Last week, Skillshare, the disruptive teaching platform backed by Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital, announced a big expansion: incorporating an online element into its classes. Rather than relying on its popular in-person workshops, which Betabeat has personally employed to brush up on our coding and financial modeling skills, the startup opened its doors around the globe with “Hybrid” classes that combine those in-person workshops with “project-based online learning.”
Skillshare cofounder Michael Karnjanaprakorn came up with the idea for this hybrid approach when he was teaching his own class, “Launch Your Startup Idea for Less than $5000.″ Instead of just lecturing at students, he began asking them to present their ideas at the end of class and the results dramatically improved, leading to the creation of actual startups like RentHackr and Hashpix.
“We learned that there’s a major difference between education and learning. Education is what someone tells you to do. Learning is what you do for yourself,” Mr. Karnjanaprakorn told Betabeat by email this afternoon. “The traditional way of education forces square pegs into round holes. It’s a one-size-fits-all solution that forces people down a predetermined path. But, what could education look like if it were many-to-many? Where students taught each other and teachers were students? What if you designed a learning experience around passion, real-world skills, community, collaboration, and creativity?”
Based on those principles, the Skillshare team developed a philosophy they like to call “Collaborative Learning,” which emphasizes learning through action, with others. “It starts by replacing lecturing with doing, teaching with facilitating, and competition with collaboration,” Mr. Karnjanaprakorn added. That project-oriented approach jives with the startup’s early emphasis on practical skill-building. (It’s also worth noting that Collaborative Fund is also a Skillshare investor. Synergy!)
The company was careful to make good on the promise of collaboration and not merely swap out in-person lectures for online ones. “We were really focused on not innovating on top of a broken educational model by moving lectures online in a video format,” said Mr. Karnjanaprakorn. In a blog post, Skillshare broke down what the new format will look like:
How Hybrid Classes Work
1. Real-world projects. Students learn through a hands-on project by doing, making and collaborating.
2. Less lecturing. Teacher acts as a facilitator by designing a project, curating resources, and providing feedback to students.
3. Online Discussions. Students can ask questions, share links, and get feedback from other students around the world.
4. In-Person Workshops. To foster a collaborative learning experience, students will meet in-person to collaborate and work on projects together in their cities.
If moving the classroom online brings out your inner procrastinator, don’t worry, Skillshare is still offering its local in-person option. IRL classes are open around the U.S., but are offered most frequently in New York and San Francisco. However, there’s a strong incentive to try out the hybrid model, including a class from investor Fred Wilson entitled, “How to Be in Business Forever: A Lesson in Sustainability.”
As you can see in Skillshare’s hybrid offerings, which covers how to write like David Sedaris, DIY jewelry making, and something “sneakerology,” the platform is not just for early adopters anymore. “We’re starting to see a lot of students and teachers outside of the tech community,” Mr. Karnjanaprakorn noted. “We’ve launched some successful new classes within the advertising, culinary, photography, style, creative arts, and maker communities.” Once the normals start signing up, things tend to get more fun.