Pages Navigation Menu

Offering MOOCs to Market Your Product – Q&A With the Spanish MOOC Teachers at Instreamia

Today I have an interview with the founders of Instreamia, the guys behind Spanish MOOC, the best-known massive open online class currently available for learning Spanish.

language learning MOOC

by Johan Larrson via Flickr

The funny thing is, the main goal of Instreamia isn’t even to teach MOOCs. What’s interesting about this tech start-up is that they are offering MOOCs outside the customary academic setting as a form of content marketing to their potential customers. So far, they have offered Spanish MOOC, which has been a way to demonstrate their product, and they facilitated another MOOC on language learning, known as ltmooc, as a professional development opportunity that engages teachers who might use the product.

In our interview, we talk about how these two online classes have worked, what tips they have for students in MOOCs and, most interestingly, what tips they have for other companies who might use MOOCs to engage their customers.

I do want to acknowledge one issue we didn’t get into during this interview that will be important to most people following the development of MOOCs. While Instreamia courses have been free to participate in, they do plan to charge for some courses in the future, which would not fit the “open” part of the MOOC concept in most people’s eyes. That is mentioned in the interview without us delving into it.

Enjoy the interview either by watching the video or reading the transcript below. But please be patient with the poor audio in the intro on my end; Scott and Ryan’s audio sounds fine.

-Robert

 

McGuire

Hello everyone. This is Robert McGuire at MOOC News and Reviews. I’m talking with the founders of a new company named Instreamia, which provides an online tool for language learning. Instreamia is run by two brothers Scott Rapp and Ryan Rapp. Welcome guys.

Scott Rapp

Hello

Ryan Rapp

Hi. Thanks for having us.

McGuire

This is Ryan on the screen’s right and Scott on the left, right.?

Scott Rapp

It’s mirrored for us . . . . [Laughs].

McGuire

Say hello, Ryan, please.

Ryan Rapp

Yes, so I’m Ryan.

Scott Rapp

And I’m Scott.

McGuire

Sorry about that. I had a plan to make that straight, and I messed it up.

I wanted to talk to you two for a couple of reasons. First, your product has applications for MOOCs, I think — and we can talk about that — and, second, you’re using MOOCs to train your product’s users and to demonstrate the product. So I want to hear some more about that, but before we get into that, let’s start with an understanding with the tool itself.

Tell us about Instreamia and how it works.

Ryan Rapp

Instreamia is a new kind of web 2.0 big data sort of technology that can take any video online — so you can find something on YouTube — and you can import into Instreamia and make a learning module out of it. And it does this automatically and dynamically by importing whatever caption tracks are available, pairing those caption tracks neatly into sentences and then allowing the user to learn from each of the words in the sentences one at a time through customized exercises.

So, for example — we  use a lot of natural language processing in order to make all of this happen — but, for example, we can have a sentence maybe in Spanish from a favorite Shakira video of yours, and we can identify a verb, we can ask you how the verb should be conjugated for a different subject or what the verb means in this context. We can do this all in very nice contextualized manner.

It’s very different from studying from flashcards, which you can learn that comenzar can mean to begin, to commence, to start, lots of different things. And then it also has particular nuances in particular sentences, which can be overwhelming for a new language learner. They just want to know what it means and in one situation, but Instreamia is able to do that, because you’re learning in an actual context of that actual video, rather than just trying to learn mechanics or do all kinds of flashcards. So that’s the big idea.

McGuire

I’ve taught ESL a little bit myself, and the thing I’m always very aware of is how hard it is to teach figurative language — metaphor and simile and idiom — and I think it’s only possible to do that with natural language, as you say, things that are in the wild.

Scott Rapp

Yeah. And the educational term for that is authentic content. They’re always talking about using authentic content, which a lot of platforms, unfortunately, don’t even use authentic content. They use translations. So they write the content in one language, and then they have that professionally translated into a different language, and it lost its authenticity. Now you’re learning from a translation.

So we are really proud of being able to use authentic content, and it’s a lot of the toolset that’s embedded for the learner to be able to understand this authentic content that we can even take something that’s maybe a level  B2 or something, if you’re using European standard, a much higher level content piece. And with the toolset – with the hovering, being able to mouse over things, see translations, see verb tagging – with this toolset you can actually understand the content even though you’re not yet at an advanced level.

McGuire

And if I understand it right, it’s getting more authentic as time goes on because people are sort of – not crowdsourcing; maybe that’s the wrong term – but people are constantly improving the translation on the video.

Ryan Rapp

That’s right. So we can leverage the data that students who use our software create as they use it. So we can look at it and discern the best way to ask questions and also kind of get a better idea of the nuance of the different language being used.

McGuire

If I understand correctly, the ideas isn’t that you guys, that Instreamia is running all these language programs. It’s more the teachers . . . . I’m not a language teacher myself, but if I was teaching a language, I would somehow deploy this in my own curriculum.

Ryan Rapp

Absolutely. What we’ve done to get the ball rolling is we’ve done a couple of courses ourselves, where Scott was the teacher of the SpanishMOOC, and we had about 4,000 students join, and we were able to demonstrate how the technology worked. So that was an initial starting point to refine the process and see how it works on our own level. But, of course, what we’re really trying to build here is not a tool for the two of us to teach languages to the entire world. That would be ridiculous. We’re trying to build a tool that allows teachers to teach languages.

We were both language teachers, so we understand the teaching process and that people can’t really learn from software alone. It can provide a really good help, and it can allow for the teacher to organize some really cool activities that ,without the software, you couldn’t do. So it’s extremely valuable. [pullquote position=”right”]We roll our eyes when we think about some of these software platforms that, you know, they say, “Just listen to these audio tapes for 90 days, and you’ll be speaking fluent French, Spanish” or whatever it is. It’s just not going to happen.[/pullquote]

McGuire

So if I was a language teacher, if I was teaching – well I know you have Spanish and Italian;, you have a handful of others – so if I was a Spanish teacher in high school or college and I saw this tomorrow, what I would do if I was interested in using it?

Ryan Rapp

You would just need to create an Instreamia account. Anyone can create an account and then . . . . Actually, we haven’t launched the official teacher version yet, so at this point they have to just send us an email and we could set them up with a teacher account. It’s a really simple process where they can just choose which videos they want their students to learn from, build it into an online course. It really accommodates however much you want to do with it. So if you just want to have your own class maybe offline in person and then just have them do some of the exercises in Instreamia, that’s an option. But you can even move the entire course where you’re doing like a flipped classroom, and all of your videos are in Instreamia, and then all the exercises are in Instreamia.

McGuire

So if I went out and selected the video myself, and I said, “Oh this is a great . . . ,” like if I was teaching a business language class or a class for people learning the language of business, and I found a great video, I would then manage to produce the translation myself and produce the exercises in it myself.

Ryan Rapp

That’s right. And if you weren’t capable of doing that, we’re connecting an API with a company called 3Play Media, which does all of the captioning, professional captioning, transcribing and translating for Netflix and a lot of major companies, and they have a really cool machine-based approach where it will transcribe using NLP – natural language processing – stuff, and then they’ll have professionals go back, check over it and clean it up. They’re a very cool company and they can do all of this for just about $2 per minute. So if you had a 10 minute video it would be like $20, so a very reasonable cost.

McGuire

So to demonstrate the product you have a Spanish MOOC, or at least I think that was the reason you did it. But what’s happening, anyway ,is you’re demonstrating the product through the Spanish MOOC. Why did you decide to put your Spanish lessons in MOOC form?

Ryan Rapp

Good question. Scott, you want to go ahead?

Scott Rapp

I’m sorry. Why did we choose the MOOC form instead of just teaching a smaller classroom or something like that?

McGuire

Yeah. I guess there are other ways to do online education. To make it massive and open to the world that way, why that way?

Scott Rapp

Right, so, a few reasons. One of them was to show that through technology you can scale teaching, as opposed to trying to take technology . . . . [pullquote position=”right”]You have these two extremes. You have these technology companies who think they can teach languages on their own, and then you have these language teachers who think technology doesn’t even have a place in their classroom and it should all be face-to-face instruction.[/pullquote] So nobody had ever really done this large scale Spanish massive open online course in this way before. There are a few other people who tried it around the same time that I did, actually, this winter semester of 2013 from January to April. You’d have to ask them how there’s went.

But ours went very well, and we had about 4,000 people, and it showed that in spite of just having me, the one teacher – and I had a team of volunteers who helped with some of the grading, some of the other tasks and student interaction end of things – but we were still able to greatly increase the competency in the individuals who stuck with it and went to the end. A lot of them even said that, “This is the best language course I’ve ever taken.” One person said they learned more in the first week in my course than they learned in four years of high school.

McGuire

What about the learning management system. Was Instreamia itself the MOOC software or did you use some other learning management system?

Scott Rapp

Instreamia has been developing as it’s gone through the MOOC. Our students will probably tell you the first couple of weeks were a little more rocky, and by the time it was done it was a pretty polished experience. We actually started off using an integrated solution with another learning management system. We used Blackboard. They had a free version for MOOCs called CourseSites, and I think they still have it, but we’ve since diverged away from that and made Instreamia the entire virtual learning platform or environment.

McGuire

So there are discussion boards and there are social element in it for students to interact with one another.

Ryan Rapp

There is, yeah, absolutely. And one of the things we think about in educational content design is how to get these really interesting discussions that happen in discussion boards outside of these buried threads and where people will notice them. That’s a big issue that all online teachers come across where it’s like, “Someone made a great point, but it’s like four threads deep and down and nobody’s ever going to come across it.” Right?

McGuire

That’s something we can talk about constantly on our site. To me it’s the biggest problem in the [MOOC] software, but it’s also the biggest missed opportunity.

Ryan Rapp

Yeah. Definitely. And we haven’t completely solved it yet, but one thing that we have done, which is pretty cool, is we’ve put all the discussion around specific sentences or specific content on the site, and with the language learning class – I’m not saying this will work for everything – but what’s really cool with the language learning class is that a lot of the discussion is actually on this specific sentence in this specific video that they were watching that they didn’t understand. “Why did they use ser here and not estar?” or, “Why did they say como se llama instead of como te llame?” Sometimes students will get confused or whatever it is.

But the really cool thing about doing that is that, when a student is reading that same sentence as part of their regular course routine, so they’re watching that same video and they get stuck on that same sentence, they can see exactly how many posts have been made about that sentence, and all they have to do is put their cursor over the number of posts and it shows them immediately what those posts are, right? So you don’t have to even click on something. It’s really trying to get that content, those great questions and those great responses out where learners are going to run into them.

McGuire

I know currently underway, it’s about to end I think, you have a language teacher MOOC, which, it’s sort of professional development for language teachers and also demonstrates the product. So tell me about how that’s working. What’s unique about that MOOC and how’s it been going?

Ryan Rapp

[pullquote position=”right”]One thing that’s really cool about this MOOC is we really took a very collaborative approach to designing it. We very openly admitted that there’s all kinds of interesting problems in language learning and using technology with language learning that we don’t have the solutions to.[/pullquote] And we called on this group of educators to give us their feedback, help us brainstorm, “Okay, how should assessment be designed in teaching? Should it be this really buttoned down approach where you have specific multiple choice questions or should assessment be something more fluid where you just talk with the student and go according to some criteria and grade them?”

There’s all kinds of really interesting questions in language learning that came up and that continue to come up throughout this MOOC that I think is really unique. The interesting thing about this is that it’s almost like a meta-course, because we’re having a course on how to teach courses. We’re using technology to teach a course on how to use technology to teach a course. It’s really kind of confusing in a lot of ways. You’re like, “Wait, what class or what assignment are you talking about? Are you talking about the assignment for this or the assignment for the classes that you teach?”

So it’s kind of confusing, but the cool thing is that a lot of this ties in. So, when we’ll have a Google Hangout and have a discussion, and we’ll structure that discussion in a certain way with certain points and ask certain questions to try to facilitate participation, the students can observe – or I shouldn’t say students; they’re teachers, right – the participants can observe how we’ve done this and how they could potentially do it in their classroom, and it’s kind of cool in that way.

McGuire

Okay. Well I suppose the answer to my next question is similar. Why did you do decide to do the language learning opportunity for your potential customers, why do that in MOOC form?

Ryan Rapp

Yeah, that’s a good question as well. I think the great thing about a MOOC is people have really open expectations for it, and they can drop in or drop out. They can get what they want from it. That’s really how we wanted to structure this. We didn’t want to have a really formal, “This is how you teach with Instreamia, and this is how it has to be done.”

McGuire

Yes, I guess the collectivist model of a MOOC, it’s harder to apply that in other kinds of online learning.

Ryan Rapp

Yeah. Absolutely.

McGuire

So now that you’ve run a couple . . . .Well, actually, let me ask this first because I guess another interesting thing about this is that you guys are running MOOCs, but you guys are not affiliated with a university, or maybe I’m mistaken about that, but as far as I know . . .

Ryan Rapp

That’s right.

Scott Rapp

Not yet, anyway.

McGuire

. . . So when people think MOOC, they think university classes or a star professor covering university level material that’s the kind of material that would be covered over 15 weeks of the semester, and you just are two guys running a MOOC – that’s another way of looking at it – unaffiliated with any institution. What gave you the idea to do that?

Scott Rapp

The MOOC was my brainchild. I said to Ryan, “Have you ever heard of a MOOC?” And he said, “What’s MOOC?” And I said, “It’s this crazy idea that you give your course away for free online and you hope tons of people come.” He’s like, “You think they’ll come?” And we got into contact with a lot of great sites that agreed to list us and put us in “others” section. Others even put us right alongside Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, all these universities, and it was like, “There’s our MOOC, too.” Which is awesome. We were really happy that they were able to do that. One of them actually reported back to me that ours is like the second highest click-through rate of all of the sites, including all the ones from Coursera and Udacity and all these other ones.

McGuire

Who reported that back?

Scott Rapp

That was Class-Central.

McGuire

I’ve seen on discussion forums people will ask, “Are there any Spanish language MOOCs?” And yours is the only name that keeps coming up. So you’re sort of first to market, in a way.

What you’re saying illustrates a concept that I think is really important – I don’t think anyone has talked about it much – is that the flat world metaphor, people only take half that metaphor and they think, “Oh, it means anybody in the world can be my customer.” But what it also means is anybody in the world can put their material alongside Princeton’s and Harvard’s, the way that you guys have done it. So not only can anybody in the world be a student of these classes, anybody in the world can be a teacher of these classes.

Scott Rapp

Yeah, I think that’s really interesting. One of the biggest proponents of that methodology that I know of is actually UReddit. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Reddit’s social network site, but one of the pages on Reddit was called University of Reddit, and they’re like, “Hey, let’s start out own little thing and not actually be affiliated with Reddit,” and they started this UReddit, where they actually have redditors create their own courses. Some of them have as many as a thousand participants, and they seem to generally be offered by just your average Joe. “I was a chemical engineer for 10 years. Why don’t I teach chemical engineering instead of the university professor of chemical engineering?”

McGuire

And sometimes they will sort of rise to the top and compete like you’re hearing from Class-Central that yours is getting just as much attention. The example I keep pointing to is that the most popular teacher in the world right now Sal Khan.

Ryan Rapp

Oh, yeah. I was just about to bring that up.

Scott Rapp

Exactly.

McGuire

Who was just a guy in his closet with Microsoft Paint and a YouTube account.

Scott Rapp

Exactly. Yeah, and I think that’s a great example of this little guy going up against the Goliaths. I think one of the biggest reasons why the Coursera, Udacity and EdXs of the world haven’t gone into language learning, some of them have started to offer courses in other languages, but their virtual learning environment is very much so geared towards teaching subject matter and not towards this meta level content of understanding the language that’s used to teach the content. So I think it would be a significant challenge, and maybe this is why they haven’t put any on their platform. I know a few other MOOCs actually teach languages, really small ones from the community college side of things. I don’t know whether they try to get in touch with Coursera or not. I know at least on a few discussion boards somebody said they tried to teach French and Coursera kind of turned them away, and I think it’s because they recognize their environments just aren’t set up for that meta level teaching, which is why we hope that Instreamia really has a great chance to get into this market that otherwise doesn’t really exist.

McGuire

Yeah, I guess I was aware before that one of the limitations for the time being – I don’t think it’s necessarily forever – is that it’s hard for MOOCs to replicate lab time, studio time, workshop time and seminar time. I guess the extension would be language lab time, so in a sense you’re offering something that’s like a language lab that other MOOC platforms haven’t yet figured out.

Ryan Rapp

Yeah, I think that’s about right. And we’re not the only people experimenting in this lab space. Another huge one, of course, and really popular right now, is the teaching of programming languages, and, interestingly enough, a lot of what they’re doing actually has some resemblance to what we’re doing to teach spoken languages, so it’s kind of interesting.

So you have like Code Academy or even Udacity and some of the bigger ones that are starting to integrate new ways where you have to complete the assignment, and it checks whether the assignment is correct. Scott and I always Joke, well you’re giving JavaScript to a computer and you’re asking that computer which knows JavaScript to tell you whether that JavaScript is correct. That’s a thousand times easier than what we have to do, which is trying to tell them if their Spanish is correct, so I feel like they’re kind of cheating.

Advice for MOOC students

McGuire

Well, let’s talk about advice for other students. I always, when I’m doing interviews, ask, because anybody who has any experience has a lot of experience in MOOC time,  considering it’s so new. So imagine a student in any other subject, not necessarily Spanish, not necessarily from you guys, not necessarily language learning, professional development, but any kind of MOOC. Based on what you’re noticing about how students behave in the space and the strategies that you use, what would you advice other students? What do they need to do in order to do well?

Scott Rapp

I’ve read a few good articles from the student’s perspective of what to do to succeed in a MOOC and also from the professor’s expectation, and I’ll give a few of my tips for my students, which would carry over to some other MOOCs, as well.

Number one, try keep up, especially because of the college level that most MOOCs try to keep themselves up with. Ours was definitely at least college level. Our curriculum was actually about as comprehensive as two college level courses. It speaks a little bit to the self-paced nature of what you can do. You can get more done if people work at their own pace, because you don’t have to wait for the slowest person sort of thing. [pullquote position=”right”]A U-Penn professor said that his online courses are the same. When they do the online beginner course for German, they teach two semesters in one semester’s time frame because the self-paced nature is actually a little bit more aggressive and better paced. I think that’s probably true of any MOOC that you take.[/pullquote] If you don’t take the initiative to keep up during the first week and when you first get started, you’re going to fall further and further behind, and it’s going to be challenging.

Another one is take notes, and I would actually recommend paper notes, more so than computer-based notes, especially, for me, personally, as a written learner or whatever you want to call it. it really helps me to draw processes out and diagram how they work, and I haven’t been able to replicate in technology, even though I’ve dedicated my career to technology. I still learn better by actually writing processes and diagramming stuff out and taking those physical handwritten notes. So that’s a couple of tips at least.

McGuire

How long was your Spanish MOOC?

Scott Rapp

Twelve weeks.

McGuire

Twelve weeks. Wow. So it really looked like a college semester in a way.

Scott Rapp

Yeah, it was college level.

Advice for organizations offering MOOCs for professional development

McGuire

What about organizations that, like you, might be thinking about developing some professional development opportunity or training opportunities for their employees or people in their sector. What advice would you give to them about working up a MOOC?

Scott Rapp

A few things. Expect attrition. Do your best to try to keep the students involved, but set the bar at a reasonable level. A lot of these registrants don’t even have the intention of actually taking your course; they’re just kind of curious about it. Like ours, we had about five hundred students signed up. I don’t think we have five hundred students actively participating in the language teaching MOOC. Even during the first week. [pullquote position=”right”]I’m realistic that there’s a lot of attrition going on, and it’s leveled off as it did in Spanish MOOC. So don’t beat yourself up too hard if your students drift away.[/pullquote]

Also, find a structure that works for you and for your students, and stick with it. I’ve done the weekly breakout sort of thing that a lot of college courses do, and that’s worked really well for me and for our students.

Be aware of how challenging it can be to grade handwritten assignments or open-ended responses. We did have open-ended responses in our Spanish MOOC, and we have graded all of them now. We were operating at about a three or four week delay, which was much less than ideal. We wanted to have it done with a 24 hour delay, which actually speaks to why we started to charge for our upcoming MOOCs, so that we can really get that feedback closed up like it ought to be. So handwritten assignments are great, but it’s a lot of work.

Just the whole MOOC development, MOOC creation, dedication and just the tech support calls that you’re going to get of people forgetting to use your name and password, no matter what platform you use, it’s going to flood your inbox, and you’re not going to get much sleep for those weeks that your MOOC is running.

Ryan Rapp

Yeah, Those are great tips, if you’re going to do one, on how the mechanics should work out. I would also say that, depending on what the organization is trying to accomplish, you should be thinking carefully about the purpose of the MOOC and what you’re trying to get by with it. [pullquote position=”right”]MOOC learners are really sensitive to the fact that they’re spending their time. Even if it’s for free, they want to learn the things that they’re interested in. [/pullquote]And, like Scott was mentioning with the attrition, you really have to give them something useful.

So what we’ve done with our LT MOOC is we’ve actually invited some top tier professors in the language education space to come and lecture, and we had interviews with them, much like we’re doing right now, where we try to bring up what kind of questions we though the teachers participating in our MOOC would bring up. [pullquote]So you’ve got to have something to give them. If you’re just trying to market something and you’re going to create a MOOC to market it, I don’t know that that’s necessarily going to go well by itself.[/pullquote]

McGuire

Well thank you very much. Let me ask a couple of wrap up questions. What is next for Instreamia itself? When is the next MOOC? What’s next in the development of your product?

Scott Rapp

We have two Spanish MOOCs coming up. One starts in just a few weeks here, beginning of June, which is Spanish 100, which, as I mentioned, is pay-to-enroll, and then also Spanish 200, which a good majority of the students who completed Spanish 100 are advancing on to the next level. And that’s another pay-to-enroll. And then we’re also developing a set of English MOOCs, which we haven’t yet announced the dates for, but we’re starting to gather the content and platform for that. Then the other big advance that we have . . . are we allowed to announce the other one?

Ryan Rapp

Sure. So we’re going to be launching on Edmodo, so we’ll have really great K-12 integration for teachers that want to use Instreamia in their schools. A lot of teachers are already using Edmodo. They already have their classrooms set up in Edmodo, so it’s literally going to be just one click to get their students using Instreamia.

McGuire

Oh excellent. Congratulations. And the next language teaching MOOC?

Scott Rapp

We haven’t yet put together a date for it, but we’re actually planning on basing it on the Edmodo group of people who are intrigued by our offering as an Edmodo app, especially just because of the marketing potential there and the volume of the network size of the Edmodo collection. There’s, I think, almost a million teachers on it now? No. 100,000 or something? I don’t know.

Ryan Rapp

It’s the largest such network. Let’s see.

Scott Rapp

It’s a really big network, and we’re expecting it to really get our language teaching MOOC into a lot of hands and then probably start one up this fall. That’s what we’re thinking.

McGuire

I forgot to ask about the languages. So I know that there are a handful of languages that you list on the website. Suppose I was a teacher of some other language that’s not one of those. Is it possible for me to start using it? Why is it limited to those languages?

Ryan Rapp

We have a lot of exercises that are specifically geared towards specific mechanics in the language. So, for example, if you wanted to teach the preterite tense, we have exercises specifically designed for teaching the preterite tense in Spanish. We want to make sure that we’re maintaining the depth of our approach. We don’t want to just become the quiz lit of language learning where people just take a handful of questions and dump it onto our site and then make a curriculum out of it. We want to actually power learning through really interesting natural language processing. It takes us some time in order to get that level of depth, but we currently offer 13 languages. I’m sorry, some of those are in development. And we’re working on getting those up to enough of a level that we can say, “Okay, you can actually use this as a typical product.” It’s really just the lag of trying to keep up the Instreamia level for each of those languages.

Scott Rapp

The other significant undertaking, as opposed to sites like [inaudible] or other ones where you have to key in individual words, their definitions and the two sides or three sides of the flashcard and then that becomes what you learn from, Instreamia tries to take all that work out by using a bunch of dictionaries. So our Spanish dictionary right now is by far the best, just because of the amount of time we spend curating it and getting it just right. Any new language that we want to teach, we don’t want to have you type out a thousand flashcards, because that’s about how many words you would learn in a six week course even, or at least be exposed to. So it’s too much effort. It’s too teacher intensive for what we want to accomplish in this platform.

McGuire

Well, thank you very much for taking the time talk to us. I really appreciate it. It’s been very interesting to learn about it.

Ryan Rapp

Yeah, thank you so much for interviewing us, and if you ever have any questions in the future feel free to reach out.

Scott Rapp

Yeah, nice to meet you. Thank you.

 

Robert McGuire (52 Posts)

My content marketing services firm provides all-in-one external staff solutions for companies looking to grow their business through thought leadership. I started MOOC News & Reviews in 2013 out of a fascination with the economic, demographic and technological forces impacting edtech, online education and higher education, and I wanted to provide a forum for serious discussion of this new phenomenon. I love building communities of writers engaging in lively critical dialogue about emerging issues.