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 (, 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.

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