Ever dropped a class in college because the professor was just horrific and better relegated to a lab somewhere? New video preview capabilities announced by EduFire today should help shake out the wheat from the chaff in terms of their instructional offerings.
When I reviewed Edufire's business channel launch in September, I couldn't help but be impressed by the variety of content, both in their business offering and across the platform. As I described it then, Edufire is
a free-market approach to education, teachers in any number of subjects can offer their courses via the interactive Edufire platform (which includes video, chat, and social media components) at a price they set.
While the business channel was specifically directed at entrepreneurs and those in transition between jobs looking to retrain, the Edufire platform was robust enough to meet the needs of many "traditional" students, as well as adult learners. Today, however, Edufire is launching a new Videos section, which should drastically broaden the appeal and utility of Edufire as a source for high-quality learning materials.
Why high-quality? Because the videos, unlike those previously embedded in the courses, allow students to preview teachers before paying for a course. Although an eBay-style rating system was already in place on Edufire, there's nothing like seeing a teacher in action. Ever dropped a class in college because the professor was just horrific and better relegated to a lab somewhere? This preview capability should help shake out the wheat from the chaff in terms of their instructional offerings. The preview also shows what online interactions actually look like, since they are video captures of the instructor, slides, and running chat-based dialog between students and instructors. Here's an example from a Japanese course (the video, understandably, can't be embedded).
Aside from the quality of the content, the videos are also high-definition (1280x720px). The site uses embedded Flash to present the videos, making uploads relatively painless.
The value of the Videos section goes way beyond quick previews, though. The videos can actually act as a growing library of useful free content available on the Edufire platform. While the site is still somewhat in its infancy in terms of the volume of available content, the infrastructure is all there for successful courses to "go viral." Let's say that you really like a course you took. The Video platform allows you to post the preview video, along with your comments, to Twitter or your Facebook profile. Your comments also live with the video preview, so other potential users can view a discussion of the video.
Don't like a course or an instructor? Now again, Edufire's social platforms (using the DISQUS application) enable users to quickly bury a bad teacher or a bad course. Talk about "market-driven" education.
This is a win for educators who, by delivering compelling classes, can use social media and video to drive more students to their courses. It's also a win for students who can now rely on previous students and their own judgment of the "classroom" dynamic instead of a syllabus and a much more simplistic rating system.