Informal Web-Based Education

Published on 11/29/2008 - Experiences

Co-Learning, Sharing resources, Communities / Networks, ICTs, Analogies of digital, Online learning, Networks creation, Web 2.0, Social networks

Contributors: Sclipo

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Platoniq interviews Gregor Gimmy, from Sclipo.com (1)


1. What are the origins of SCLIPO? When did it start? What were the main goals?

Sclipo started officially in Jan 2007. I launched a prototype in Nov 2006, which got great feedback from the internet community.

I had the idea, built the first prototype and wrote the business plan. I have been involved over many years in internet and education / knowledge management. E.g., I founded a web-company in San Francisco in 1999 which helped Biotech researchers share knowledge. With the emergence of internet video, I saw that knowledge exchange via web will change the way we learn. It will not substitute today's "physical, off-line" learning, but substantially enrich the overall learning experience.

Main goal (or vision) is to enable to "Transform online learning into a irreplaceable learning environment by leveraging web-based rich media technology, social network technology and 2.0 culture".


2. What needs does it address, what sort of problems does it try to solve?

Sclipo helps solve 3 problems of informal, web-based education:
 
- Quality boost: Most education on the web is textual. Video, which is Sclipo's main medium, boost teaching quality.

- Personalized teaching: Most educational content is 1-fits-all format. eHow, Videojug, YouTube all have great tutorials. But, what if details remain unanswered or the learner's level is more advanced that the one taught in a video. Sclipo's platform allows members to teach personalized courses through webcam.
 
- Monetizing informal teaching: Informal teaching on the web is free. This limits the quality andamount of teaching. At Sclipo, members can charge for their classes taught through webcam.
 
This benefits students and teachers. Say you live in London and want a personal class from the flamenco guitar guru in Sevilla. Traveling from London to Sevilla is much more expensive than paying 50 Eu per hour over webcam. The guitar teacher will find new students way beyond his local Sevilla network.


3. Often, day to day practice and community use can shift or reshape the goals and needs. How has this everyday praxis changed the project since its kickoff?

Yes. For example, we started with just "video" as the medium to share knowledge. Then we added "webcam", as it allows for a more personalized knowledge transfer. Hence, we are expanding from pure "video" to a "multimedia educational platform".


4. Is there a specific timeline planned for your project? Future plans?

Nope. Sclipo is a long term project. The product will evolve a lot over the next years, in accordance with user-needs and technology evolution. For example, today people are not used to be taught online (research yes, but not so much teaching). Also, broadband technology is still not sufficient to enable good quality voice and video for live teaching.

By 2012, we believe users and technology will have evolved significantly. By then, we like people to say this about Sclipo: ".... why be restricted to only learning from and with people in a 5 km radius, if I can learn from the comfort of our home with the best teachers at Sclipo, while socializing with people worldwide with whom share the same learning interests".


5. How many people are involved in your organization?

We are now 10 full-time employees.


6. How is setting up sclipo in barcelona and not somewhere else important in your developement?

- Access to capital is more difficult and much more expensive (start-ups are getting lower valuations).

- Legal help is practically not-existing for a start-up (no start-up can pay 200/hour for a lawyer). In Silicon Valley, top lawyers will not charge me till a start-up gets funding. Lawyers are key in helping negotiate contracts with investors and employees.

- The internet community is much less powerful than e.g. San Francisco. Hence, important partnerships are more difficult to establish.


7. What community-generating dynamics have you used? Can you talk about specific visibilization techniques (either online or offline) that you have successfully applied?

At this point we are building community features that are similar to many other social networks yet focused to educational content. Our video player has edu-specific features like step-by-step and slow motion. More are in development.


8. Did you shape your organization to conform certain ideas from your theoretical framework? i.e. Does the structure of the project reflect conceptual constructs from the project's background?

The organization is totally shaped around our vision (see above). But there are many variables we do not know about. There is a lot of trial & error. For example, we do not know if and how people will use SclipoLive (our system for live teaching via webcam), or how much they are willing to pay.


9. How important is terminology in your project for ex. naming the relationship beetween teacher and student "academies"? Sometimes, making things more or less understandable for new users is the difference between "success" and "failure", especially when it comes to abstract concepts or relatively new ideas.

Terminology is key. We believe our terminology can still be improved and we are very grateful for any kind of feedback.


10. What sort of funding have you received for the project, how long will it last, and what will happen at the end of the funding?

Our main investor is La Caixa Capital Risc - the Venture Capital arm of La Caixa. If we reach our milestones, funding will not end.


11. Popular video sites like YouTube have become massive because they filter almost nothing and offer something that could be (loosely) tagged as "entertainment". You have transformed YouTube's famous "broadcast yourself" into your very own "broadcast your skills", which is a bold move. Do you think specialization is the key, when it comes to content in Web 2.0?

Yes. See the following feedback from Sclipo member, who closed his YouTube account and opened one at Sclipo:
 
I'll be perfectly honest; I recently deleted my entire account over at Youtube for two reasons. Even though I was approaching 500 subscribers (a big number? Unsure, actually) and I had one video with 37,000+ plus hits ("How to draw 'The Simpsons'",) Youtube has been infested with porn spammers, and more and more of my videos were being left comments of invitations to go "check out hot girls at Hotgirls.com, or some such crap. My second problem was my audience itself was turning out to be a bunch of kids who just like to write junk for comments, including having idiot arguments break out, or just meaningless drivel. It was getting to the point where I was just checking out my videos just to remove the unwanted comments, so last week I said "Enough is enough", and just deleted the whole thing.

So I guess now what I'm looking for is a more mature venue, a site where the emphasis is people who want to experience something with an enriching background. I'm hoping I can add to it. I DON'T need 500 subscribers. I don't care if a video doesn't get 10,000 hits.  I am looking for people who just want to see how something is drawn. I may not be the best, but I have been known to inspire a few, and that is all I'm looking for.

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