Category Archives: Review

NetDocuments

NetDocuments provides Secure Collaborative Document Software for Institutions

NetDocuments

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on our partner site Today’s Campus Magazine – Covering the people, campuses, and companies that are making business news in higher education.

You’ve heard of Dropbox, Box, Google Drive – need I go on? Why would you care to hear about another cloud document service? Well, as of today, a little school out east called Yale is taking notice and has officially selected NetDocuments to handle their collaborative file management. And for good reason.

You may have noticed I mostly write about hot, emerging edtech startups. Yet, document management doesn’t sound hip, NetDocs is far from a new company, and it certainly doesn’t solely appeal to the education market. So why am I incredibly interested in what they’re doing?

NetDocs is enabling universities and K-12s to collaborate on their internal documents with the necessary security compliance schools could only otherwise find in server-based systems. Their organization style is also unique, because locating specific files in a folder tree structure populated with – literally – 50 million documents is more than a little impractical. I can’t imagine scaling a Dropbox-style organizational file system to much more than a few hundred documents.

Maybe you already use software to manage documents directly from your desktop applications, but does it work for email as well? NetDocs is really the whole package for work collaboration, and even allows tracking over the lifetime of your documents. They integrate with Microsoft Office, Adobe, and iWork, plus they have mobile applications for those who work from their tablets frequently. I’m not a coder, but I see a strong resemblance here to what GitHub has done for programmers, which is fantastic.

One thing they have in common with all the companies I follow is a solid team. Good people are vitally important to a company, and none ultimately succeed without this factor. I can personally vouch for NetDocs after talking with Marriott (Mitt) Murdock, their Global Channel Partner Program Manager. I wouldn’t guess they were an established global giant just by talking to Mitt (if he hadn’t told me so!). They have a strong “start-upy” feel, with driven and down-to-earth team members. I can’t think of a better reason to start using NetDocs. Am I biased?

Maybe, but I’m certainly not the only one who likes what their helping administrators and educators do on campuses, and their adoption among schools of all types and sizes shows. They already have over 20 schools from around the world on their paid SaaS platform, in addition to countless other non-education related businesses. To give some perspective, there’s right around 1 BILLON documents on NetDocs, and this is growing rapidly.

In our talk, Mitt really drove home the point that NetDocs was built first as a collaborate tool, and second as document cloud storage. It’s not just about parking your work somewhere for it to be safe (though it does this, too), it specializes in assisting you to form and shape your projects with your team. With this focus, NetDocs was created nearly 15 years ago, and this is what continues to drive its development.

Another important thing to note is that NetDocs can be as useful in the classroom as it is at your department level. It would specifically be helpful in STEM lab and research-based courses for sharing findings and managing team workflows.

Of course, I also like NetDoc’s focus on lowering institutional operating costs by eliminating expenses like the hardware and client-side system maintenance necessary in server technology. With rising campus costs everywhere else, it’s reliving to find the companies who propose money-saving solutions. It makes me think they’ll listen when you tell them your budget, rather than being the vendor that returns with a package that’s twice what you can afford.

According to them, NetDocs also offers instant deployment to save you an incredible amount of time. It takes just days or weeks (depending on your document load) to fully setup and migrate your documents. Since it could take months or even years to assemble and migrate to a server-based system, you should most certainly get NetDocs if you’re just beginning to look for collaborative software.

I have to say, as an Ann Arbor, Michigan native, I’m glad to learn that the University of Michigan is also one of the institutions on-board. I was surprised how much NetDocs really sets themselves apart from and above their closest competitors. All in all, what’s not to like?

Eduglogster

10 Reasons for Teachers to use Eduglogster

Eduglogster

Why Eduglogster?

Most teachers nowadays are aware of the power of giving students a multi-sensory experience in learning. They are aware of the significance of integrating music, multi-media, colour, and critical thinking frameworks into lessons and project work.

When I first decided to teach online, I researched what kinds of tools I would need, as I knew that I would be creating many of my own materials. Eduglogster was a happy find indeed. Today, blended learning and technology is making it’s way into traditional classroom settings too, so this article is aimed at those who work online and educators in general.

Eduglogster is one of my most frequently used content creating tools for the following reasons.

1) It’s extremely user-friendly, and I can create top quality, attractive, multi-media presentations fast.

2) The free version has almost all of the functionality of the premium version, so it’s great for individual edupreneurs to use.

3) There are special school licenses for those who wish to engage full classes of students in creativity projects directly from their language labs.

4)You can use this interactive poster technology to create lessons across all subject areas, the only limit is your imagination. I will focus on English language learning in this article.

5) Whether you are teaching vocabulary or grammar you can design posters around the language concepts to be shared, get a fresh look at exactly what you wish your students to learn, and gain new insights into how to present it.The Eduglogster environment steers you clearly way from the dangers of re-creating text book style lesson plans. If you have seen some traditional power point presentations you’ll know what I mean.

6) The posters are fun to create, help you to be more creative as a teacher, and help you to model this creativity for your students.

7) It’s so user-friendly that your students will be able to make their own posters and explore language in new, exciting ways. This can be via short learning tasks, more ambitious project work, homework, or collaborative learning and team-building endeavours.

8) It generates enthusiasm in class, and is a god-send to students who rebel against traditional learning frameworks for the following reasons:

a) boredom,
b) right-brain dominant learning styles
c) desperation for a hands-on, intuitive approach to learning
d) desire for more autonomy in learning
e) desire for a less teacher-centric approach
f) the natural inclinations of the brain to seek fun
g) the natural inclinations of the brain to engage in deep learning, based on curiosity, research and creative interplay with language and expression.

9) If you are working online, the colourful, brain-friendly presentations will be very easy to make and save you lots of time. They can be used on skype via screen-sharing or printed from your screen to upload as an image to your virtual classroom.

Important web resources or language based links and files can all be attached to one poster, giving students everything they need on one page or even in a multi-level magazine. This saves them the trouble of wasting time surfing the net or saving too many educational URLS that they will never use.

Eduglogster helps in cutting down on information overload and focusing students on concise chunks of information, thereby eliminating stress or time management issues.

10) They can also be stored in files for students on your learning management systems, which could be your website , blog, google drive, moodle, ClubEFL edutainment platform, or other equivalents. Alternatively, you can make Eduglogster your LMS. Embedding and linking whatever is necessary and using the Eduglogster platform functions.

Lastly, I can see Eduglogster as becoming a wonderful tool & environment for philanthropic organizations to reach out to disadvantaged areas around the world.

DemoLesson

Empower Teachers and Streamline the Hiring Process with DemoLesson

DemoLesson

It has been reported that half of new teachers in the United States leave the profession within five years. Every teacher that leaves a school ends up costing thousands of dollars, in addition to the many hours spent to recruit, interview, hire, and train a new employee. In a large urban school district, the costs can be tens of thousands of dollars. Chicago Public Schools loses an average of $17,872 every time a teacher leaves, and turnover is estimated to cost the district more than $86 million a year (National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 2007). At the national level, yearly estimates are greater than $7 billion. When you factor in strong correlations between low performing schools, poverty, and teacher turnover, it’s clear that student performance and learning can also be profoundly impacted. However, despite recent data showing direct relationships between hiring practices and teacher retention, surprisingly little attention has been paid to teacher hiring by academic researchers or the education market at large.

DemoLesson, founded by Teach for America alumna Mandela Schumacher-Hodge and UCLA Riordan MBA Fellow Brian Martinez, has a twofold mission: to disrupt the hiring cycle in education, and to allow teachers to be proactive in their job search, showcasing their talents in a digital profile that goes above and beyond a traditional resume. In addition to education, experience, and credentials, teachers can upload headshots, attachments of sample work such as syllabi or class presentations, as well as a video of a demo lesson. This way, employers can view the teacher in the classroom prior to an interview, streamlining the process greatly in terms of both time and finances. DemoLesson recently introduced the “30-second snippet,” which allows a teacher to highlight the segment of their video they feel best represents their work, allowing schools to screen applications even more quickly.

DemoLesson Teacher Profil

I have been excited to write about DemoLesson since seeing their presentation at the LAUNCH Education & Kids conference in June, and even more so after talking to co-founder and COO Mandela. Although education reform has been newsworthy as of late, it is a common criticism that teachers have been left out of the conversation. In the education technology market, there seems to be a disconnect as well. But regardless of how much direct classroom experience someone in edtech might have, they are likely to understand and value “cultural fit” in hiring, especially at an early stage startup. “Hire slow, fire fast,” is a mantra I’ve heard more than a few times. The goal is to make sure that every team member you add fits in perfectly with your company culture and philosophy, and it’s not something that may be immediately obvious. Now, let’s take a look at how that translates to hiring in public education. In a 2006 study of four states, it was found that 60% of teachers were hired within a month of the beginning of the school year, with 11% of teachers being hired after the first day of school nationally. With last minute pressures to fully staff their classrooms, it’s highly likely that many schools are not finding appropriate fits for their job vacancies, therefore further propagating the vicious cycle of teacher turnover and the costly process of finding and training replacements. As DemoLesson allows school administrators to immediately see a teacher in a classroom setting, it can cut down time and money spent on screening and interviewing substantially, freeing scarce resources to be allotted to professional development and support to promote teacher retention. Over the summer months, the team is rolling out new features to increase the transparency of the hiring process for teachers, while allowing employers to review and manage large pools of candidates more efficiently. For example, if a school requires specific certifications, they can quickly screen and identify applicants that meet their needs.

DemoLesson School Profile

After a successful beta in 50 schools (including the Oakland Unified School District) and acquiring many inbound leads via word of mouth, DemoLesson is well on their way to making an impact on the teacher hiring cycle. They have also built their website and blog into a valuable resource for teachers, and post job listings from all over the country. The service is free for teachers, who can link to their profile while applying for jobs even outside the DemoLesson network.

There are a lot more great things I could say about DemoLesson and its founders, but I will end by saying that I believe empowering teachers and improving the hiring process is one critical step toward imparting systemic change in the American education system, which has a direct impact on all citizens.

DemoLesson is funded by Kapor Capital, 500 Startups, and Imagine K12. Check them out on the web at demolesson.com, follow them on Twitter, and check out their latest job postings.

LearningJar

LearningJar: Putting Goal Theory Into Practice For The 21st Century Career Path

The bold, colorful cover of the latest issue of my alma mater’s alumni magazine reads “Welcome to the new career path.” It is illustrated with a curvy trail containing occasional zigzags, twists, and turns. The caption declares emphatically, “Forget a straight line to your dream job.” The metaphor for the 21st century career path is no longer a “ladder,” as Sheryl Sandberg astutely pointed out in her commencement address to Harvard Business School’s newly minted MBAs, but rather, a “jungle gym.”

It’s quite an interesting time to be a recent graduate and jobseeker. The value of formal education is questioned frequently and noisily, while remarkably skilled teens are receiving lucrative job offers. As Ritu Jain learned while co-founding and building LearningJar, today’s self-motivated learners are seeking resources online, but are more interested in acquiring new skills than taking courses. After all, “learning” is certainly not limited to coursework, whether online or offline. But how do we document knowledge gained via informal learning experiences? Traditional portfolios and resumes do not necessarily provide a clear snapshot of one’s abilities, particularly when skills are self-taught or otherwise informally learned.

These questions, along with her own inspiring story of being a lifelong independent experiential learner, paved the way for Ritu to found LearningJar. Winner of SXSWedu and member of the Winter 2012 ImagineK12 cohort, LearningJar provides a platform to bridge the gap between informal learning and documenting progress in new skills. Log in to LearningJar, which recently launched its public beta, indicate what “you want to be (e.g., a web developer),” follow a “learning path” complete with curated tutorials and lessons to learn the skills you need, and complete challenges along the way to show your mastery. New skills are collected in your LearningJar portfolio, and can be shared on your LinkedIn profile.

LearningJar

Still in its early stages, LearningJar shows great promise. With top partners in online learning solutions like AdobeCodeSchool, and Lynda.com, the young company already has a solid foundation and an active, engaged user base. It is crowdsourcing suggestions for new skills and learning paths to add to the site, as well as partnering with new content providers and soliciting feedback from human resources departments.

LearningJar

As Ritu and I have been sharing our own experiences in formal and informal learning, it got me thinking about research in the area of motivation, and specifically, goal theory. According to this theory, motivation to learn is typically broken down into dichotomies. One of the classic examples is the difference between mastery and performance goal orientation. Performance is something that can be readily seen on one’s resume, and can take the form of fancy letters behind your name, or the level of prestige associated with the school you attended (and probably paid a pretty penny for). But beyond a threshold level of achievement (i.e., at least minimal satisfaction of graduation requirements), your diploma and “brand name” do not necessarily illustrate mastery or expertise. While it’s early in the age of blended learning solutions, I am extremely interested in ideas like LearningJar that allow modern professionals to truly show mastery, especially in cases where they are charting new courses in their career path, and showing years of experience or enrolling in additional formal schooling may be impractical. After all, in the motivation literature, intrinsically motivated learners (i.e., those with mastery orientation) are more engaged with their tasks and are more likely to persevere through challenges. Those who are more performance oriented are typically extrinsically motivated, by factors like grades, scores, or ranks. As hiring committees are inundated with applicants, I believe that platforms like LearningJar give opportunities for driven, mastery-oriented individuals to showcase their talents in a way that has not been available before. And when it comes down to it, wouldn’t you rather have a mastery-oriented, intrinsically motivated person on your team?

As college costs soar, and degrees don’t necessarily guarantee jobs, it seems that LearningJar has entered the market at an opportune time. It may be a “jungle gym” out there, but the last time I checked, it’s those unexpected turns and adventures that can be the most rewarding.

What do you want to be? Learn some new skills and demonstrate your mastery on LearningJar.

LearningJar

InstaEDU

InstaEDU: On Demand Tutoring When You Need It Most

InstaEDU

It never failed. During each of the twelve(!) academic quarters I spent as a teaching assistant during graduate school, the days, nights, and hours immediately preceding a quiz, exam, or assignment deadline were always chaotic. Students I had never even met before would come out of the woodwork needing last minute help. Undergrads queued up outside my tiny office during typically silent weekly office hours. Emails flooded in at all hours of the night. This crunch time sometimes involved tears, outrageous stories, and excuses you would not believe. These fond memories all came back to me when I met Alison Johnston, co-founder and CEO of InstaEDU, last week for coffee.

As co-founder of in-home tutoring service Cardinal Scholars with her brother Dan, Alison noticed a lot of the same patterns I observed as a TA. Urgent questions kept coming up at all hours of the night. We all remember that panicky feeling of being stuck on that one last problem in a set, or needing a couple points clarified for an important test at a time when the chances of getting a hold of your TA are slim to none. While it would be impractical to schedule an in person study session to meet all of these last minute needs, Alison and Dan knew that there were many capable tutors – students at elite universities such as Stanford who had successfully taken the same course before, for example – online at all hours who might be able to help.

InstaEDU, who recently raised a $1.1M seed round from the Social+Capital Partnership and others, offers a great solution for last minute study woes. Currently in public beta with a network of 1000 experts vetted from Top 25 universities in the U.S. (based on the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings) as well as Oxford and Cambridge, students can log on to the site, indicate what kind of help they need, and be matched with a tutor in less than one minute, on average. Sessions can be conducted over video chat (or audio only, if preferred), and assignments can be uploaded so student and expert can concurrently work on the same problems.

InstaEDUAlthough the company is still in its early stages, I believe that InstaEDU is one to watch, and am looking forward to seeing their wider roll out as the academic year begins this fall. There are many aspects to their services and business model that make me a fan of InstaEDU. From a student’s perspective, it is an economical way (first 10 minutes free, 50 cents per additional) to get help when they need it, even during odd hours and stressful times. It is also a great opportunity for students to earn extra cash during their free time. The system notifies experts currently online when a student is seeking help, providing a truly “on demand” service, and the tutor can choose to accept or ignore the request, working solely on their own schedules. At $20 an hour, serving as an expert pays more than most on campus and work-study positions, and could certainly help graduate students and postdocs supplement their stipends as well.

Alison and I also discussed some features that InstaEDU is considering adding to their arsenal. Students can currently rate and review their expert after a tutoring session, so more detailed profiles and testimonials will appear in future iterations of the website. Moreover, the team is working to find optimal ways for proactive students to schedule sessions ahead of time with their preferred tutors. From my experiences of being an overwhelmed TA, I suggested a case where individual universities might have a list of reliable experts that can be recommended to students in the event that their own TA might not be available, which could provide quality help for students, a bit of cash flow for the tutors, and a slightly lighter work load for the TA, resulting in a win-win-win for everyone.

As options for online learning grow, and class sizes can range from just a handful of students to tens of thousands, another future endeavor of InstaEDU is to personalize the experience of a distance learner. As one of thousands of students in a live streaming lecture course over the Internet, you may not be able to easily engage with your professor, but with InstaEDU, you can have an expert in your subject area help you one-on-one in under a minute.

Are you in need of a study session? Interested in earning some extra cash as an expert? Go to instaedu.com to find out more.