Whether or not you buy into them or have already given up on them, it’s the age of MOOCs — massive open online courses. Startups like Coursera and Udacity have raised millions to transform education through their platforms, which allow universities to broadcast their classes online, frequently for free, for all the world to see. People are heralding MOOCs as the great democratizer of education, because they make learning accessible for anyone with a computer.
Not surprisingly, the MOOC trend is starting to trickle down to the micro level. Individual teachers, whether hobbyists or trained instructors or college professors, want to be able to put their classes online.
But for instructors not associated with high profile universities, there are few options to do so. MOOC platforms won’t necessarily partner with them. They can put their classes on YouTube, but then they can’t charge for them and there’s no easy way to distribute course information. They could use a content management service like Blackboard, but that’s built for bigger organizations to run internally. It’s not meant for the individual teacher who wants an easy e-commerce payment option built in. They can try configuring WordPress or other blogs to suit their needs. Not ideal.
New startup Everpath launched last week to fit this niche of the online instruction market. It’s a platform any teacher could use to run an online class. It has video and description boxes for users to easily upload their content and communicate with their students. Unlike MOOC companies like Coursera or edX, any person willing to pay the monthly Everpath subscription will be able to use it — once it launches to the public. It’s still in private beta at the moment.
“We are not a consumer destination,” Everpath’s co-founder Sandi Lin says. “We power courses for instructors.” Lin and her fellow co-founders Doug Gradt and Jason Stewart met when they were all working at Amazon, running the company’s daily deals product AmazonLocal. Lin had kept her eye on the educational space after the runaway success of AmazonLocal deals for Microsoft Excel classes. She was the first of the co-founders to quit the company to launch Everpath and the others followed suit.
TechStars Seattle accepted Everpath to its most recent accelerator class, which wrapped up at the end of October. Lin, Stewart, and Gradt spent the time coding the platform and gaging initial customer interest. Lin says they’ve gotten 500 inbound requests at this point but have only opened the technology up to a small group of instructors.
Everpath is the third in a small string of such micro-class platforms. Curious.com launched in 2012 with $14.5 million in backing from Redpoint Ventures and a few angels. It offers the casual teacher version of such software. Hobbyists or experts who might have taught hair curling or climbing shoe buying or rose bouquet arranging through YouTube videos can run their classes through Curious’ platform, which is specially designed for instruction. The classes have breaks built into the video segments for quizzes, and a space for instructors and viewers to converse.
Startup Pathwright launched the same year as Curious to provide something similar to Everpath: a mid-market platform for instructors to use to teach their classes online. Pathwright has kept a low profile, operating out of North Carolina and not raising any venture funding. The company seems to be taking the slow but steady bootstrapping route, and offers more than 100 courses.
There aren’t any other course builders out there though, meaning the market is wide open for multiple competitors. Although Everpath isn’t the first to market, it has landed $950 K in seed funding from a handful of angels, so it may make bigger waves than its quiet rival in South Carolina.