3-5 courses 2x a year. They are fully live sessions lasting ~5 weeks each via Zoom as well as exercises + feedback discussions over Circle.

    The innovative part (at least for me) is that you buy the course once and attend the cohort, but you can show up to any future cohort you'd like as well. The courses provide "evergreen content", but they refresh the recordings and exercises.

    I found that the idea of having the accountability and community (via Circle) as well as the live sessions where I can ask questions (via zoom) really worth it for me.

    1. 1

      This is interesting! What exactly are you talking about, can you give links? What is Circle?

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    Hmmm...interested to hear more. Coursera does something similar, but with peer-grading.

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      I found the peer grading pretty frustrating sometimes. I had to renew my monthly fee one month at the end just waiting for someone to grade it and in the end Coursera just passed the module for me so I don't even know if it was any good. On other modules you might only get one person grade you and they don't always understand the class! The course I did was fantastic but I found the peer grading terrible.

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        Totally agree...I'd often get an entire unit done, but then wait weeks on peers to get back to me. I'm an educator, and peer feedback works best within the context of a classroom community where the teacher has modeled the quality of feedback desired and is holding and monitors student interaction. With Coursera, I felt like we were on all auto-pilot.

    2. 1

      Coursera has peer review what is slightly different and never worked well. I enrolled several courses on Coursera, some of them were pretty difficult (Machine Learning), and I eventually gave up because it was a bad ratio time consumed/knowledge.

      Another problem with Coursera (and any other similar engine) the creators always ignore feedback from students because they already recorded so nice video and just don't have willing and resources to remake them :)))))

      But, let's see how the "ideal" online course would work. Students register and start working according to the program. Each course is divided to smaller parts and each part is consumed by small pieces that may have a very short video, a little bit of text, pictures, diagrams etc. and tasks to do.

      Every such page has its own "forum" to ask questions (the same way as it's done in teachable) but also some way for students to upload their work and see others' solutions. Other students may help and earn something, maybe inner currency, or whatever it can be converted to something tangible (real money?)

      Now, those who paid may ask for mentors' assistance, have weekly 1-on-1 sessions, get feedback from them. Each serious course may end up with an online exam and issuing a certificate. Of course, a student should pass all the quizzes, solve all the tasks, and complete all the projects.

      It's pretty late here, so maybe I forgot something. Will check it tomorrow. Feel free to discuss! Thanks!

  10. 1

    It sounds like a great idea. The only problems are probably finding people with the expertise and time, since many have only one or the other. Are you creating any solutions to this?

    1. 1

      Thanks for your response!
      Yeah, I'm touching the water to see if anyone is fascinated with this idea. I have a solution in my mind yet - it's a platform like Udacity, but requires more mentors' involvement. Also, it provides much deeper students' involvement what should lead to much better results.

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