Monday, November 22, 2010

Interview with Josh Blank, OpenSesame: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Empowering elearning instructors and designers is a key element of making education widely available. While mentoring and tutoring sites are available through virtual worlds such as SecondLife, and many webinar platforms are available. However, packaging and marketing elearning courses is a different matter, and a place of great opportunity. Further, it may offer colleges and universities, both hybrid and online, an opportunity to share courses in an effective way. Hypothetically, the developer of a course, Anglo-American Folk Music, now offered through MIT's OpenCourseWare project could develop and offer a similar course. Or, an accounting instructor could develop a course that could be adopted by a college offering online accounting courses. Welcome to an interview with Josh Blank, OpenSesame, which offers a platform for creating and distributing elearning courses.

1. What is your name and connection to elearning?
I'm Josh Blank, and I am the cofounder and General Manager of OpenSesame, a new marketplace for buying and selling elearning courses. I started my career in web design and digital communications, and I started working in elearning ten years ago. In the elearning field, I lead companies that create and distribute elearning courses that meet the needs of diverse professionals. I am deeply committed to advancing the elearning field because I believe that elearning democratizes education. We are creating new possibilities and new opportunity for millions of people to advance themselves through personal effort.

2. What is OpenSesame? What is the content? How does it work? Where can people access it?
OpenSesame is an open, web-based marketplace connecting purchasers of elearning content, such as corporate learning officers, with an extensive library of courses provided by a wide range of content creators. OpenSesame simplifies the process of implementing elearning by connecting courses purchased in our OpenSesame marketplace to any Learning Management System (LMS).

The OpenSesame marketplace connects content developers with potential buyers of elearning courses. Course developers can sell previously built or newly created content to multiple buyers while maintaining security, control, and centralized management of their intellectual property. The OpenSesame marketplace enables content developers to connect with new customers, no matter where the buyers are located or what LMS they use. Furthermore, OpenSesame’s proprietary technology ensures that buyers cannot download or re-sell courses without the developer’s permission.

Buyers and sellers can access the OpenSesame marketplace by visiting and browsing our library of courses, classified in four categories: technical, business skills, compliance and safety. We are proud to offer an always-expanding library comprising courses as varied as "How to Respond to a Bomb Threat" and "XML Schema Definition".

3. Who are you trying to reach and what are your goals?
In our ten years in the elearning industry, we have consistently believed that the industry was at a tipping point -- on the cusp of fantastic growth -- but our growth remained slow and steady. Our team finally realized that our growth was limited by the lack of communication between the buyers and sellers of elearning courses. Content developers, subject matter experts and independent instructional designers need channels to publish their content, reach new customers and understand how their courses fit in the overall marketplace. Learners at all sizes of organizations need a marketplace where they can research and find the courses they need, purchase them simply and connect them easily to any learning management system.
Our goal is to create a community where both buyers and sellers thrive and elearning is accessible, easy to implement and rewarding for everyone.

4. What is your elearning philosophy?
Our philosophy is simple. We have a vision for a world where people can advance themselves through only personal desire and access to educational opportunities. OpenSesame is a competitive marketplace for buying and selling high quality educational content, where sellers will create courses to meet market demand, and learners can evaluate courses based on their reviews and success in the marketplace.

5. How do you see the future of m-learning evolving? What's the next breakthrough?
I believe that the next breakthrough in mlearning will be the killer app that takes any standards-compliant content and delivers it simply to a variety of mobile devices. This kind of app will enable learners to take their courses with them: to consult their training courses easily while actually employing the skills they are learning. I believe that well-designed elearning courses delivered through mobile applications will ease the transition from learning skills and abilities in the abstract to implementing them in your daily life.

6. Please recommend 2 books (can be fiction / non-fiction / technical)
Daily Drucker for the business book and anything by Vince Flynn for my fiction addiction.

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