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Category: Edutech

There are 8 posts published under Edutech.

Under the Radar: 5 Tech Careers You Haven't Heard About

Just about every job in the modern world involves new technology in some way, but if you can’t get enough of gadgets, code, and tech news, you’ll want to get your hands dirty in the deep end of the technology career pool. There’s a lot more out there than just the typical gigs. You can go beyond being a systems administrator, a Web designer, or even a robotics engineer. Here are a few exciting, unusual careers emerging in the field of technology that are set to become more prevalent in the next few years.

Computational Linguist

One of the most impressive parts of the most powerful computer in the world (the human brain) is its ability to process, parse, and even invent language. Teaching man-made computers to do the same thing is a real challenge, given how complex and subjective human language can be.

Computational linguists are the programmers, engineers, and language experts who work to solve this problem, creating real-world solutions spanning from dictation software to robust translation programs. In the near future, computational linguists will be essential in teaching operating systems and even robots how to talk and listen to the people who use them.

Marketing Futurist

The image we have of the field of marketing usually involves copywriters and artists coming up with the next brilliant idea, but modern marketing is a lot more data-driven than that. While the creative teams stick to language and art, their work is often based on market data and projections created by researchers and analysts. Marketing futurists work to synthesize long-term trends in consumer behavior to predict tomorrow’s trends, mixing data with psychology in truly revolutionary ways.

This position goes beyond simple analysis to include the potential in technologies not yet developed or released to the public. Just imagine being the marketing expert who saw the business potential in viral videos before that term even existed. That’s what a futurist is supposed to do.

Sustainability Officer

This is about more than just teaching companies to “go green.” Sustainability officers use complex research and analytics to monitor how a company uses its resources, from water and electricity to fleet fuel and business card paper. In the end, the officer’s job is to help the company save time and money by being more internally efficient, as well as developing a certifiable reputation for environmentally friendly and responsible behaviors.

A lot of consumers look for green certifications on their products and increasingly in the places where they live and work. A sustainability officer helps an organization build that reputation through diligent observation and reporting.

Health Care Informatics Specialist

Informatics is an emerging field concerned with how we organize, store, transmit, and share data of all kinds. This is of special interest to hospitals, clinics, and other organizations in the health care field. A career in health care informatics involves updating how medical facilities track and organize patient data. More than just digitizing charts, this ever-evolving field is quickly becoming the crux of how many health care organizations plan to approach a very fast-moving medical landscape in the near future.

Hacking Specialist

In a world where the credit card information of millions of people can be stolen by hackers without anyone noticing for months, digital security has to get creative. That’s why many companies have turned to genuine hacking experts to help them find their weak spots so they can bolster their data security.

In short, an ethical hacking specialist does what he or she does best: break into secured data stores. Instead of stealing information, planting malware, or sending sneaky messages, these hackers inform their clients of where others may exploit the weaknesses and how to patch them. For those who love getting under the hood of complex digital systems, this is a dream job with all of the fun and none of the potential jail time.

The future of tech careers is always at the bleeding edge of technology itself. If you’re interested in not just where tech is today, but where it will be in years to come, keep your eyes on the possibilities tomorrow’s tech will open.


Personalized Online Tutor Technology

Let’s say there is a student in China who wants to learn English on the weekends. He types “English Tutor Online” into the search bar and clicks “Enter.” He finds a service, connects with a tutor, and schedules their first session.


The tutor and the student will need to utilize similar or identical tools on their respective ends to maintain the connection and foster learning. Tutoring has gone from across the desk to around the world, so it should be a priority for tutors to choose the right technology for their lessons. Online tutors need to choose the right tool for the job and know when to use it.


Education, in general, has gone from “the one-size fits all model resulting in unprepared students to technology-enabled solutions customized for each student” (The State of Education Infographic). So, most tech savvy students who need help with homework or receive actual instruction might want bells and whistles, but what about those who only know the basics? There are lessons that only need the bare minimum. Believe it or not, there are people who still have flip phones and write in MS Word 93.  Most tutoring sites utilize what is already available to the general consumer: Computer, internet connection, webcam, Shockwave, Flash player, whiteboard…beyond the basics, it is the tutor’s responsibility to choose the right tool for the job.


Like Eyal Eshed’s (the CEO of advice about designing mobile apps in his CitizenTekk article, On Designing Mobile Education Apps, when developing a lesson for a tutoring session, there should be a purpose, and the technology should fit that purpose. Refer back to the student in China who has just started his lesson with a new tutor. The tutor attempted to teach the student how to ask for a taxi at a hotel’s front desk, but had difficulty illustrating the connection between the word ‘car’ and the concept of a car to the student. The tutor can use visual cues (with such tools as video, internet or whiteboard) to combine text and pictures to illustrate his point (Tutoring sites will most likely provide them, but there are sites that provide whiteboards for use on your own computer [Windows’s Digital Whiteboard ]); the whiteboard or video served a purpose. If the tutor wanted to incorporate a calculator in that lesson, it would serve no other purpose but to confuse the student. But what happens when the tutor does not have enough tools for the lesson?


The tutor’s next student needs help with Revit architecture software. Unless the student can see what the tutor is talking about by drawings on a whiteboard, the tutor will need to incorporate more technology into their lessons.  Revit software is not a run-of-the-mill word processing program; it’s a little more involved than that. You can’t just open it up and be an expert at it. Revit software is


“specifically built for Building Information Modeling (BIM), empowering design and construction professionals to bring ideas from concept to construction with a coordinated and consistent model-based approach. Revit is a single application that includes features for architectural design, MEP and structural engineering, and construction.”                                              -

If the tutor does not have the software, how is that student supposed to learn from that particular tutor? As with any other program a student is trying to learn, to teach the aforementioned program it takes knowledge of its basics as well as its most complex features; you can’t do either/or without the program. The student would have better luck enrolling for a free trial or moving on to the next tutor who has the adequate tools for the job.


Online tutoring providers have taken advantage of technology to make their jobs easier and their services more available to students; the most effective tutor is the one who picks the right technology for the job and knows when to use it. As online tutors, you need to prepare your lesson and utilize the proper tool. As important as it is to choose the right tool for the job, it is equally important to know when it’s needed, or not needed. As a tutor, the most basic step to preparing for a lesson: prepare content and then see which technological tool will best serve it, not the other way around.


On Designing Mobile Education Apps

The art of design has a long tradition. History is filled with wonderful examples. But we are in a new age, where design, and especially educational design, is not only about space and graphics and looks. It is about the learning experience. It is this aspect of design for mobile education apps that is most crucial – not only the “look,” but also the “feel.”


Not Just Another Pretty Face


There are a lot of beautifully designed apps out there. They fit into the mobile nicely. They are aesthetic. They have points of interest along with an overall clean and neat look. The colors are well chosen, the graphics are nice to look at and draw the attention of the user. In short, there are a lot of pretty faces out there.


But education is a serious business. It is about really getting ahead. A user that chooses to get your educational app has a real motive – to be better, to improve, to learn, to get ahead in life. It is not only what is on the outside but what is on the inside of the app that matters. Just like in any real relationship, the app needs to supply more than just an initial attraction. It needs to foster effective learning and deliver real improvement and progress. It needs to build trust so that the user is willing to be led through the learning process.


Let’s Play


Games are fun, but learning is for a reason other than just to have a good time. A learner really wants to get something in addition to pure entertainment. On the other hand, boring old-style teaching just won’t make the mark any more.  Now that we have been exposed to great user experience we will not settle for anything else, and learning is no exception.


What does this mean for mobile education apps? It means that you can incorporate gaming into the design, but not make it the only focal point. You don’t engage in learning in order to play (and win) a game, you play a fun game (and win) in order to learn (winning in real life).


People will Use Your App If…


While the initial attraction to your app can rely on superficial aspects, the stickiness to use it for daily learning is much more about UX and design. How easy is it to use? How easy is it to understand? How engaging is the experience? What is the quality of the learning content? And how is this quality noticed?


And where does technology fit in all of this? When a solution incorporates state of the art technologies you must insist on reliability, stability, and consistency of user experience, even in variable network conditions. This is the staple of good UX. But remember, technology should be a tool, not the end-game.


So, why will people use your app? A good test would be to ask yourself honestly: Would I be my first customer? Try to spice your great technology and superb learning content with true passion for building the best teaching machine, and your answer will be – yes!


Design Do’s and Design Don’ts


There is never a cookbook or recipe for good design. After all, great design is considered ‘art’ for good reason. It is innovative. It is creative. It is functional. It serves a purpose and does it well. And, like in art, there is never really one way of doing something. But, here are a few mobile education app design do’s and don’ts.



  • Focus on the purpose first
  • Plan a learning process
  • Invest time and effort in designing the best learning experience
  • Use great technology, but keep it  in the background
  • Try to keep it all simple
  • Remember that in education – content is king
  • For all of the tips above, remember that your user is mobile, so practice your app in various contexts and environments with a variety of your supported devices.



  • Don’t use technology because you can
  • Don’t just focus on the look
  • Don’t import old-school education from other platforms to mobile
  • Don’t ignore users’ feedback
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment and change the design and flow
  • Don’t try to make a perfect version from the beginning – it’s a process

What it Means to be an EdTech Startup

 EdTech – Educational Technology – combines two very different worlds.


As a startup, it is important to realize the intrinsic differences that are brought together in this new and exciting field. On the one hand, “education” is synonymous with institutions and conservatism, while “technology” is driven by innovation and out-of-the-box thinking.  An EdTech startup needs to bridge the gap between the institutional world and the world of innovation.


The Institution-Innovation Paradox


What is the institutional world? On the one hand, institutions are broadly based, providing a needed service that is well established, and part of the mainstream. The best educational systems in the world have shown a long history of incredible scholastic achievement, leading to great technological advances. On the other hand, institutions may be heavy, showing difficulty to adapt or change quickly. In the educational space, new ideas and methods are often slow to penetrate universities and schools the world over. Moreover, the learning methods are often those same methods that have been around for centuries. Paradoxically, institutions are the cradle for great innovation, and yet are the last to adopt innovative teaching approaches.


End-user Learning


In the past, learners needed to go to school or university to learn. But now, a world of self-help tools has sprung up with the advent of online and mobile learning.  This consumer market is characterized by focusing on the consumer: What does the consumer want, like, capable of doing? What will make his/her life easier? In the educational world, learners are quickly moving to mobile. A good mobile learning product has a consumer DNA that delivers a good learning user experience that is fun, social, and easy to use.


 Education goes Consumer


Today, the education sector is going through a disruption. Consumerism is creeping into the educational institutional world with BYOD and BYO tools. Nowadays, teachers or trainers are coping with consumer products that are brought into their classroom or that they bring in for teaching, and are scrambling to use them to good effect. Education innovation is not waiting for school boards, parent teacher’s meetings, government decrees, training program directives, or board decisions. The classroom is no longer traditional. It is already being infiltrated with consumer mobile products that are used by students in institutions whether the institution likes it or not. So, with the new fact of life that students the world over are using their mobiles to learn, it is now the turn of EdTech to marry the two worlds of Ed and Tech.


Moving from Old-Style to New-Age Teaching


With the adoption of new mobile teaching tools (BYOD or school provided devices), a new type of blended learning emerges that incorporates mobile tools, endless information sources, community based solutions, games, etc.  At first glance, this looks chaotic. But let’s take a closer look.


In the past, a teacher was the sole source of information and would be the only means of delivering learning content to all. This meant that there was one single teaching method (provided by the teacher) and learning content strictly defined by the institute (curriculum). But we are all different, and learners have their own individual strengths and weaknesses.


Today, every student has access to full libraries in his/her pocket, more than any teacher could ever know. Each student is equipped with a strong mobile computer that is connected to the entire human repository of knowledge.


Soon, a teacher can be a mentor and not simply a dry content delivery tool. The New-Age teacher will be able to coach students for maximal learning benefit, guiding each student to take advantages of individual differences, and suggesting customized learning. The mobile computer will handle the repetitive and dry tasks of delivering the content, while the teacher will identify the human characteristics of each student and direct and advise on the best tools and approaches. Humans will do what humans are best at – feeling, perceiving  and identifying the human qualities in a learner. Mobile computers will do what they do best – finding, retrieving, and providing information.


EdTech will Change the World


What does this mean for education? It means that students, teachers, institutional administrators, corporate, and governments will be coaxed by EdTech products to become more individual-oriented in their approach to teaching. It means that EdTech will foster a new, innovative type of blended learning that encourages individualization, good user experience, and learning satisfaction, by providing flexible and results-oriented solutions. If in the past, institutions were used to getting one method to try to fit all, EdTech products will provide a variety of solutions that indeed fit all.


So, what does it mean to be an EdTech startup today? It means to be the bridge between old and new. It means to be at the turning point of human educational evolution and be able to change the way people learn for centuries to come. After all, how many times in life do we have a chance to really influence the world? We are at the beginning of an educational revolution. If you choose to join, you can leave a mark for future generations. Isn’t that inspiring? It is for me.


Online But Not Connected: The Challenge MOOCs Face in the Promise of Internet Education

Online learning courses have notoriously low completion rates. An informal study by Ph.D. candidate Katy Jordan found that average completion for massive open online courses, commonly known as MOOCs, is about 7%. While MOOCs have been touted as a catalyst for change in higher education in particular, the coming revolution may have been overstated with completion rates this low.


Equality of access is at the heart of much of the hubbub surrounding MOOCs. They provide free or low-cost access to the world’s top lecturers and instructors. Therefore, they ostensibly provide world-class, college-level instruction at a steep discount. MOOC services like the courses Coursera and Udemy offer insure this by providing video lectures, texts, assignments, and projects. At the end, they offer a certification confirming completion of the course.


But MOOCs may be trying to mimic college courses too closely. A quick browse of the courses starting soon on Coursera show that courses tend to be between 6 to 12 weeks long and require an average of anywhere between 4 and 16 hours of work per week. In other words, while MOOCs may be vastly cheaper than the traditional college course, they still require heavy time commitments. These courses may just be too long or too intensive for people who want to learn a new topic as a side project or hobby. Very few courses offer the option of being broken up in smaller increments and none of the courses give credit for partially completed courses.


As they currently stand, MOOCs are not taking advantage of all that the internet has to offer. They are still being taught by the book in the age of the internet. In stark contrast with the networked nature of the internet, they only provide linear instruction, there is an all-or-nothing logic to course completion, and they deliver courses in a rigid and vertical timetable. Coursera and Udemy fail to even offer similar suggested courses, much less suggestions for continued learning if a student did complete a course — or were looking for a more advanced course on the same topic. So, yes, MOOCs are, as the name suggests, on the internet, but they fail to be of the internet.


Placing courses onto the internet potentially gives us the ability to break down their components into smaller discrete chunks and gives students the option of where to go after completing a lesson. For instance, an introductory calculus lesson can be a short lesson on how to take a simple derivative. From there, the course can give students the option to learn to take more complex derivatives, to learn how to integrate, or to learn how derivatives may be applied in other topics such as physics or economics.


Online learning gives us the opportunity to rethink how people tailor their own educations based on their needs and desires. MOOCs may still revolutionize — and democratize — education, though not necessarily in the ways people originally expected; If we would only learn from, instead of fighting, the logic of the internet.


Top Startup and Tech News Today-7 Things You Missed Today

1. How eBay Could Rescue Bitcoin From the Feds


Bitcoin exchanges have run into a hurdle in the form of the U.S. banks. There are questions about whether or not they “meet federal and state money transmission business regulations.” While this is quite a setback, another company is in prime position to take advantage of the situation: eBay. It had a “virtual currencies” section, allowing people to sell and purchase Bitcoins—it’s a forum for Bitcoin exchange, bypassing the federal and state regulations via PayPal.


The only thing preventing eBay from taking advantage of this opportunity, should they choose to do so, is the fact that Paypal allows chargebacks. Someone could purchase Bitcoins on eBay and simply state that the Bitcoins weren’t delivered, defrauding the seller. If eBay manages to solve this problem, PayPal could be in even bigger competition with Bitcoin. “They could very well find their business model outdated,” states financial regulations lawyer, Van Cleef.


2. Google is joining the Open edX platform


Google released Course Builder, an experimental platform, last year to test the waters in online education. It was well received with a multitude of different online courses available with various institutions experimenting with MOOCs (massive open online course). To continue with the online education front, Google has decided to join Open edX, a non-profit aiming to provide interactive online courses, as a contributor.


The effects of the combined efforts of both companies will provide much for the developers and consumers. Director of Research, Dan Clancy says, “We hope that our continued contributions to open source education projects will enable anyone who builds online education products to benefit from our technology, services and scale. For learners, we believe that a more open online education ecosystem will make it easier for anyone to pick up new skills and concepts at anytime, anywhere.”


3. Consumer: Stay Smart to Avoid WiFi Hackers


Becoming a super connected metropolis with free WiFi everywhere sounds great, but it also has its cons. One glaring problem is the presence of WiFi Hackers. Leeds is one such city that hopes to realize this vision.  A survey done on Britons was done to examine their WiFi use and determine how safe people really are.


Half of the surveyed do not know if the WiFi hotspot they use is secure, opening them up to identity fraud. Two thirds use the hotspots to check their email, a smorgasbord of personal information. Even more surprising, ten percent of people access their bank accounts with the public WiFi.


A brief list from these findings states that: important online tasks should stay at home, remove automatic connections on your mobile device, and don’t use apps whose encryption method is unknown.


4. Microsoft Seeks Cloud, Mobile, and Gaming Startups in London’s Tech City


Microsoft launched a 12 week accelerator program for UK cloud, mobile, and gaming startups in East London Tech City. 20 startups will have the opportunity to gain mentorship from executives from Microsoft, Train2Game, Lift London, and more.  This program is the latest of 10 around the world by Microsoft. The success rate of companies, from a total of 119, getting funding (within 6 months of the program’s end) is 85 percent! The kicker, though, is that Microsoft does not plan on taking equities from the startups. Rather, they will hope that the accelerator program will help to create future successful partnerships and additions to the Microsoft family.


5. Facebook Rolls Out “Professional Skills” Section on User Profiles


Facebook tries its hand at doing what LinkedIn has been already been doing, acting as a professional outlet for users. It recently included a new feature that allows users to add professional skills to their profile. Facebook takes this one step further than LinkedIn in that they connect skills to relevant interest groups, giving potential hires even more exposure. For those who worry about privacy, there is an option to adjust the privacy settings on the resume.


“If Facebook’s Professional Skills feature takes off, you’ll be able to browse through friends’ vacation picks and potential hires, all at the same time.”


6. What Startups Need to Know about Obamacare


With Obamacare coming out soon, startups have more health insurance options available to employees. Plans will come in 4 flavors—the typical Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum setup, each with increasing cost and coverage.


Exchanges will start on October 1st, 2013—small businesses can take advantage of this time and look at the exchanges and plans. Since insurance companies will not be able to deny anyone, the rates for insurance will increase, especially for those below the age of 30. However, most of the regulations placed onto small businesses are delayed until 2015 instead of 2014.


7. Fun: First Actual Computer Bug Was Found Today, 66 Years Ago


It’s time to celebrate the 66th birthday of the first discovered computer bug! In 1947, the Mark II Aiken Relay Computer in Harvard had a peculiarity in its system—a bug. For all the technophiles out there, it, unfortunately isn’t the metaphorical bug we all know of; it was literally a bug; a moth. The person who helped to publicize this and coin the term “bugging” and “debugging” is Grace Hopper. The moth itself exists in a logbook in the Nation Museum of American History, but, unfortunately, is not on display.


Top Startup and Tech News Today-7 Things You Missed Today

1. YCombinator’s Paul Graham Now Taking Applications for Startup School 2013 (and it’s Free)


Beginning a startup company is not an easy thing to do, but what if there’ was a school of sorts that can teach you how to do so?  Paul Graham of YCombinator created such an institution called Startup School. The best part about it is that it’s free, making it affordable for anyone interested.


With speakers like “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, superangel Ron Conway, Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann, and Uber founder Travis Kalanick,” it’s guaranteed that the limited seats will fill up quickly. In order to gain access, the application due September 20 will also include telling “YCombinator about your education, work, developer tools, and ‘the coolest thing you’ve built.’”


The school has definitely shown some results—as Graham has written on his website: “Many founders have told us that this event was what finally made them take the leap.”


2. Google Announces Android 4.4 KitKat, Celebrates More than 1 million Android Activations


Google’s new Android software, originally rumored to be dubbed “Key Lime Pie,” is announced to be “KitKat.” While Android releases have always maintained a sweet treated title, this is the first time that it borrows a name from a famous sweets company—in this case, Nestle, their new partner.


The significance of passing over another generic name coincides with their goals with their million plus users. “It’s our goal with Android KitKat to make an amazing Android experience available for everybody,” Google exclaims. In addition to the newly formed partnership and the associated aspirations of both companies, over 50 million specially branded KitKat bars will be distributed with each one will leading the consumer to a special, prize offering web page.


3. 7 Things Going Against You as a First-Time Entrepreneur


Rajesh Setty, a serial entrepreneur talks about the 7 major problems that entrepeneurs need to overcome in order to be successful. The first issue mentioned is that people need to be able to see escalating friction. Just having an idea alone will not result in friction whatsoever, it’s when you start to do something about it—whether you start reflecting on the idea or bringing it to prospective clients. The main thing you must remember is to be able to understand how much friction each action will cause.


You must also not confuse activity with progress. “In general, any activity that cannot create value to your customers in a measurable way needs to be questioned. There is a good chance that it’s just activity leading nowhere,” Setty says. In the same vein, a lack of valuable accomplishments is an important hurdle to jump over. If the product you have is not amazingly awesome, you must build an identity to the venture.


Not knowing what to do is fourth on the list. This, of course, comes with experience and, for those who haven’t yet gained any, this is where you should listen to the wisdom of others who have been there. Next is called “concluding for convenience,” where Setty says to tackle problems early and head on; playing the blame game will not and does not help the venture.


The penultimate item on his list is “trying to fix your weaknesses fast.”  In entrepreneurship, there “is no trial run…everything is real.” Instead, it’s suggested to invest in your strengths and then to invest in a team to compensate for your weakness. Finally, don’t think that you have it all under control. Setty ends with “Entrepreneurship is a game that you win in the long term. It is a game that is beyond just you. It is a myth to think that you alone will have it all under control, however smart you are.”


4. The Messiah’ Gives His Reasons for Hacking Sun Ho’s Site


A hacker by then pseudonym “The Messiah” hacked into the website of Sun Ho, the co-founder of City Harvest Church. The hacker reappeared on a Q&A site, stating his affiliation with a group called “Anonymous Collective” and detailing the weak security of the site. “It took us less than 15 minutes to gain access,” he said.


The information he says he obtained and plans on exposing includes addresses, phone numbers, emails, and passwords. Due to the security leak, it was found out that the City Harvest Church had been embezzling church funds of about $50 million to fund Sun Ho’s U.S. singing career.


5. Top 6 Regions With the Most High-Tech Startups


Research was published stating that one of the biggest source of employment opportunities lie in high-tech startups. In fact, the job creation at these high-tech companies far offsets the initial destruction that occurs when startups meet with early-stage business failures.” If you’re looking for a high-tech job, where would you be likely to find a high-tech startup company? The Ewing Marion Kaufmann foundation created a list of 6 places with the most startups in the nation.


Denver has a large community of startups with over 500 companies—it has the sixth largest high-tech startup growth since 2011. Seattle comes in fifth, with the title of the “historical birthplace of significant IT infrastructure and business services.” Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, Massachusetts comes in fourth with a strong talent pool. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California houses Google and many other similarly powerful companies. Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado has Colorado State University—their resources and research facilities is enough to have many high-tech companies relocating here. Finally, Boulder, Colorado comes in first, with 6.3 times the national average for the number of startups it holds. This place is also praised for “its education, health, quality of life, and well-being.”


6. Bitcoin 0.8.4 Update Offers Security Improvements


Bitcoin-qt has come out with the new 0.8.4 update, trivializing bugs in the old code. The first issue in the previous version was in reference to the amount of block chain to be downloaded in order to view relevant transactions; it was possible for an attacker to overwhelm bitcoin-qt’s nodes and cause lagging or crashing.


This new update also fixes a security issue in previous version of bitcoin-qt. The password system would check the password by looping through each letter to check for accuracy. This meant that the more accurate a guess at the first letters of a password, the longer it would take to verify. This promotes a trial and error style attempt at guessing others’ passwords.


The last of the list of improvements prevents transaction attacks. These attacks could work in 2 different ways. The first allows an attacker to send an invalid transaction to one client and a valid transaction to someone else, which can allow for double spending of bitcoins. The next involves sending malicious transactions to others, causing disconnection from and harming the nodes used.


7. One-on-One Tutoring? Tech Startups Finally Catch On


InstaEDU, a San Francisco startup, allows students to connect to tutors online. InstaEDU, founded by couple, Dan and Alison Johnsoton is part of a market that is expected to grow from $11 billion to $13.1 billion in the United States between 2012 and 2015.  The idea was conceptualized when they realized how having an in-home tutor was a luxury coupled with students mostly asking for last minute help in the middle of the night.


Using mainly Ivy league students as tutors, InstaEDU has been able to further build on the idea of online education, allowing for quality and affordable tutors to anyone around the world. “I think it will reach more students who aren’t willing to go out of the way,” a tutor and UC Berkeley student says.


The 7 Dimensions of the Language Learning Market

Education is featured regularly in forecasts about the next big thing on the Internet.

Over the last few years, the education industry has seen lots of startups, established companies, and corporates launch  new online language learning products and services. This has lead many to assume that the market quickly became saturated.


However, our users and our daily business experience tell a different story. There is a lack of competition and very few people compare options before making their choice. There is also a lack of clarity about what defines the language learning market.


Allow me to differentiate between the current offers and the market as a whole by exploring their different ‘dimensions.’ These dimensions could also be applied to other online learning segments.


Age of the Learners

Every product is aimed towards a more-or-less specific age group. In the learning medium of language products, we can separate three main groups that have different needs, capabilities, and preferences by asking the question: are we teaching kids, students, or adults?

Motivation for Learning

Following the education type and the learner’s age is the question of why she wants to learn a language: is it to pass an exam, to get a job, or to relocate?  Is it for professional meetings abroad or for a more fuzzy reason like self-improvement, general education, or peer pressure?  On a more trivial side, might it just be for travel?


Type of Education

Learning products and services also differ significantly according to the type of education being provided. These products could be used for formal education, corporate training, or private learning.


The Medium

The first dimension of online language products that I will explore is the learning medium. To understand this medium, it’s important to ask if it is an old-school classroom, a book, a program with audio or video content, a piece of traditional PC software, an online service, or a mobile app.


The Method

The learning method is, of course, not fully independent of the medium.  It still helps to distinguish some major areas of the method , like  blended learning, immersive learning, etc. When considering the language learning method that’s right for you, it’s always important to ask if you learn better from a teacher, from other learners, or on your own.



Learning is always done by individual persons. But there are very different ways for products and services to reach these individuals: public institutions may organise the learning, companies may provide educational materials to their employees, and private customers may simply decide for themselves.


Business Model

Learning products can be monetised in different ways. Very few are truly free, based on donations, or volunteer work. Most teachers, authors, editors, programmers and didactic experts are looking to get paid for their work. There are different business models: money provided by the state, money provided by an employer or institution, and money provided through advertising. It may be paid up-front or on a monthly basis.


These dimensions are neither independent nor exhaustive. However, they can help to bring some structure to the vast market of language learning. They help us to define our segment as a private language learning service that is online, mobile, and self-directed,.  Our customers are adults who choose to learn of their own motivation, make the decision to use our product themselves, and are willing to pay a moderate monthly fee for as long as they use it.


The Seven Dimensions of the Language Learning Market

The Seven Dimensions of the Language Learning Market