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Friday, May 22, 2009

Interview with Gregor Gimmy, -- Innovators in E-Learning Series

Having to use a costly and hard to manage learning management system creates a barrier for many would-be online instructors. Gregor Gimmy of has worked to overcome that barrier, and has also recognized it is often difficult to incorporate web 2.0 functionality. So, he developed Sclipo, in response to the need, and the fact that social networks for education have grown in size and function. Sclipo is unique in that it focuses specifically on offering the applications used in making synchronous and asynchronous e-learning. Sclipo offers instructors and instructional designers opportunities to offer a wider range of activities, which can tie closely with outcomes.

Welcome to an interview with Gregor Gimmy, of Sclipo.

What is your name and your experience with elearning?

My name is Gregor Gimmy. I am the founder and CEO of Sclipo - a social network for education. Prior to Sclipo, I founded Explico (San Francisco, 1998), one of the web's first site with How- To information (similar to eHow). In 1999, I started Metazoa (San Francisco), a web based lab notebook for biotech researchers. After selling Metazoa, I worked at Siebel Systems (San Mateo, CA) in software program management. One of the products I worked on was Siebel's eLearning system.

What is Sclipo and how does it work?

Sclipo is a Social Learning Network for continuing education that offers synchronous and asynchronous web apps for eLearning integrated with social features. At Sclipo, any member can teach and learn, making Sclipo a pioneer in enabling informal or social learning online. Sclipo is for formal & informal teachers that find traditional eLearning (Moodle, Blackboard, etc.) solutions too complex and costly, and not social enough.

Today, Sclipo is free for free teaching. Teachers who want to charge students, pay Sclipo a flat fee of 5 Euros / month. Students pay teachers directly via PayPal. Sclipo takes no commission.

Sclipo's principal social learning features:

1. Academy & Profile: Every member has an Academy and a Profile. The Academy is the space where a member teaches through educational apps like Courses, Library or Live Web Classes. The Profile (connected to Facebook) serves to socialize with people of common educational interests.

2. Courses: This app allows members to create and post courses they teach online through Sclipo, face-to-face or blended.

3. Library: The Library is to store, manage and share educational content in any format - videos, documents, presentations, spreadsheets, etc.

4. Live Web Classes: Allows to teach up to 100 students live through webcam, whiteboard and a document presenter. Students can participate actively through audio, video and chat. Teachers can present any document from their library. No downloads needed.

5. Live Web Meetings: Allows teachers to tutor your students, lead workshops and more with a whiteboard, chat and audio.

6. Payments: Teachers can charge students for their courses and web classes. Students pay teachers directly through PayPal. No commissions for Sclipo.

7. Facebook Connect: Allows to easily establish connections and publish a members activities (eg, post a course) to Facebook.

Who uses Sclipo? Please describe two or three examples.

1) Xavier: A tenured finance professor, who added plus 10 videos on finance and math, as well as courses on financial management. Xavier's educational content has been viewed over 500.000 times in less than 3 months.

2) Robbert: A retired minister for the Dutch Mennonite Church and an Assistant Professor of Christian Dogmatics and Ethics at its Seminary in Amsterdam. Since retirement, Robbert has become a writer and a free lance teacher on philosophy and theology.

3) Carme: a housewife, who added over 30 cooking video tutorials, which have been seen over 1 million times.

What is the vision of Sclipo?

"Transform eLearning into social eLearning ... for the rest of us!"

Transform eLearning into social learning
Learning is social in that a lot of learning is informal, happening between learners / employees / friends. But today's LMS hardly allow for such social learning. In an LMS, a user is either a student or teacher. Each with her specific tools. At Sclipo, everybody is a member. Everybody has the same tools for teaching and for learning.

eLearning for the rest of us
Today, eLearning is only accessible to people whose school, company or institution can afford the resources needed for an eLearning system like Blackboard, Moodle or alike. Even open source LMS are prohibitively expensive, due to associated costs for installation, configuration, hosting and maintenance. Because Sclipo is a web app, any teacher can set up her eLearning space (called Academy) in minutes.

We believe that there are many millons of teachers who cannot afford a traditional LMS.

What is the instructional philosophy? What is the key instructional strategy?

Social Learning. In addition to answer 4, the structure of our application is people based, not course based, like for example at Moodle. Anybody can teach, anybody can learn. The best content and teachers are those that are most active, best evaluated, most referenced, etc. A degree or tenure is no longer sufficient. The math amateur may be a more popular teacher than the MIT PhD...

In addition, we fully embrace hybrid learning: Sclipo helps with teaching that happens face-to- face and online. We are the only social learning tool that allows for both synchronous and asynchronous learning.

The web will be used as a tool to support any kind of teaching.

How can Sclipo help develop human potential?

Sclipo is a strong catalyzer for the creation and sharing of knowledge. It fosters learning beyond having to learn. It fosters teaching beyond "I am a certified teacher", enabling "I teach because I know". We also believe that Sclipo will play a role in transferring knowledge to countries in development. Due to the extremely low cost of use and ease of use, any teacher from ie, England, can now spend a few hours a month teaching children anywhere. To help needed children can now happen must faster and more efficiently, without the need for expensive travelling.

In addition, Sclipo enables global sourcing of teachers. Today, we are bound to learn from teachers nearby - who may not be the best. In the future, we can find the best teachers regardless from where they live.

In just a few months, Sclipo has attracted 20 thousand members, who added and share over 25000 educational videos and documents. There are hundreds of courses, even though our course app is only a few weeks new. Every educational activity and content element can be shared and triggers new educational activities. Every activity can automatically be fed into Facebook, and soon Twitter an other networks. In a few months, Sclipo has generated more educational activities than many schools have in years.

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