TeachStreet's launch of a Portland, Oregon, version of its teacher-student connection services has a lot to teach us about the evolution of Web services. The service, which lets students search for local teachers and teachers to offer classes to local and national student audiences, is where education is going: Toward increasingly customized one-on-one learning.
The company has had its Seattle community up for about five months and it is well populated with Seattle classes. For instance, if I wanted to sharpen my bonsai skills, there are six beginner-level courses in bonsai in Seattle now, among more than 55,000 classes offered nationally. Portland classes, for example, launches with 488 yoga and 188 meditation courses,among many others, according to TeachStreet. Students can create profiles of their interests and post reviews of their experiences in class.
TeachStreet is the Learning Annex for the 21st century and more, if teachers realize that their services are truly valuable outside the mainstream school and we find a way to validate credits for academic courses that doesn't involve school district bureaucracy. The future of education lies in this kind of ad hoc learning facilitation. TeachStreet already lets you explore background information about teachers, it is a reasonable leap to imagine a day when the company helps students verify their own learning credentials.
TeachStreet is free. The presence of Google ads on the pages points to a business model that profits from creating and helping teaching stars with everything from marketing and advertising to scheduling and credentialing. There are a variety of "freemium" services that can ride atop the robust traffic created by free class listings, just as EBay and Craigslist have spawned complementary economic systems.
Despite the IT industry's self-absorption with the early adopter (who's the top Twitterer, FriendFeeder, or at the top of AllTop), the real action in Web (1.0, 2.0 or whatever.0) community building comes much later on the adoption curve, where IT meets traditional inefficient markets, when slow-adopters start to move en masse into online services. One of those moments that tells me there are legs in all sorts of social-enabling services happened on Friday, when a state legislator I know invited me to be his fourth Facebook friend. Facebook isn't trendy for the digerati anymore, but it is still gathering new members because it is becoming commonplace to track friends online. The masses are coming.
Now I find myself contemplating bonsai classes at TeachStreet.
It's a sign that a market is realigning, that a new consolidator of information is afoot.
TeachStreet embraces the mundane topic of finding a belly dancing or massage teacher, making it easy and convenient to find classes online. That's interesting, just as classified advertising is when you realize those mundane 8-point classified ads was responsible for much of the profit margin at newspapers. When you factor in how much money is wasted in the coordination of education today, TeachStreet is downright fascinating.