Education channel creativeLIVE goes 24-7, because apparently there's a demand for that

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on December 12, 2013

From The News Desk

Live broadcasting hasn't had quite the same panache since demand TV and movies via Netflix and Hulu have come on the scene. It was starting to seem like consumers preferred the power of the web, letting them watch video anytime anywhere, over the power of the broadcast.

But then, a week ago 18.6 million viewers tuned in to watch a critically panned version of "The Sound of Music," live on NBC. A sign that Live broadcasts were coming back in vogue? That's what Mika Salmi, CEO of startup creativeLIVE says. "The idea of live is getting more and more resonance," Salmi says. "It's real time, it's Twitter, it's the idea of immediacy. Everything that's old becomes new again, a new flavor with a social layer on top of it."

Salmi has every reason to hope live video is hot again, since that's the whole premise of his company's business model. CreativeLIVE streams celebrity instructors teaching classes over the web from one of its Seattle or San Francisco-based studios. People teach for a full day straight, with professional lighting and equipment capturing their lesson plan. Anyone tuning in online can watch it for free, in the trend of MOOCs -- massive, open, online classes.

This week, creativeLIVE announced it's ramping up service to 24 hours a day, letting users tune in anytime to watch instructors teach on topics ranging from "Pregnancy and Newborn Photography" to "Launch a Successful Podcast."  There will be five available channels: Photo & Video, Art & Design, Music & Audio, Maker & Craft and Business & Money. Experts in their respective fields have signed up to run classes, including Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, who will be teaching "The Startup of You."

Salmi claims the advent of social has added a whole extra layer of meaning to live broadcasting. CreativeLIVE classes are run in exactly that manner, with the people watching encouraged to tweet their questions to the instructor in the moment.

The company gets people hooked on the service, which they can watch live for free. But people have to pay to watch a video class when it's not streaming live. CreativeLIVE found that the more classes it streamed, the more people paid for other segments that had already aired. Thus, the move into 24 hour programming.

To go all content all the time, it's using the $21.5 million chunk of change it raised for its Series B from Greylock and The Social+Capital Partnership in November.

CreativeLIVE's introduction of 24 hour channels comes at a time when people are starting to reassess whether MOOCs are really the way of the education future. One of the godfathers of MOOCs, Udacity's co-founder Sebastian Thrun, recently told Fast Company "We don't educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product." The retention rate of MOOCs is abysmal -- most students who take them never finish the class. So much for revolutionizing education.

Despite the fact that creativeLIVE classes are essentially MOOCs, the MOOC downward trend does not bother Salmi.

"We do believe there's interaction between students and teachers that's important, but there's a lot of skills in grad school that would be better served in distance learning versus going into a classroom," Salmi says.

He pointed out that traditional MOOCs focus on academic courses through universities, like Chemistry or History. Meanwhile, creativeLIVE is in the Lynda camp, teaching concrete skills more than theory. Unlike Lynda though, the classes are taught by instructors on video, versus just screencasts with a voiceover.

Salmi personally believes that the future of education will be based on hybrid models of academic learning, with students taking a mix of classes online to learn concrete skills like Photoshop or Excel, and learning more philosophical, historical, and academic topics in person.

Given that Lynda has been plugging along cheerily for eighteen years under that model and MOOC company Udacity is pivoting to focus on vocational skills, Salmi may be onto something.