Friday, December 26, 2008

Interview with Dave Giusti, Freepath: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Welcome to an interview with Dave Giusti, Community Manager for myFreepath. myFreepath is a network of people who exchange content through playlists created in Freepath. With Freepath, you can share your favorite media with a private group or a worldwide audience without having to struggle with file conversions or FTP. It is not necessary to upload, convert, or embed. All one has to do is drag and drop.

Hi Dave, Welcome to E-Learning Queen. How did you get involved with Freepath?

Prior to joining Freepath, I was an Engineering manager at Google for close to 4 years on the AdWords team. I discovered Freepath as a user.

What do you see as the most useful aspect of Freepath?

The ability to utilize a variety of file types and media to tell a story. Freepath provides an iTunes-like player for the everyday digital story-teller to show common types of content in a seamless and meaningful way. Content that includes traditional desktop files, multimedia and web content. To be able to interact with such a diverse set of content is very powerful.

Let me give you an example. Think about a person who is going to present on the recent election. The content and media that was generated from the election was extremely rich and available in numerous formats: YouTube videos, candidate websites, reports in PDF format and digital pictures of demonstrations and rallies generated by the media. Think about a flat linear presentation consisting solely of slides with a focus of giving an overview of the election. Now, contrast that with a presentation created in Freepath.

A presentation that perhaps would begin with the cheers of a crowd, followed by sound bites of candidates espousing their positions, slides outlining their credentials, digital pictures displaying the passion on all sides! It is Freepath’s ability to pull from a wide range of digital content, enabling it to interact seamlessly that makes it such a powerful tool. Freepath gives the presenter the tools to create something that is above and beyond what audiences have come to expect in a presentation.

How does Freepath compare to other integrative applications?

Freepath occupies a unique space. When I look at where Freepath lives, I see a cross section of areas: Presentation software (PowerPoint, Keynote, Ovation), Online Collaboration tools (LiveMeeting, Intercall, WebEx, GoToMeeting) and Broadcast and Communication (YouTube, Skype, Ustream). Freepath extends the power of these applications; it is a dynamic solution for face-to-face presentations as well as for web communications. We have a user who says that Freepath makes him feel like the wizard behind the curtain. The ability to pull together different media types then present over the web or in a classroom is very powerful. Adding the ability to share this diverse collection of digital media in the form of a playlist for collaboration or information dissemination makes it that much more compelling!

How do you envision using it in training and webinars?

I see Freepath similar to a toolbox. The user fills up the tool box with instruments used to create. In the Freepath world, these tools take the form of video, documents, websites, and digital files. The trainer has in mind what she would like to create; a message to convey. However, in a dynamic environment such as a classroom or a meeting, questions arise; the direction of discourse changes. The presenter needs to be able to change course on the fly or perhaps repeat a previous point to underline it. Freepath gives the presenter this power and flexibility. In Freepath, there is a prep mode where you drag and drop your media: websites, videos, sound, documents, and slides. The interface has been described as an iTunes-like player. It is intuitive and easy to use…just drag and drop!




The audience is either viewing a second monitor or through a projector in full mode.
As the presenter moves through the presentation, she has the ability to move in a non-linear way if desired. Giving the ability to move between a mash-up of digital media; responding dynamically to the audience and to the content. If the presenter is displaying a website, she has the ability to unlock the screen and select links to dig deeper within the site. The user can manipulate numbers in an excel spreadsheet, add or delete text to a document, then lock the screen to move forward (or backwards) through the presentation.

What is your relation to Freepath? Why do you believe in it?

Freepath has a companion website called myFreepath. It is a place to share, collaborate and discover content. I am the myFreepath Community Manager. As Lou Douros, Freepath co-founder, says, “I am there to protect and promote.” myFreepath user gets 100mb of free storage for their .play files; this is the format of a saved playlist. myFreepath users can invite friends and contacts, create groups that can be private or public and upload and download content. The myFreepath community is growing every day. We are starting to see teachers create groups to share and exchange subject matter, trainers providing best of class information for their constituents, and sales teams exchanging product collateral. The exciting thing for me is to see how people have adopted Freepath and myFreepath into their work flow and communication channels.

Susan, let me give you an example. Say you are pulling together some training material: four PowerPoint slides, a video, some photos you shot on a digital camera, a PDF and a few Word docs. You finished your training session and it was a success; so much so, that some of the attendees expressed an interest in accessing the class data for future reference or perhaps to share it with colleagues.

You export the playlist in Freepath 2.0 into a .play format (all the assets/files are contained there) and upload it to myFreepath. Perhaps you create a group that includes the class attendees. Every person in your group now has access to your playlist - right from their installation of Freepath 2.0. As the creator of the playlist, you have the option to keep the playlist private, only accessible by the members of your group or make it public. myFreepath is place to go to discover content, collaborate with others or to share your content. We will continue to expand the myFreepath experience; there is a lot on the horizon!

We have a Freepath update in the weeks to come with some really cool new features and functionality. Stay tuned!

If you would like to see Freepath in action, check out the 90 second tour: http://www.freepath.com/tour.php

Freepath gives people a new way to present. Pulling a variety of file types into a presentation (movies, PowerPoint slides, websites, PDFs, etc) and then moving between these files in a non-linear, dynamic way really took the idea of presenting to a whole new level for me.

We have a user, a trainer, who likes to say “I’m not cool, but my content is.” This really underlines the strength of Freepath. The linear slide presentation that we have all had to endure in meetings and classrooms is not the only option anymore. The ability to use exciting, vibrant and compelling content in your presentations and classrooms is a reality with Freepath.



In addition to Freepath, we offer users 100mb of free online storage at myFreepath.com. It is a community built around content; sharing, collaborating, discovering. There is a mountain of content out there in different formats. The Freepath community helps push the best content to the top and then make the presentation of that content seamless and flexible.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Premier Student Loans – Making the Grade Affordable

It's often been said that student loans are among the most honest and honorable debts you can incur (along with car loans and home mortgages), because it's a debt that helps provide a better future for you and your family, as opposed to credit cards that merely allow you to spend beyond your means.

Just as every student picks a university and course of study that are tailored to their personality and interests, so too do you need a student loan that fits your needs. Some loans, like Perkins and Stafford loans, are offered as part of a school's financial aid package, which are not just one loan, but are usually comprised of a combination of loans, grants (Pell Grants, for example), scholarships, and work-study programs, but in our current economic climate, with public colleges and universities, financial aid is more and more difficult to come by, even for students with perfect academic records. It is for this reason that private financing exists.

One source of such financing is PremierStudentLoans.com. This site isn't just a portal for loan applications, and it isn't a direct lender, either. Instead, it's a virtual encyclopedia of everything you always wanted to know about student loans, from explanations of what each kind of loan does, and who provides them, to how you can maximize your student's educational dollar by helping them not get into the credit card habit. There's even a section on what happens after college, and how you can help your son or daughter prepare for the inevitable moment when they must begin paying off all the money that was borrowed to cover their education.

Of course, PremierStudentLoans.com also wants to help you find the extra money you need to make sure your child's college experience is as stress free – at least financially – as possible. This is why they also offer a student loan matching service. It works similarly to the way you might request a quote on insurance, with four basic steps:

1. You complete a short, online form that asks for basic information.

2. You confirm that you really want the information, and affirm that it's okay for PremierStudentLoans.com to contact you via email.

3. Your information is transmitted securely, and analyzed to find lenders who offer what you need.

4. You are provided with information so that you can compare offers and contact the lender you select.

Best of all, all of this happens in only a few minutes, and you can do it all from your living room.
Financial aid packages are great, when they're offered, but if you need extra money to cover books and dorm fees, even after the tuition's been paid for, private financing is the way to go. To save time, and find reputable lenders, go to PremierStudentLoans.com. They always make the grade.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Interview with Gary Dietz, Elluminate -- Innovators in E-Learning Series

Welcome to an interview with Gary Dietz of Elluminate, a collaboration tool and platform that allows e-learning and training to bridge learning styles and to bring together diverse learners in effective, synchronous training that can be archived and used asynchronously.

1. What is your name and your relation to Elluminate?

My name is Gary Dietz and I am a Senior Product Manager for Elluminate. I am not the chief cook and bottle washer, but I cook and wash a lot of things.



2. What is Elluminate? What does it do? How does it work? Why do you believe in it?

Elluminate the company is focused on applying Internet technologies to help teachers and students teach and learn effectively, regardless of where they are. Elluminate is best know for Elluminate Live!, our main product.

Elluminate Live! maps the collaboration available in a physical classroom – things like talking, seeing one another, shared writing surfaces, break-out groups, shared web browsing, watching film clips – and delivers those same kind of highly interactive activities to groups of teachers and students regardless of whether they are in the same room, the same town, or a continent away.

Elluminate has other products that are concerned with planning for these live interactions, recording interactive sessions for later on-demand viewing, and for making Elluminate work with other eLearning environments like Blackboard and Moodle. I believe in Elluminate because after working in the real-time collaboration space for about 13 years, I have never seen a for-profit team so dedicated toward meeting the needs of a large swath of public and private educational needs.

3. What is the philosophy of Elluminate?

It sounds kind of corny, but our "No User Left Behind" philosophy really encapsulates what we all do every day in our roles at Elluminate. Yes, we are a for profit entity. However, we have a dedicated team of engineers, support staff, and marketing folks (many of whom have come from academia) listening to, and responding as best we can, to the needs of K-12, university, and corporate educators wherever they are and with whatever abilities they possess. Not only that, but for a small company, we have tremendous support for non-profit activities and organizations with over 100 organizations in our Community Partner Program such as NACOL, CIDER, LINGOs, CILC, and the NSTA. Also, our vRoom program allows free, unlimited use of a full version of Elluminate Live (limited to 3 connections at one time).

4. Who benefits from Elluminate? How? Why?

Students benefit from Elluminate, whether those students are K-12, university, adult, or professional learners. Look, it is easy to say that our product helps everyone who is exposed to it, but I won’t do that. What I will do is say that if you have a learner who is motivated (by themselves or their support system), the Elluminate Learning Suite of products will allow instruction to occur in many places and in many ways that would not have been possible without Elluminate. Do we do that alone? Of course not. But with teachers, administrators, parents, and public servants who realize that education needs to change, together we can learn what works best and implement best practices that bring true collaborative learning to more people in more places in ways equal to or better than traditionally available. And many times, at lower cost.




5. What differentiates Elluminate's products from free video conferencing with, say, Skype?

At the 41,000 foot level, most "real time collaboration" products connect people. How they do it, why they do it, whom they are doing it for, and in what context it is deployed is the difference.

At the top level, here are a few things. The Elluminate Learning Suite was designed with pedagogical tools specific to teachers and learners. Not as a consumer video chat tool (such as Skype, which is a great product and I use too) or a business to business "slideware plus phone" product like many other real-time tools on the market.

And it isn’t just the tools, it is the infrastructure. The Elluminate Learning Suite integrates into the way K-12 and University learning programs are designed – from single login to CMS/LMS centered to being able to handle dozens or hundreds of people in a session. And how the deployments are supported and how PD is provided is a major differentiator for an education focused company like Elluminate.

6. How does Elluminate encourage students and instructors to interact?

Elluminate as a company introduces features and free or for-pay professional development that critically examines best practices on how to use our, and others’, tools in classrooms with various constituencies. So, whether it is our free live or recorded moderator training, our free vRoom program, our free, regional Elluminate Community Conferences for face to face sharing, our Product Advisory Councils, our Centers of Excellence program, or the many free webinars we run every quarter, Elluminate is all about interaction between and amongst professionals and helping them interact better with their students. eLearning tools can be, but needn’t be, cold, monolithic, and inhuman. In fact, working exclusively online with student, teachers, administrators, and community members can, when done correctly, provide interaction that is likely more interactive than even face to face.

Let me use an example. Suppose a learner’s English skills are not as good as some of his or her classmates. By being able to participate online in real time not only are some of the "fear" barriers lowered, but additional channels of text chat, possible second language real-time closed captioning, and the ability to record and review later are available in ways that may not be so easily be made available solely in a brick and mortar classroom.

In my personal experience, groups of people who are too scared to ask questions in a brick and mortar classroom are more than willing and able to ask, via text chat or hand-raising in a virtual session.




7. Where and how does your vision encourage creativity, innovation, and leadership?

Our executive leadership is extraordinarily interested in changing the world through education. This is reflected in the makeup of our team and in our ability to address customer needs in ways that companies of a different size or a different vision would not be able to do. Don’t confuse that with lack of desire to be profitable. We certainly have achieved that and continue to require that. But profitability in this space is not achieved through myopic micromanagement or selling stuff that doesn't solve problems. It is achieved by unleashing people at all levels in the organization to solve small and large customer challenges. Our vision is to change the educational landscape, and we need to both listen to mavericks and lead them as appropriate.

8. Here's an extension of the previous question -- How can Elluminate help rebuild America / the world?

That’s a broad question, and I’ll make it even broader and rephrase a bit. We are an international company and we want to be part of the solution space of the challenges we have in delivering education to young students, engage university students, enhance adult learners opportunities, and bring lifelong learners new opportunities to enrich their lives. We strive to make a difference on a global level, particularly in areas where opportunities for communication, collaboration, and education have been sorely lacking.

Our Fire and Ice initiative demonstrates this quite dramatically. As far as the US is concerned, our focus on accessibility, in particular, addresses the No Child Left Behind initiative in a very powerful way. In fact, in South Carolina, where it’s now mandated that a distance education program contain 25% face-to-face learning, Elluminate has been recognized as meeting that requirement.

Only by distributing instructional excellence in better ways to places it already exists and by bringing instructional excellence to places it has never been will we together make the world a better place.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Interview with Dheeraj Mahtani, Faronics -- E-Learning Innovators Interview Series

Welcome to an interview with Dheeraj Mahtani of Faronics, developers of Insight, a collaborative learning environment which can be used in computer labs or in distributed applications.

1. What is your name and your relation to Faronics?

Dheeraj Mahtani, Marketing Communications Specialist

2. What is Faronics? What does it do? How does it work? Why do you believe in it?



Faronics is a software company that specializes in delivering system control solutions to the education, library, corporate, and government verticals. Our products are designed to help organizations manage, simplify, and secure their computing environments. We were made famous by Deep Freeze, our flagship product that eliminates IT helpdesk requests by making computer configurations indestructible. More recently, we’ve been garnering a significant amount of attention thanks to Power Save, our software solution that provides IT with centralized control of workstation power settings.

3. What is the philosophy of Faronics?

Faronics is driven by a desire to deliver a trouble-free computing experience by solving real world computing problems that threaten user productivity, system integrity, and organizational efficiency.

4. Who benefits from Faronics? How? Why?

Faced with shrinking budgets, educators are being asked to do more with less. Faronics has several solutions that can help.

Insight’s ability to turn standard computer labs into collaborative learning environments has helped teachers become better educators with the tools they already have. Insight allows teachers to assist, monitor, and communicate with an entire class from one central computer. Teachers can share their screen with students, control student access to applications, websites, or peripherals, and monitor classroom activity to ensure students are on task. Students can communicate with the teacher, receive assistance, and respond to class polls right from their computer.



Our award-winning Deep Freeze software eliminates workstation damage and downtime by making computer configurations indestructible. Daily user activity inevitably alters a computer’s configuration to the point where it suffers from system slowdowns and crippled functionality. Deep Freeze prevents this configuration drift from taking place by ensuring any changes made to the computer—regardless of whether they are accidental or malicious—are never permanent. Users can still save their data while the workstation remains protected.



Anti-Executable protects workstations from unwanted software by preventing unauthorized executables from running or installing. Any other programs—whether they are unwanted, unlicensed, or simply unnecessary—are blocked from ever executing. Educators no longer need to worry about students installing games, instant messaging clients, and peer-to-peer file sharing programs on classroom computers.



Power Save uses intelligent power management to ensure workstations are saving energy and money when they are not being used. Our latest version features a new centralized software deployment and management utility and enhanced power consumption and savings reporting. The average return-on-investment for Power Save is a mere four months, and many schools are even receiving Power Save for free thanks to rebates provided by local power authorities.

5. What differentiates Faronics's products from others?

Every Faronics product focuses on delivering absolute control of computing environments—whether it be delivering total workstation reliability to IT, complete classroom control to educators, or intelligent energy management to organizations. By ensuring 100% workstation availability, dependability, and control, our products have freed IT personnel from tedious technical support and software issues.

6. How does Faronics encourage students and instructors to interact? Does Faronics help special needs students, or students with disabilities? How?

Insight enhances the learning experience for students by turning standard computer labs into interactive learning environments. Students are able to request and receive help directly in their workstation session, and appreciate the discretion that the instructor chat feature offers. They can discuss course material and ask questions without leaving their workstations and without disturbing other students. The anonymity that the voting feature provides students allows them to often provide a more accurate answer to questions posed to the class.



With Insight, teachers can easily launch applications and websites on all student workstations from a central teacher console. By blanking student screens, teachers can lock students out of their computers when they should be paying attention, and can monitor multiple student computers through Insight’s thumbnail viewing feature.

7. Where and how does your vision encourage creativity, innovation, and leadership?

As a customer-centric organization, Faronics’ products are researched and developed in close consultation with our end-users. We value our customer’s ideas and suggestions, and depend on this feedback to provide the innovative solutions our users have come to rely on. This approach is the basis for Faronics’ industry-leading customer service strategy, continually working to build and maintain lasting relationships with our users.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Interview with Marina Tognetti, Myngle: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Welcome to an interview with Marina Tognetti, founder of Myngle, an innovative approach to web-based language learning. It incorporates real-tie lessons with native speakers using technologies that are effective and easy to use. Myngle also focuses on culture and the human side of language acquisition. Myngle currently has more than 25,000 registered users from 150 countries, learning nearly 50 different languages.

What is your name and your relation to Myngle?
Marina Tognetti, founder of Myngle.



What is Myngle? What does it do? How does it work? Why do you believe in it?
Myngle is an online global language marketplace that aims to transform language education from traditional offline teaching to an interactive, creative and efficient online process. Moving language education online gives the masses access to real-time lessons with native speakers.

Myngle was born from my own personal need, and I was, in fact, its first customer.
A couple of years ago, I started studying Mandarin, but could not find the right solution. I tried an overly-crowded school, private tuition and CDs, but there was always something missing. I was frustrated that there were thousands of good teachers in China, yet I couldn’t learn Mandarin here in Holland.

Before Myngle, taking in-person lessons meant leaving the comfort of your home, inflexible schedules, crowded group classes or expensive private lessons. Myngle breaks down geographic limitations and allows students to learn any language, anywhere, at anytime, from teachers located in all parts of the world.

Taking live lessons on Myngle is simple:
A student chooses the course and teacher for their needs using Myngle's extensive search algorithm. Once the right course and teacher are found, the student can book a trial first lesson.

Most teachers offer an initial free consultation to assess the level and needs of the student.
The lesson is given through Myngle's virtual classroom, which has all the features needed to give and receive a lesson: whiteboard, file sharing, chat, drawing, writing and VoIP (Skype).



The booking is fully integrated and payment system uses PayPal’s service and is hassle-free.
The student can book lessons one at a time, as package or in subscription form.

Myngle currently has more than 25,000 registered users from 150 countries, learning nearly 50 different languages.

What is the philosophy of Myngle?
First and most important, is our control of the quality of our teachers and of the content our students are taught.

The quality of teachers is controlled at different levels:

Selecting & training teachers: In order for a teacher to be available to students, they must meet minimum criteria and have consulted with one of our senior teachers. We currently have about 2000 teachers who are registered, but only 520 are available for sessions at this time.
Feedback by students: An integrated feedback system features comments and ratings from students. Students assign one to five stars, both for the lesson (content) and teacher (teaching capability).

Certified teachers: The best teachers can become certified, which is noted with a Myngle certification mark. These are teachers who have taught a minimum number of lessons on Myngle, received a minimum four stars out of five, have created their own program and passed a small exam with a Myngle trainer.

Tracking professional behavior: Myngle penalizes users for late cancellations or no-shows in order to foster a respectful and professional environment.

Myngle recognizes the importance of providing our students with good content. We are continuously encouraging teachers to develop and share their content with one another, as well as developing our own content to offer to teachers and partnering with some content providers.


We believe language education should be a demand oriented service where the student is central. If we look at the student this way, we can easily discover new, unsatisfied needs where the online medium can provide a good solution.

We need to be flexible in order to continuously learn and improve. Recent introductions include:

Advanced search/MyngleAdvisor: Allows the student to sort through the long list of offerings and find the right course for their needs

30 min lessons for busy professionals: Makes it easy to fit in a lesson during any break during the day

Subscriptions for full immersion (daily lessons): Delivers maximum results in a short time frame

Resources for students to support learning in the areas of speaking and listening; reading and writing; and vocabulary

At Myngle we understand the importance of both leveraging the internet as well as quality of the education provided, as myself and one of my business partners were previously employed by eBay and two other partners from Berlitz.

Who benefits from Myngle?
Both students and teachers benefit from Myngle.
Students can completely tailor their experience by selecting the teacher and course that best fit their needs; then take lessons from the comfort of their home or office at the time most convenient for them. One of our students, a busy professional, is taking lessons on Myngle while he travels across three continents: Singapore, Portugal and the US.

Teachers can complement their income by doing something as simple as teaching their native language; which is especially timely given the current economic slowdown. A teacher from the Ukraine has given more than 500 lessons. She is now earning 3 times her normal salary on Myngle.

What differentiates Myngle's products from free language lessons available through YouTube or Google video?
We believe that to really learn a foreign language, a student needs the support of a teacher, especially during the beginner and intermediate stages. Having a teacher allows the student to practice, learn from mistakes and receive structured, personalized lessons in the most effective way for their learning style.


How does it differ from language "meet and greet" islands in virtual worlds such as Second Life?
These are excellent opportunities to practice, but we feel that Myngle gives the student the consistency, structure and guidance needed to truly learn a language.


How does Myngle encourage students and instructors to interact? Does Myngle involve virtual worlds?
No, but I should also say ‘not yet’. We do not exclude the step into the virtual world, but we’re currently focusing on getting the base offering right. Our initial emphasis is on the quality of the learning experience and bringing language education to the mass market.



Where and how does your vision encourage creativity, innovation, and leadership? How can Myngle help rebuild our world economies and communities?
Myngle is the next step in e-commerce and gives language education to the world. Also, Myngle is changing the rules of the game, by empowering students and teachers to shape the future of language education.

In regards to the world economies, Myngle can help here in many ways, both on the supply side (teachers) and the demand side (students).

Supply:
Myngle is creating new jobs around the world, including countries where jobs are scarce.
Myngle allows teachers to become ‘entrepreneurs’, therefore less dependent on the wages standard for their geographical location.

Myngle allows everyday people to supplement their income by teaching their native language. For example, university students could support their student budget by offering conversational classes.

Demand:
Students benefit by being able to work with teachers to determine price. Myngle does not have costly infrastructures or overheads that students must contribute to.

Some people are discovering that they can be a teacher and student at the same time – they can earn money while giving lessons in one language, then use the money to learn a new language!
We hope that Myngle will contribute to language education in developing nations

In conclusion, we strive to help people from different cultures communicate, and in turn, better understand each other.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Interview with Martin Bodley, Revolabs: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Welcome to an interview with Martin Bodley, founder of Revolabs, a provider of innovative wireless products for collaboration, many of which can be used in assistive technology for special-needs users. Prior to Revolabs, Martin was CEO and founder of Maestro Inc., a successful OEM development and supplier to major brands such as Motorola and Body Glove. At GNNetcom, Mr. Martin Bodley was responsible for instituting and growing a $70 million wireless product line. Martin is widely recognized as an innovator and expert in wireless technologies, having authored papers and been been issued many patents throughout his career. Assistive technology has been central to Martin's life. As an engineer, Martin has been developing various products such as wireless assistive technology for 15 years.





We were most impressed with Martin Bodley and Revolabs for its pro-active, effective, and compassionate stance toward special-needs users and assistive technology. Social responsibility should be a cornerstone of all e-learning technologies and philosophies. Developing assistive technologies and providing them in an affordable way is, in this blogger's mind, heroic and worthy of emulation. It is encouraging to see leadership in assistive technologies, and a commitment to pushing forward and providing innovative solutions, despite uncertainty.


1. What is Revolabs? What does it do? How does it work? Why do you believe in it?
Revolabs is a developer of innovative wireless products for collaboration. Revolabs products are designed to improve the way that professionals and educators communicate by improving the audio by putting microphones where people need them so that you can hear every word. I believe in the company because good communication is critical to all facets of life, especially as technology enables us to expand our reach globally.

2. What is the philosophy of Revolabs?
The philosophy of Revolabs is to solve communication problems with innovative technology. The product philosophy is to utilize wireless technology and bring the microphone system to where people are speaking, instead of having people adapt to speak near the microphone.



3. Who benefits from Revolabs? How? Why?
Anyone collaborating with another person and having trouble hearing the other person, or being heard by the other person, could benefit from a Revolabs Wireless Microphone System. In the case of Telemate, he has trouble hearing people who are in the room and our microphones have helped him. However, this is not our typical application. Typically, our Wireless Microphones are used on conference calls or video conferences in a business setting, or in a classroom for Distance Education. The anticipated economy and efficiency of conference calls/distance education is erased when the participants can’t understand what’s being said, especially as one walks to the board to present.

4. What differentiates Revolabs's products from other products for networks or labs? What are some innovative uses?

Revolabs Wireless Microphone Systems have many differentiators.

1. Wireless: The entire family of Revolabs Wireless Microphones are designed to provide natural mobility and meeting dynamics.

2. Environmentally-friendly: The batteries in the Revolabs Microphones are rechargeable, so they do not need to be replaced after each use.

3. Easy-to-Use: The Revolabs Microphones all have Mute buttons and do not require specific software to operate.

4. Secure: Privacy is a major consideration today and the Revolabs Microphones use a 128-bit encryption scheme to eliminate the risk of eavesdropping.
Telemate’s use of the Revolabs Wireless Microphone System is a very innovative one. Revolabs has several medical simulation laboratories who record teaching sessions in the labs. Teachers use the Revolabs USB Wireless Microphone for podcasting and distance learning. Additionally, medical personnel use the same microphone for dictation into speech recognition software programs. Revolabs Wireless Microphones are used from the corporate board room to the home PC with someone using a Skype phone.

5. How does Revolabs encourage students and instructors to interact? Does Revolab help facilitate inclusion and learning for multiple learning preferences, variations of cognitive ability, and physical abilities?
By allowing students and teachers to hear each other more clearly, Revolabs assists students and teachers in local and long-distance discussions. Students with hearing disabilities, like Telemate, can participate fully in the classroom and the non-classroom learning situations. The Revolabs Wireless Microphones remove the artificial “speak into the microphone embedded in the table” meeting dynamic and allows the students and teachers to interact more naturally.



6. Where and how does your vision encourage creativity, innovation, and leadership?
The vision of Revolabs is to remove technological obstacles to clear and direct communication, even if all of the participants are not in the same room. Allowing a natural mobility and providing great audio enables meeting participants to be more creative and collaborate more effectively.

7. Here's an extension of the previous question -- How can Revolabs help rebuild our world economies and communities?
Revolabs helps people communicate more clearly. This is a huge benefit in a global economy. The future also depends on becoming more environmentally concerned. Revolabs Microphones work well with teleconferencing and video-conferencing, both of which reduce the need for people to travel, ultimately reducing transportation emissions. This will help build a stronger world.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Interviews with E-Learning Innovators: Jeff Marshall, Brightstorm

Today's interview is with Jeff Marshall, Brightstorm, an innovator in developing an online learning network featuring high-quality Web-based video courses. The E-Learning Queen Innovators in E-Learning series seeks to acknowledge e-learning innovators committed to new approaches to learning using online and mobile technologies, as well as new applications, infrastructure, hardware, and methodologies.

What is your name and your relation to Brightstorm?

Jeff Marshall, co-founder and CEO of Brightstorm

What is Brightstorm? What does it do? How does it work? Why do you believe in it?
Brightstorm is an online learning network for teens that features Web-based video courses taught by handpicked teachers from across the country. Brightstorm courses cover core topics including math, writing, history, as well as AP/SAT prep. Courses are supplemented by interactive quizzes and bonus materials such as practice problems and study guides, allowing teens to reach their full learning potential. To access the courses, teens and their parents can visit our Web site (www.brightstorm.com), preview courses and teachers and then purchase yearlong subscriptions for $49/course.

Brightstorm’s mission is to help parents, teens and teachers create a vibrant and vital community for great learning and communication around education by leveraging the technologies that are available today. We believe that great learning starts with great teachers, so we’ve assembled the most talented and dynamic teachers to develop our courses. It our goal to reach millions of teens so that more of them will be able to experience those A-Ha! learning moments where concepts finally make sense. We believe this can happen because we’re a team of educators & technologists with classroom experience who have experienced these moments firsthand and believe in the power of great teachers who can now make an even greater impact on more students.


What is the philosophy of Brightstorm?
Brightstorm’s philosophy is that great learning comes from great teaching and great teaching should be both rewarded and made available to learners everywhere, at any time.

Who benefits from Brightstorm? How? Why?
Teens, Parents and Teachers
For a student who maybe just didn’t fully understand the way their own classroom teacher taught or needs concepts explained in a different way, Brightstorm provides an approachable and fun way to learn. Brightstorm’s teachers highlight key topics a student needs to know, breaking apart tough concepts into step-by-step instructions and frequently providing a different perspective. Teens are able to choose teachers whose style works for them and revisit lessons at their own convenience. Brightstorm teaches the way teens want to learn, so that they can be successful in school and get better scores on college entrance exams.

Brightstorm allows parents to take a more active role in their teens’ education. By purchasing a Brightstorm course for their learner, parents can feel confident that their teens are learning from the best and are proactively furthering their educational goals. With Brightstorm, parents can become more active participants in their teens’ education.

Brightstorm offers teachers a new medium that allows them to reach millions of teens beyond their physical classrooms. Moreover, Brightstorm teachers are invited to participate in the company’s revenue-sharing program.




What differentiates Brightstorm's products from free video lessons available through YouTube or Google video?
At Brightstorm, parents and learners can find high quality teaching to meet their learning needs. Brightstorm offers high-quality, original content developed, produced and taught by teachers who have been vetted and hand-selected on the basis of their excellent credentials and engaging personalities. The company was founded by a group of e-learning experts who want to provide teens and parents with access to better supplemental education options and also properly reward great teachers.

How does Brightstorm encourage students and instructors to interact?
Brightstorm allows students to rate teachers and provide them with valuable feedback so that they can better their courses and continue to provide great content and engaging material to learners. We believe that this digital medium will help bring together students in a different way than they’re used and we hope to develop future product enhancements to make it easier for students and teachers to interact and further encourage a creative and engaging learning environment.



Where and how does your vision encourage creativity, innovation, and leadership?
Brightstorm’s learning network creates opportunities for teachers and learners to innovate, create and lead in groundbreaking ways. Our hand picked teachers, in partnership with Brightstorm’s e-learning experts, leverage their years of teaching experience to create original, cutting-edge learning experiences. Brightstorm teachers lead the way in designing the most innovative ways for teens to learn in a digital medium.

Learners also now have a platform to demonstrate their creativity through Brightstorm’s Challenges. With Challenges, learners can create digital media that demonstrates their deep engagement with the subject matter taught in Brightstorm courses.

Brightstorm’s goal is to continue to create the best learning experiences in the market. To achieve that goal, we will continue to leverage the vast amounts of creativity and innovation that resides within our learning network of teachers, learners and parents.

Here's an extension of the previous question -- How can Brightstorm help rebuild America?
The American Dream is about opportunity. We all believe that when people are given the opportunity to succeed, they will work wonders.

Brightstorm gives people more opportunity to succeed. No longer must great teachers’ gifts remain confined to their classrooms—now tens of millions of learners can benefit from the best teaching in the world. No longer must great teachers labor in relative obscurity—now they can be recognized and rewarded for their talents. And no longer must learners and their parents struggle to find high quality extra help to do better in school and on exams—now, with Brightstorm, effective, affordable learning is a few clicks away.

At Brightstorm we think every day about the vast amount of untapped potential that lives within learners and teachers. By connecting every learner with the best teachers in the world, we hope to release that potential. Will this help “rebuild America?” I’m not sure—but it will certainly help more people to realize the American dream.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rebuilding U.S. and World Economies: Science/Tech Education, Energy, Infrastructure

Transforming ourselves and our world requires us to aggressively explore new approaches to energy, infrastructure, and education. E-Learning Queen would like to acknowledge the sponsors of innovative products, services, and ideas. It requires a certain amount of courage to propose new ways of doing things, and to believe that positive change is, in fact, possible. The following companies and organizations are offering innovative products and services that take advantage of e-learning, and new web technologies.

Corgi Tail Wags -- Acknowledging Effort and Innovation to Build Our World



EDUCATION: Building Basic Skills for Future Scientists and Engineers

BRIGHTSTORM:
Brightstorm believes that great learning starts with great teaching, and is incorporating innovative video learning with real teachers. In addition to core topics for high school, Brightstorm encourages social networking and e-portfolio creation. http://www.brightstorm.com

NEULIO: Neulio's hosted platform and patented structure allow one to easily publish multi-part, multi-format content online. Neulio’s easy-to-deploy platform makes it easy to develop and offer online training, marketing, customer support and how-to instruction in a Web 2.0 environment. http://www.neulio.com

NFOMEDIA: One of the most intuitive learning management systems around. Instructors can have a course up and running in about an hour. Web 2.0 interactivity inspires creative teaching and learning. Mashups and other customized applications can be incorporated. http://www.nfomedia.com

ELLUMINATE: Elluminate’s unique web conferencing and interactive platform enables individuals to create high-quality learning synchronous environments. The live events can be archived for ongoing access. Elluminate Live! features high-quality voice and video over the Internet, robust interactive functionality, and unique No User Left Behind™ technology that supports multiple platforms and low-bandwidth connectivity. http://www.elluminate.com

VIDEOKAST: Provides the expertise to help one complete projects that require specialized insight into the strategies and tactics of web-based business content hosting and distribution. Bill Hornbeck guides individuals and helps them create live executive webcasts or OnDemand links to both audio and streaming video presentations. -- www.videokast.com

WEBINAR SUCCESS: Webinar Success (www.wsuccess.com) assists companies in all phases of web seminar preparation, delivery, and follow-up. Services include webinar coordination and production, promotion and marketing, presenter training, on-air moderating, and creation of on-demand lead generation presentations. Webinar Success is headquartered in North Carolina with services conducted via remote communications throughout North America.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

SRE: Standard Renewable Energy can review and make recommendations to apply alternative energy to remote field locations, and to incorporate solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems, residential wind turbines and geothermal energy systems. Standard was formed in 2006 to provide solutions that make energy efficiency technologies and renewable energy easy to use. A leading renewable energy company, Standard provides a comprehensive energy solution for residential and light commercial customers, which can include remote field operations. Technology and vendor agnostic, Standard provides the best of breed in products and services across the renewable energy industry. http://www.sre3.com


ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

MAVERICK SOLUTIONS: Focuses on low-impact drilling. Recycling / reusing water; protecting soil, groundwater, surface water. http://www.mavsol.net

BAKER PETROLITE: Baker Petrolite is a world leader in providing specialty chemical service programs to the global hydrocarbon recovery and processing industries. A division of Baker Hughes Incorporated, Baker Petrolite expert technology & service teams help producers create optimized service programs to control production issues such as hydrates, corrosion, paraffin, and scale.

CROWN GEOCHEMISTRY: Monitors of mud gas chemistry while drilling in oil and gas exploration efforts. Provides the FIT ™ DQ1000 Divining Quad ™ Mass Spectrometer. We have operated in nine different shale plays and several non-shale plays, and can provide analysis of hydrocarbons through C10, positive show identification in oil based mud, measurement of mud chemistry including Helium, Hydrogen, Sulfur Compounds, and Atmospherics (N, O, Ar, H2O), and analytical inferences related to porosity, permeability, and compartmentalization. For more information visit www.crowngeochemistry.com.


ENERGY & INFRASTRUCTURE (Environmentally Friendly) Finding Oil and Gas Left Behind in Old Fields

NUTECH NuTech Energy Alliance Ltd. provides advanced petrophysical, geological and engineering solutions to oil & gas companies worldwide while using proprietary software and modeling processes to offer the following product lines: NuLook™, NuStim™, NuView™. Nutech has evaluated over 25,000 wells while working for more than 450 oil & gas companies worldwide. No two formations are exactly alike. NuTech’s massive database of existing wells can pinpoint sweet spots and pay zones by contrasting hundreds, if not thousands of similar formations. Possesses an active database and the experience of evaluating 25,000 wells. http://www.nutechenergy.com

GAMLS (Geologic Analysis via Maximum Likelihood System) is a PC-based package that permits integration of core and log data followed by probabilistic clustering for defining flow units, identifying lithologies, and determining porosity, permeability, water saturation, and pay. Multi-well clustering forms the basis for correlations and development of geologic models. GAMLS is particularly useful for mineralogically complex or unconventional reservoirs (such as gas shales …). Also, GAMLS is often useful for generating missing data in old fields. Modules exist for velocity and pore-pressure modeling, upscaling, and seismic recalibration. For information on licensing or service work, see: ericgeoscience.com or email: e.eslinger@gmail.com

GRAILQUEST: Responding to an unfulfilled need in the oil patch, GrailQuest introduces ReservoirGrail, a revolutionary technology, to identify the amount and location of remaining hydrocarbons in your reservoirs. ReservoirGrail is designed to work on easily obtainable data to provide results in minutes. http://www.grailquestcorp.com/


Optimizing Production: Mobile Technologies, Green Energy

BJ SERVICES: BJ Services Company is a leading provider of pressure pumping and other oilfield services serving the petroleum industry worldwide. The Company’s pressure pumping services consist of cementing and stimulation services used in the completion of new oil and natural gas wells and in remedial work on existing wells, both onshore and offshore. Stimulation services contribute the majority of company-wide revenues and comprise fracturing, acidizing, sand control, nitrogen, coiled tubing and downhole service tools. Other oilfield services include completion tools, completion fluids, and casing and tubular services provided to the oil and natural gas exploration and production industry; commissioning and inspection services to refineries, pipelines and offshore platforms and production chemical services.
http://www.bjservices.com.

SEISMIC VENTURES: Seismic Ventures was founded in January, 1994 by one of the top technical teams in the seismic processing industry. It is a source of great company pride that all members of the founding geophysical staff are still employed with Seismic Ventures. The company was established with a philosophy of innovation, adaptability and integrity. The acceptance of our innovative technologies by the marketplace and our reputation for both scientific and operational integrity capture the principles upon which the company was founded, and continues to be the basis of our success. Seismic Ventures is a privately-owned Texas Corporation with strong community ties to the Houston Metropolitan area and Ft. Bend County . http://www.seismicventures.com

AKER: PowerTrac® Advance™ (PTA) wireline tractor. The PTA is used for conveyance of tool-strings in highly deviated wells. In addition, the PTA Tools perform operations which previously required costly coiled tubing operations, such as milling and removal of scale, cleaning of seal bores and manipulation of sleeves and milling of defect plugs and valves. http://www.akersolutions.com/wellservice.

BAIRD: Baird Petrophysical is known by many drillers as THE DRILLER’S GEOPHYSICIST. Since 1978, Baird has satisfied engineers by its attention to detail and its experienced based geological and geophysical approach to well planning. www.bairdpetro.com

Green Country Chemicals provides a complete line of chemical products for oil field and pipeline corrosion control. Our product line includes Corrosion Inhibitors, Scale Inhibitors, Paraffin Solvents, Emulsion Breakers, Hydrogen Sulfide Scavengers, and other specialty products. Our group of "Operator Qualified" problem-solving professionals are dedicated to excellence in service and technology. Our Tank-n-Hut field storage tanks help protect the environment by preventing accidental chemical spills and our Solar Powered Chemical Pumps help reduce gas emissions. GCS Chemical Headquarters are in Oklahoma City with field offices and stock points in Oklahoma & Texas. http://www.gcchemical.com/


Increasing Communication Efficiencies

ROPER Rugged Laptops Roper Mobile Technology has a full line of Windows XP, CE or Mobile 6 handheld/tablet computers that not only simplify your business but save you time and money by keeping accurate field data stored until you choose to download that data later. No hand written documentation will need to be transcribed back in the office. http://www.ropermobile.com/

GEOTRACE: Tigress and PUMA are two of the lead programs, which assist individuals in the optimization of oil and gas production and exploration risk management. Based in Houston, Texas, Geotrace's customers include international, domestic, foreign national and independent oil and gas producers throughout the world. For more information on Geotrace, visit www.geotrace.com

SENSORTRAN: SensorTran’s intelligent DTS monitoring solutions provide real-time dynamic temperature data with high accuracy, fine resolution, and fast measurement speeds. They provide up to 40,000 discrete temperature measurement points along the complete length of optical fiber(s). DTS solutions offer an affordable, proven and reliable solution for a multitude of monitoring applications where distributed temperature information provides an invaluable insight into the condition of an asset or process. They provide for advanced warning of anomalous, local temperature events which allows for preventative action and planned maintenance as well as the optimization of processes. http://www.sensortran.com


And a final tail-wag and special nod from Dottie, the Jack Russell. Great job!!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Interviews with E-Learning Innovators: George Colombo, Neulio

Welcome to E-Learning Queen's expanded interview series, now with e-learning innovators who are committed to new approaches to learning using online and mobile technologies, as well as new applications, infrastructure, hardware, and methodologies. Today's interview is with George Colombo, an e-learning innovator and founder of Neulio, which uses a new approach for developing and distributing video training and education.

What is your name and your relation to Neulio?

My name is George Colombo. I’m the founder of Neulio.

What is Neulio? What does it do? How does it work?

We provide a unique hosted platform that allows organizations to publish Web 2.0 media designed to deliver business results. We call it Structured Social Media™. Simply put, it’s what YouTube might look like if it were built for business rather than entertainment.

There are a few things that make Neulio unique:

Rather than just posting a single video file, we all users to create volumes that are comprised of multiple chapters. This allows you to create content that’s delivered sequentially which makes the communication/education process more effective. (If you think about it, just about everything you’ve ever learned has been through the delivery of sequential pieces of information, each piece building on the last.) It also makes it easier for your customers and/or employees to find specific information they might want to review.
Neulio lets you create chapters with different types of media files. In addition to video files, we let you publish audio files and PowerPoint presentations and we allow you to use these different files types within the same volume. This allows you to easily repurpose existing content. It also lets you pick the medium that’s best suited to a particular element of your message.
Neulio offers something we call gates. These are controls that you can insert between chapters. The types of gates we currently offer are passwords, quizzes, and payments. (Yes, that means that Neulio lets you charge for your content if you want.)


Users can use the Neulio platform for free at learningcommunities.neulio.com. This is a YouTube-like, open-to-the-public site. If users want to share their content in an environment and setting over which they have more control, they can use our subscription-based service.

Why do you believe in it?

Large corporations have long been able to publish their media content,but it’s always been an expensive process that required technical resources. YouTube made media publishing more widely available, but it didn’t offer serious users the control they wanted. I believe that we’ve achieved the right balance between accessibility on one hand and professionalism and control on the other.

If a company has a large IT staff, huge budget, and plenty of time, they could certainly replicate Neulio’s functionality. The history of the technology industry is filled with companies that have democratized important functionality, i.e. made previously unattainable applications available to the masses. Spreadsheets, desktop publishing, accounting applications, and web publishing are all examples of that dynamic. We believe that Neulio is perfectly positioned to apply that same model to social media publishing.

What is the philosophy of Neulio?

We have a few foundational principles that inform everything we do. One is that our unique, multi-part structure is an important differentiator. It’s not for nothing that the convention of dividing books into chapters has endured for centuries. There’s a lot of information that’s just more useful when it’s conveyed in sequential chunks.

The other important principle is that tools need to be easy to use. Our platform makes publishing sophisticated, multi-part content just about as easy as posting a video on YouTube. In fact, the process we created that allows regular users to publish this type of content is so central to our value proposition for our customers that we’ve patented it.
What do you see as the future of video training?

There are a couple of things to consider here. The first is that tools like Neulio and YouTube, along with inexpensive, easy-to-use video editing software make customized video training a viable option for small and medium-sized business that just a short time ago couldn’t have considered it. Deployment costs drop dramatically as a result. More importantly, capturing and deploying very specific, best practices content suddenly becomes affordable and practical.

Neulio's Composer makes creating multi-part volumes as easy as posting a video to YouTube.

The other dynamic at work is the fact that in situations where in-person training is required, online video training can be deployed in conjunction with in-person interaction. In fact, if certain material can be deployed as pre-training or post-training material delivered online, on-demand, then the level of the in-person interaction can be much higher and more effective.

Who will use video training? Where will it be distributed?

The short but substantially correct answer to the first part of your question is “Everyone.” As the costs for both the production and the distribution of video training content go down, it will evolve into a medium that is pervasive and ubiquitous.

As for distribution, the web is in the process of displacing virtually every other distribution mechanism out there. CDs and DVDs will soon be as anachronistic as 8-track tapes and vinyl records. The advantages of web-based distribution are enormous. The only real issue is how to make sure that the infrastructure is adequate to meet the exponentially growing demand of the marketplace.

How will it be publicized? ( * I assumed that the “it” in this question was “video training,” not “Neulio.”)

This is one of the interesting aspects of social media, as opposed to straightforward media publishing, is that the most important elements of propagation are built right in to the application. Think about most of the YouTube videos you’ve ever seen. If you’re like most people, you didn’t find videos by navigating to YouTube and searching around the site. You found them when someone you know forwarded a link to you.

Sharing is a Web 2.0 convention that facilitates the distribution of content to the specific people who need it or would appreciate it. Harnessing Web 2.0 functionality like that was one of our objectives in designing Neulio.

Where do you see video training 18 months from now?

We are at the very beginning of a long-term trend that will be pervasive and irresistible. The cost advantages of video training are overwhelming and the functionality that we can wrap around video on the web is determinative. In 18 months, we’ll have progressed significantly down the road but we’ll still be very close to the beginning of the long-term process. At the end of the process, “video training” and “training” will be virtually synonymous; in-person training will be reserved for very specialized, very high-end circumstances.

Where and how does video training provide value in a recession? How does it facilitate recovery?

In a recession, video training represents the easiest, fastest, least expensive way to get an organization adequately trained. And in a highly competitive business environment, solid training can be a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Training means that your employees work smarter. It means that your customers receive a higher level of service. It means that fewer mistakes are made, so that employees can spend more time working on new projects instead of fixing old ones. The problem is that, when times are tight, cutting the training budget is a common way to lower expenses. Video training allows organizations to deliver better training. It lets them leverage the cost of training dramatically and to enhance the learning outcomes. It’s a significant solution for organizations that want to actually enhance results while lowering costs.

Neulio has built-in editing tools that allow users to customize the way a Neulio site looks.

Here's an extension of the previous question -- How can we use video training to rebuild America?

I am a big believer in the importance of making information available to the people who need it and video training is an important part of that process. We are clearly embarking on a time when entirely new sets of skills will be needed in the workplace as new industries emerge. The wholesale re-creation of our energy industry that is likely to occur over the next couple of decades is a great example. Video training will allow large numbers of individuals to acquire the skills and information they need to fully participate in the new, emerging economy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Corporate Raiders and E-Learning: Fending Off a Potential Threat

Corporate raiders not seen since the 1980s could re-emerge and prey upon e-learning providers. Companies whose stock prices have dropped precipitously, but which hold cash, contracts, patents, or other tangible resources that represent solid present values could be affected. It is time for the healthy companies to look within, and use this as a time to aggressively invest, diversify, and acquire assets. Avoid vulnerability. Ironically, the strategies that helped web-based learning companies survive during the dot.com collapse will almost assuredly lead to disaster in today's time, if stock prices stay too low, and companies take a "cash is king" approach. Some of the companies that have most successfully come to dominate the market could be the most vulnerable.

Podcast: http://www.beyondutopia.net/podcasts/raiders.mp3

Evidence that such things are happening already is starting to trickle forth, not from e-learning companies (not yet), but from Hollywood, where Carl Icahn acquired a significant block of Lionsgate stock when corporate executives had to sell due to margin calls. The acquisition put him at owning a 9.2% stake in the company. For those who are uncomfortable with vulture tactics, there may be some consolation in the fact that Lionsgate is not cash-rich, but it is a film-only company, and is not vertically integrated. It does not own its own distribution company. Some say that Lionsgate will be attractive to a company that owns distribution networks.

One can use the same model with e-learning content providers. They will be attractive candidates for companies that own distribution channels.

Characteristics of a Raider-Vulnerable Company

*Cash or cash equivalent reserves
*Contracts to provide services (military, government agencies, universities, corporations, solid not-for-profits)
*Low operating costs
*Low debt
*Lots of free-trading stock
*Ability to vertically integrate to increase sales / cash flow
*CEO or major shareholder margin call (or distress sale of position due to over-leveraged position, etc.) - destabilizes stock price, makes blocks available

Successful E-Learning Companies that Could be Targeted:

Learning Management Systems: (providers of solutions such as Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Angel, Moodle)

Databases and Content Management Systems: (Eedo, Sun Microsystems, Oracle)

Course Content Providers: ECollege-type companies, Skillsoft-type training content providers

Digital Assets / Data Repositories / Virtual Libraries: (EBSCO, LexisNexis, Gale, Proquest)

Infrastructure providers: (Akamai, etc)

Major Software Packages Used by Companies: (Adobe, Microsoft, Techsmith, WebEx, SourceForge, Trivantis)

Digital Content Vendors and Providers: (Apple, Amazon)

Publicly-traded Education Providers with Large Contracts with Government, etc. (Colleges and Technical Schools)

Final (rather morbid) note: First, the bears had a few snacks as people got caught in "bear traps." Now the jackals are running in packs, anticipating a feast ... a global feast...

In the words of Joe Biden, "Gird your loins!" http://www.slate.com/id/2202769/

Useful Websites:

What Is a Corporate Raider? http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-corporate-raider.htm

The Hottest Investor in America: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/06/11/100060832/index.htm Article about Carl Icahn, who now portrays himself as a billionaire Robin Hood

A Raider at the Lionsgate? http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/film/news/e3ib59b5b9afcb9854b1a82af30c0dabf64?pn=1 Article about Carl Icahn's acquisition of Lionsgate stock (result of distressed CEO sale ... margin call casualty?)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Private Equity and E-Learning: What Gets Funded in Turbulent Economic Times?

Despite what one might expect, private equity funding has not dried up for developers of applications, platforms, and infrastructure for e-learning, mobile learning, and other web techology products. In general, the type of funding and the kinds of projects receiving funding have changed. In general, the funding falls into general categoies (listed below). Here are a few examples of funding announced after October 20, 2008.

Cheaper alternatives for "must-haves" such as textbooks, learning management systems (Brightstorm's new LMS, Flat World Knowledge's open source textbooks, HowCast.com's instructional videos)

Sales-boosting software (Shopit.com, AdMob mobile advertising marketplace)

Efficiency-boosting software and hardware (Acerno's online shopping aggregator)

Bargain business units (VBrick's networked video solutions)

Bargain inventory of material to sell (Jupitermedia's online images, Ray Flame's gaming solutions)

Extremely useful mobile applications (BlackBerry's JumpStart program for useful applications)

Social networking that helps individuals get ahead (LinkedIn.com's professional networking platform, mail.com's portals)

Podcast: http://www.beyondutopia.net/podcasts/capital-october2008.mp3

Funding Details

Brightstorm, a San Francisco-based online learning network for teens, has raised $6 million in Series A funding from KTB Ventures. On October 20, Brightstorm launched a new online learning network for teens that offers video-based courses designed and taught by expert classroom teachers from across the U.S. The company also announced that it has secured $6M in Series A financing from KTB.
http://www.pehub.com/21198/brightstorm-raises-6-million-series-a/

Flat World Knowledge, a publisher of open-source college textbooks, today announced the completion of a $700,000 funding round, bringing total funding to date to $1.4 million. The new funding was provided by several independent angel investors, among whom included media executives, educators, authors and technology entrepreneurs. The company expects to conclude a larger Series A round from venture investors and/or strategic partners within the next six months. “We're pleased to complete this funding round under favorable terms, especially in light of the uncertain economic environment,” said Jeff Shelstad, co-founder and chief executive officer of Flat World Knowledge. “Our investors recognize that higher education is one of the few markets that actually benefits from recessionary economic environments. Our unique business model of selling high quality, low cost, open source textbooks is ideally suited to price-conscious students and educators.” www.flatworldknowledge.com

LinkedIn, a San Francisco-based operator of a professional networking platform, has raised $22.7 million in additional Series D funding. It had previously held a $53 million first close at a valuation of just over $1 billion. The new tranche came from Goldman Sachs, McGraw-Hill Cos., SAP Ventures and return backer Bessemer Venture Partners. The original tranche had been led by Bain Capital Ventures. LinkedIn Corporation today announced that it has secured $22.7 million in new funding from world-leading strategic investors Goldman Sachs; The McGraw-Hill Companies; and SAP Ventures, a division of SAP AG; as well as a re-investment by Bessemer Venture Partners. This financing is a follow on of the Series D fundraising round LinkedIn announced in June of 2008, in which the company raised $53 million in funding led by Bain Capital Ventures. The valuation for the Series D was just over 1 billion dollars for the $75.7 million raised. Over 30 million professionals use LinkedIn to solve business problems, manage their professional relationships and control their professional identities online. LinkedIn members represent more than 170 industries, 150 countries, and include executives from all of the Fortune 500 companies. LinkedIn is currently growing at a rate of half a million new members a week. Members experience the benefits of the purpose-driven network by finding new ways to interact and do business. While standard LinkedIn accounts are free, the company earns revenue through advertising, premium subscriptions, corporate solutions, and job listings. LinkedIn recently added a new line of revenue with LinkedIn Surveys.
http://www.pehub.com/21338/linkedin-raises-additional-227-million/

Jupitermedia Corp. (Nasdaq: JUPM) has agreed to sell its online images business to Getty Images Inc. for $96 million in cash. Hellman & Friedman took Getty private earlier this year for $2.3 billion. Jupitermedia Corporation (Nasdaq: JUPM) (“Jupitermedia”) announced today that it has entered into a definitive stock purchase agreement to sell its Online Images business to Getty Images, Inc. for an aggregate purchase price of $96 million in cash. Under the terms of and subject to the conditions set forth in the stock purchase agreement, Jupitermedia has agreed to sell all of the outstanding capital stock of Jupiterimages Corporation (“Jupiterimages”), an Arizona corporation and a wholly owned subsidiary, to Getty Images, Inc.
http://www.pehub.com/21502/getty-buys-jupitermedias-online-images-biz/

Akamai Technologies (Nasdaq: AKAM) has agreed to acquire Acerno, an aggregator of online shopping and purchase data for advertisers, from i-Behavior. The deal is valued at approximately $95 million in cash. I-Behavior will continue to run its offline marketing business, and has raised over $8 million in VC funding from firms like JEGI Capital, Angel Investors LP, Morningside Ventures and Stockton Ventures.
http://www.pehub.com/21186/akamai-buying-acerno-for-95-million/

AdMob, a San Mateo, Calif.-based mobile advertising marketplace, has raised $15.7 million in Series C funding. Sequoia Capital’s Growth Fund led the round, and was joined by Accel Partners. The company had previously raised $18.6 million from Accel and Sequoia.
“Today AdMob reaches more consumers on their mobile phones through our publisher network than any of the major Internet portals or search services, and this is just the beginning,” said Omar Hamoui, Founder and CEO, AdMob. “We chose to raise this new round of funding to continue to grow both the mobile advertising market and AdMob’s clear advantage in it by investing in the technology, operations and team that have set the bar for the mobile industry.”
http://www.pehub.com/21178/admob-raises-157-million/

Mail.com Media Corp., an El Segundo, Calif.-based operator of digital media portals, has raised $35 million in Series D funding at a pre-money valuation of approximately $109 million. Quadrangle Capital Partners, an affiliate of Quadrangle Group, led the round, and was joined by WI Harper Group and Novel TMT Ventures. Mail.com provides free web-based email services to over two million users, and has the exclusive ability to offer over 400 specialty email addresses like yourname@lawyer.com. The Mail.com portal is a content distribution platform that partners with leading content publishers. The company also operates a series of leading vertical content destination sites such as HollywoodLife and OnCars.com. Founded in the late-1990s, Mail.com was re-launched by founder and current CEO Jay Penske in May of 2007.
http://www.pehub.com/21105/mailcom-raises-35-million/

VBrick, a Wallingford, Connecticut based developer of online networked based video solutions has raised $10.4 million out of the planned $15.7 million in Series F from Adams Capital Management, Menlo Ventures, Morgan Stanley Venture Partners, Redshift Ventures and Two River Associates. This takes the total funding raised till now to $50 million since 1999.
http://startup.wirememe.com/vbrick-raises-104-million-for-network-video-streaming/

Shopit, a social shopping service that works with popular social networks and e-commerce sites, announced today that it raised $2.5 million in Series B funding from Emerson Ventures and Propulsion Ventures. The company wants to raise a total of $7 million before it closes the round. Shopit harnesses the popularity of social networks to entice sellers to use its service. After creating a store on Shopit's site, sellers can direct potential customers to their Shopit profile to buy their goods or post their store's widget anywhere on the Web. More importantly, Shopit stores can be integrated into social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and Hi5, along with sites like Craigslist and Amazon. Once the customer buys a product, Shopit's e-commerce platform provides identity management features and shipping solutions to streamline the post-purchase process. http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10073749-2.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Webware

HowCast Media, a New York based video startup focused on instructional videos, has raised $2 million in first round of funding from private individuals in the media industry. The deal takes the first round total to $10 million with participation of Tudor Investment. Howcast has a huge inventory of how-to video categorized into different sections such as pets, parenting, fitness and food.
http://startup.wirememe.com/howcast-raises-2-million-for-how-to-videos/

Blackberry Partners Fund has awarded $150,000 prizes to three makers of applications designed to work on the BlackBerry handheld.
# Multiplied Media’s Poynt search service, which uses GPS to connect users with local businesses
# Strands’ Social Player, a social-networking music player that connects users and recommends songs based on their tastes, soon to be released
# Nobex Technologies’ Radio Companion, an app that tells users what’s playing on 2,700 radio stations and gives them the ability to buy the songs.
http://venturebeat.com/2008/10/24/blackberry-awards-150k-to-three-mobile-apps/

Blackberry's JumpStart Financing Initiative Continues
Get the jump on the competition and start working with the BlackBerry Partners Fund™ to launch your company. The Jump Start initiative is designed to help you focus on developing your Smartphone application and getting it to launch stage – often the most critical time for a young start-up company. We have made it really easy. If we like your concept, the BlackBerry Partners Fund™ may provide up to CAD $250,000 of seed capital to your company in the form of a Convertible Debenture. This provides you with the capital to get started and prove out your concept before raising larger amounts of equity from venture capital firms.
http://www.blackberrypartnersfund.com/jumpstart

Ray Flame Entertainment Inc., a Cypress, Calif.-based MMO gaming startup, has raised $800,000 in Series A funding led by InnoBridge Ventures, according to a regulatory filing. http://lord.webmmo.com

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