All posts by NikPeachey

10 Free Tools for Building Blended & Online Learning

As internet connections improve and costs of classroom hours increase, it’s becoming increasingly important to offer some form of blended or totally online materials to enhance courses.

In this posting I’ll introduce some useful free and freemium tools that can enable any teacher to start creating content for online delivery.

You can find more tools like these in Digital Tools for Teachers

1. Perusallhttps://perusall.com/

PerusallThis tool enables teachers to build onto more traditional course book based courses and add a blended element. Once you have created an account you can upload PDF documents and add them to courses. You then give your students a code to register on the course and they can access the texts, make notes and annotate the text and build discussions around them. The site also generates a ‘confusion report’  which can show you where they are struggling or having problems with the text. You can deal with the problems in the next class. When you register as a teacher you need to tell the site which school you teach at. You can try a live demo of a course to see how it works at: https://app.perusall.com/demo

2. NowCommenthttps://nowcomment.com/

NowCommentThis is a very similar tool to Perusall, but it’s completely free. and works around any web based text. You can create classes and groups and add students to them and then create and assign texts from the internet as reading activities. You then create questions and comments linked to specific parts of the text which your students engage with as they read. This enables you to create an online dialogue around the text and get your students sharing and exploring their views around the text.

3. Teachablehttps://teachable.com

TeachableYou can use Teachable to create and sell your own online courses. There isn’t much in the way of interactive exercise types available, but you can add videos text and allow comments. There is a built in payment system so this takes a lot of the headaches out of getting started. Teachable take 10% if you are working with a free account. If you find that you are selling a lot of courses you can switch to a paid account with a fixed fee to reduce the charges. This is a great way to start becoming an independent course designer.

4. CourseLabhttp://www.courselab.com/view_doc.html

CourseLabCourseLab has been around for a while now and is a free tool for authoring your own interactive digital content. You don’t need any coding skills, just use the drag and drop editor to create a wide range of multimedia interactive activities. This really is quite a powerful tool capable of designing a wide range of quite complex interactive activity types that include context specific feedback and a number of other features like scoring and timing, but there is quite a steep learning curve when you firs start using it. If you want to get serious about building complex online courses then it worth putting in the time. The activities it generates comply to the SCORM standard so you can import them into Moodle or any other standard compliant LMS.

5. DocentEduhttp://docentedu.com/

This is a great tool to start creating web based materials. You’ll need to have a Google account and   use it to sign up. Then you can use the Chrome extension to build interaction around webpages or documents. You can add videos from YouTube to enhance content or you can add discussion, questions or insights. You can make up to 5 activities for free, after that you have to sign up for an account, but it is reasonably cheap. There is also a schools option.

6. Edhttp://www.edapp.com/

Ed LMSEd is a really impressive course creation and LMS tool for creating highly interactive and touch responsive learning content for mobile devices. It has been designed to work on both iOS and Android devices and produces media rich learning activities. You can drop in video, images, text or audio and create a really wide range of interactions around them. Many of the activity types are ideal for developing communication skills. On the free trial account you can create up to 10 lessons. After that you have to pay per user per month, so this is a great tool to create commercial learning materials, but you have to make sure you will be generating some income.

7. Kotobeehttps://www.kotobee.com

KotobeeThis is a completely free authoring tool you can download to create interactive ebooks for delivery on either Android or iOS tablets. The tool goes beyond just creating a ebook, you can add quite a range of interactions to your books as well as video and audio files, so this is a great tool for creating a genuinely digital etextbook. As well as running on tablets the ebooks and activities you create can also be exported to the computer desktop or exported as native apps for Android or iOS (You’ll need to have Apple or Google developer accounts to do this.) This is a great tool for the truly digital classroom.

8. Close Test Creatorhttp://l.georges.online.fr/tools/cloze.html

Cloze Test CreatorThis is a very simple tool that enables you to instantly create cloze test activities based around any text. Just copy and paste a text from any site or document into the main field and click on submit. You can produce either plain text cloze tests or interactive ones. The site will also allow you to choose the types of words that are extracted from the text, so you can for example just remove articles or prepositions. When an interactive cloze has been created you can type in the missing words and the site will highlight the words in red if they are incorrect. The activities this tool creates can’t be saved, so there is no copyright infringement, but that also means that you can’t create and distribute the activities to multiple students. You can show students how to use the tool to create their own revision tests though, so it’s still very useful and works well on an interactive whiteboard.

9. Gnomiohttps://www.gnomio.com/

GnomioThis is a free hosting service that enables you to create your own free Moodle installation. Once you have created your platform you can build multiple classes and courses with a really wide range of interactions including a plugin for the http://bigbluebutton.org/ synchronous webinar platform. This is a great service that could enable you to create your own online school to deliver lessons or training. The free version of the site does carry some advertising, but for a small monthly or yearly payment you can get the ads removed.

10. Expertise.TVhttps://expertise.tv/

ExpertiseTVThis is a great tool if you want to start making money by training or mentoring online. It has everything you need to set up, sell and deliver a complete mentoring service including lead capture and a video conferencing and webinar platform. It’s also free, but if you do start selling courses or training sessions then the site keeps a small percentage of what you make. Unlike many webinar type platforms there’s no whiteboard or presentation space so it’s more like an enhanced version of Skype, but you can build you own landing page and develop a community on the site. There are lots of video tutorials to tell you more at: https://expertise.tv/content/Quick-Start-Videos

I hope you find one or two of these tools useful for creating your own courses or content. Remember though that finding the right tool is important, but how you structure and design interaction with the content is way more important. Taking classroom activities and materials and placing them on a web-based  platform and expecting them to work is sure way to disappoint students.

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You need to think carefully about how the student will engage with the materials and how the materials relate to each other to ensure that your materials don’t just test the students’ knowledge and abilities, but that they guide and enable the student to hypothesise and make and confirm deductions in order to encourage deeper levels of autonomous learning.

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Tools for creating polls and surveys

Any internet search will show that there are a huge number of online tools available for the creation on polls and surveys. The ones included here are some of the best I have used and show some of the variety of polling tools available.

You can find more tools like these in Digital Tools for Teachers

SurveyMonkeyhttps://www.surveymonkey.com/

SurveyMonkeySurveyMonkey is a freemium product and one of the online survey tools that has been around for the longest. Using a free subscription you can produce surveys with up to 10 questions and collect up to 400 hundred responses. This is likely to be enough for the vast majority of student created surveys. It’s pretty easy to use, you just drag and drop the types of question you want to use and then edit the parameters to add the text for the questions and possible answer alternatives. It’s also very easy to export the data you collect from the surveys and analyse the answers. It does look a bit dated though compared to many of the newer survey tools and it doesn’t have very attractive design templates.

Google Formshttps://docs.google.com/forms

Google-formsIf you are a Google user Google Forms is a great and very simple to use free tool for creating surveys. You can choose a simple template or start from a blank one and choose from a reasonable selection of question types including text input. Google have also made it very simple to integrate video from YouTube and search for and add images. The surveys can be customised quite simply by adding background images and different designs and there doesn’t seem to be any limit to the number of response you can collect. Google Forms are also mobile adaptive so you don’t have to worry if you are working in classes where students use a range of different devices.

Typeformhttps://www.typeform.com/

This is a really powerful survey creator and one of the most user friendly ones I’ve tried. It works on a freemium model which limits the number of templates you can use on a free subscription, but if you are happy with limited design options that won’t be a problem. There is a really wide range of questions types to choose from and you can just drag and drop these onto your survey template. Typeform also offers good support for images and media, so if you want to add videos from YouTube or upload images Typeform would be a good option.

Triciderhttp://www.tricider.com/

TriciderThis is one of the survey tools I use most often and it’s a great tool for exploring the pros and cons around a particular problem and really pulling in ideas from the survey recipients. You simply add a single question or problem and then users can add ideas for solving the problem. They can also add the pros and cons of each idea and then vote for the ones they like the best. The data the survey produces can be hard to analyse, though the voting part is quite straight forward. It’s a great tool to use in class, because it’s very simple and quick to create the survey and students can exchange surveys easily and get instant results. To find out more about how to use Tricider read my article – Crowdsourcing Knowledge with Students.

AnswerGardenhttps://answergarden.ch/

AnswergardenThis is a great tool for very simple surveys that just require a simple text input. It’s great for brainstorming words related to [topic] or how do you feel about [topic]. The answers can also be exported to Wordle which creates a colourful word cloud of the answers showing the most popular options at larger sizes. WordleIt’s also a great tool for use in the classroom because the site automatically generates a QR code for each survey so students can quickly scan the survey onto their phones and answer immediately. To find out more about how to use AnswerGarden read my article – Brainstorming and polling with AnswerGarden.

I hope these survey tools are useful. Surveys play a very important role in the development of digital literacy and are an integral part of my 10 Lessons in Digital Literacy book.

You can also find variety of  tools like these in Digital Tools for Teachers

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Q&A with Edusynch Founder Sean Kilachand

EduSynchEach year students around the world spend millions of dollars trying to pass English exams. Now there’s a company that is trying to save them some money and make their learning more effective. I spoke to Sean Kilachand from EduSynch.

What’s your elevator pitch?

EduSynch is the world’s first affordable and adaptive training platform focused on English language proficiency exams, starting with the TOEFL.

Who is your ideal customer?

1 - analysis generalOur ideal customer is any individual looking to take an English language exam to get a better job locally or abroad, attain a degree from an institution of higher learning or looking to challenge themselves and take their English to another level.

To date, we’ve partnered with English language training institutions as well as schools, private companies, and corporations who need an affordable way to understand how proficient their students, teachers and/or employees are in English. As a B2B focused company, we believe that the best way to scale is to partner with English training institutions, corporations, and other enterprises with the need to assess the English of their students/employees.

Why did you develop EduSynch?

EduSynch began as an assessment tool targeting general education, but after realizing the gap in the English language market in Brazil, the pivot had to be made. There are 19,000 physical English language training institutions in Brazil. After working in the education industry here for a year with another startup, I spent a lot of time learning the intricacies of these English language schools and eventually came to understand that students spend tens of thousands of reais over the course of 5 to 7 years taking classes at theses schools, only to do poorly on their exam. The schools often don’t have the tools necessary to train students for their exams, primarily due to the expensive paper-based materials. By definition, these traditional resources cannot cover the speaking and writing sections – the two most difficult portions of the exam. EduSynch was created to give every student the chance to prepare for their English exam and give them the individualized training they need to perform better on the exam.

How does EduSynch help schools and teachers?

EduSynch provides both teachers and administrators with detailed information about each student to make sure they get the training they need to improve on their weaknesses. With classes of 15 to 20 students, individualization is nearly impossible. EduSynch also provides insights into each student’s general proficiency levels according to the CEFR (Common European Framework) allowing them to assess the efficacy of their classes, the materials they use, and to help better place students. EduSynch also contains an equivalency table to show what each students’ score would be on a host of English exams. While many teachers have to spend hours evaluating students exams, EduSynch can take care of the entire process, including human evaluations for speaking and writing and detailed reports delivered in less than 72 hours. This leaves teachers more time to spend on actual teaching.Dashboard

 

The EduSynch materials are aimed at students taking TOEFL, so what value do they have for other students?

Students who aren’t taking TOEFL but want to take another English language exam can use the platform to practice the four primary English skills at a high-level.

Using TOEFL as the benchmark, EduSynch not only processes the scores of each student as it relates to the exam, but actually provides detailed feedback based on the intricacies of the exam that can help students in terms of their general English language proficiency.

Could EduSynch be used with lower levels?

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 10.24.01 AM (2)As of right now, EduSynch only has TOEFL iBT/ITP content onboarded, so it caters to students with, typically, a B1 level in English or above. However, we’ve designed the EduSynch system to be content agnostic, so as we expand we can start catering to lower age groups for these other English exams.

How do you ensure that the grades students achieve in EduSynch really do correlate to the TOEFL test?

Our content is provided by veteran item writers, editors and psychometricians with decades of experience in the business, as well as evaluators who are both BEC and TOEFL certified.

We will be piloting our timed simulation system and adaptive practice platform using various groups of students who have already taken TOEFL as well as a control group, allowing us to actually draw a correlation between the score attained on the EduSynch platform and the official TOEFL exam.

What was the most challenging part of developing EduSynch?

Our development team is from the Northeast of Brazil so for me, learning how to engage in high level development-focused conversations in Portuguese was quite difficult, although they have helped me tremendously along the way. Also, liaising with professors, administrators, and students throughout the country requires a different type of Portuguese mastery, so I was forced to learn quickly (and painfully).

Access to the EduSynch site and app are both free, so how does EduSynch make money?

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 10.24.17 AM (2)As we have only soft-launched the platform we have left it open for students to practice and for professors to use the teacher platform so that we can improve the product and fix any bugs they find. After piloting the alpha version of the software last year, we determined that students are very unlikely to pay for any practice platform based around reading and listening. The speaking and writing sections provide a much greater challenge. So we plan to sell simulations of speaking and writing exams. In the future, we will probably charge a nominal fee to get full test simulations too so students can gauge their overall score before setting foot in an exam center.

We also plan to charge institutions to use the teacher/administrator platform to monitor their student performance. This would also allow the institutions to make money, by adding on a few dollars to the simulation packages and embedding this cost in the tuition cost of each student.

What has been your biggest milestone so far?

Moving from development to commercialization. After spending 18 months developing our platform we moved to São Paulo in May to start piloting our software. This transition from being behind the computer to getting pilots up and running has been a huge.

What mistakes have you made and what have you learned from them?

Thomas A. Edison said; “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I have made tons of mistakes along the journey, the majority of which had to do with how I mounted our team and got together all the pieces of the puzzle we needed to get up to this point. The lessons learned? Hire people smarter than you, for starters. Hire people with complementary skillsets. Hire people who believe in the vision and are willing to work towards it because they believe in it – not because of the paycheck. If it wasn’t for the mis-hires and ‘near death’ experiences, I can say with 100% certainty that EduSynch never would have had the ability to get to this point.

What are your plans for the future development of EduSynch?

fullAssessments and simulations are merely the beginning. We plan on developing a full fledged platform to provide a highly-structured pedagogical approach to improving scores across a range of English exams. The idea is that in the future, you take a full length simulation and afterwards we provide you with a detailed analysis of what your score would be in the exam and also provide content to help you improve on the questions you got wrong. In essence, we become a one-stop-shop for students looking to score higher on language exams.

With the increased popularity of digital course materials that track students scores and interactions, some people believe that ‘testing’ will soon become unnecessary. Do you think this is likely?

‘Soon’ is the key word in this sentence. I believe that the proliferation of digital course materials will allow teachers and educators to get a better understanding of their students and pivot away from the traditional model of one-size-fits-all education – something that has plagued the education system since its inception, and something that technology finally lets us overcome. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of individuals is something that will forever be necessary in education as well as in the professional world, so while ‘testing’ as we currently know it may become obsolete, the need to understand learners’ individual weaknesses will remain paramount for educational institutions to improve learners’ abilities.

Sean-EdusynchSean was born and raised in Manhattan, New York City. After graduating from Brandeis University in 2011 with a double major in Economics and Computer Science, he worked on Wall Street for 6 months before landing a job at Forbes Media helping build the company’s famous rich lists (Forbes 400, World Billionaires List, among others.) He relocated to Brazil in January 2013 where he acted as the operations manager of an educational technology startup before starting EduSynch. In his free time, Sean likes to travel, hit the sunny beaches of Rio de Janeiro, and eat mortadella sandwiches.

 

Q&A with Edusynch Founder Sean Kilachand

EduSynchEach year students around the world spend millions of dollars trying to pass English exams. Now there’s a company that is trying to save them some money and make their learning more effective. I spoke to Sean Kilachand from EduSynch.

What’s your elevator pitch?

EduSynch is the world’s first affordable and adaptive training platform focused on English language proficiency exams, starting with the TOEFL.

Who is your ideal customer?

1 - analysis generalOur ideal customer is any individual looking to take an English language exam to get a better job locally or abroad, attain a degree from an institution of higher learning or looking to challenge themselves and take their English to another level.

To date, we’ve partnered with English language training institutions as well as schools, private companies, and corporations who need an affordable way to understand how proficient their students, teachers and/or employees are in English.  As a B2B focused company, we believe that the best way to scale is to partner with English training institutions, corporations, and other enterprises with the need to assess the English of their students/employees.

Why did you develop EduSynch?

EduSynch began as an assessment tool targeting general education, but after realizing the gap in the English language market in Brazil, the pivot had to be made. There are 19,000 physical English language training institutions in Brazil. After working in the education industry here for a year with another startup, I spent a lot of time learning the intricacies of these English language schools and eventually came to understand that students spend tens of thousands of reais over the course of 5 to 7 years taking classes at theses schools, only to do poorly on their exam. The schools often don’t have the tools necessary to train students for their exams, primarily due to the expensive paper-based materials. By definition, these traditional resources cannot cover the speaking and writing sections – the two most difficult portions of the exam. EduSynch was created to give every student the chance to prepare for their English exam and give them the individualized training they need to perform better on the exam.

How does EduSynch help schools and teachers?

EduSynch provides both teachers and administrators with detailed information about each student to make sure they get the training they need to improve on their weaknesses. With classes of 15 to 20 students, individualization is nearly impossible. EduSynch also provides insights into each student’s general proficiency levels according to the CEFR (Common European Framework) allowing them to assess the efficacy of their classes, the materials they use, and to help better place students. EduSynch also contains an equivalency table to show what each students’ score would be on a host of English exams. While many teachers have to spend hours evaluating students exams, EduSynch can take care of the entire process, including human evaluations for speaking and writing and detailed reports delivered in less than 72 hours. This leaves teachers more time to spend on actual teaching.Dashboard

 

The EduSynch materials are aimed at students taking TOEFL, so what value do they have for other students?

Students who aren’t taking  TOEFL but want to take another English language exam can use the platform to practice the four primary English skills at a high-level.

Using TOEFL as the benchmark, EduSynch not only processes the scores of each student as it relates to the exam, but actually provides detailed feedback based on the intricacies of the exam that can help students in terms of their general English language proficiency.

Could EduSynch be used with lower levels?

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 10.24.01 AM (2)As of right now, EduSynch only has TOEFL iBT/ITP content onboarded, so it caters to students with, typically, a B1 level in English or above. However,  we’ve designed the EduSynch system to be content agnostic, so as we expand we can start catering to lower age groups for these other English exams.

How do you ensure that the grades students achieve in EduSynch really do correlate to the TOEFL test?

Our content is provided by veteran item writers, editors and psychometricians with decades of experience in the business, as well as evaluators who are both BEC and TOEFL certified.

We will be piloting our timed simulation system and adaptive practice platform using various groups of students who have already taken TOEFL as well as a control group, allowing us to actually draw a correlation between the score attained on the EduSynch platform and the official TOEFL exam.

What was the most challenging part of developing EduSynch?

Our development team is from the Northeast of Brazil so for me, learning how to engage in high level development-focused conversations in Portuguese was quite difficult, although they have helped me tremendously along the way. Also, liaising with professors, administrators, and students throughout the country requires a different type of Portuguese mastery, so I was forced to learn quickly (and painfully).

Access to the EduSynch site and app are both free, so how does EduSynch make money?

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 10.24.17 AM (2)As we have only soft-launched the platform we have left it open for students to practice and for professors to use the teacher platform so that we can improve the product and fix any bugs they find. After piloting the alpha version of the software last year, we determined that students are very unlikely to pay for any practice platform based around reading and listening. The speaking and writing sections provide a much greater challenge. So we plan to sell simulations of speaking and writing exams. In the future, we will probably charge a nominal fee to get full test simulations too so students can gauge their overall score before setting foot in an exam center.

We also plan to charge institutions to use the teacher/administrator platform to monitor their student performance.  This would also allow the institutions to make money, by adding on a few dollars to the simulation packages and embedding this cost in the tuition cost of each student.

What has been your biggest milestone so far?

Moving from development to commercialization. After spending 18 months developing our platform we moved to São Paulo in May to start piloting our software. This transition from being behind the computer to getting pilots up and running has been a huge.

What mistakes have you made and what have you learned from them?

Thomas A. Edison said; “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I have made tons of mistakes along the journey, the majority of which had to do with how I mounted our team and got together all the pieces of the puzzle we needed to get up to this point. The lessons learned? Hire people smarter than you, for starters. Hire people with complementary skillsets. Hire people who believe in the vision and are willing to work towards it because they believe in it – not because of the paycheck. If it wasn’t for the mis-hires and ‘near death’ experiences, I can say with 100% certainty that EduSynch never would have had the ability to get to this point.

What are your plans for the future development of EduSynch?

fullAssessments and simulations are merely the beginning. We plan on developing a full fledged platform to provide a highly-structured pedagogical approach to improving scores across a range of English exams. The idea is that in the future, you take a full length simulation and afterwards we provide you with a detailed analysis of what your score would be in the exam and also provide content to help you improve on the questions you got wrong.  In essence, we become a one-stop-shop for students looking to score higher on language exams.

With the increased popularity of digital course materials that track students scores and interactions, some people believe that ‘testing’ will soon become unnecessary. Do you think this is likely?

‘Soon’ is the key word in this sentence. I believe that the proliferation of digital course materials will allow teachers and educators to get a better understanding of their students and pivot away from the traditional model of one-size-fits-all education – something that has plagued the education system since its inception, and something that technology finally lets us overcome. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of individuals is something that will forever be necessary in education as well as in the professional world, so while ‘testing’ as we currently know it may become obsolete, the need to understand learners’ individual weaknesses will remain paramount for educational institutions to improve learners’ abilities.

Sean-EdusynchSean was born and raised in Manhattan, New York City. After graduating from Brandeis University in 2011 with a double major in Economics and Computer Science, he worked on Wall Street for 6 months before landing a job at Forbes Media helping build the company’s famous rich lists (Forbes 400, World Billionaires List, among others.) He relocated to Brazil in January 2013 where he acted as the operations manager of an educational technology startup before starting EduSynch. In his free time, Sean likes to travel, hit the sunny beaches of Rio de Janeiro, and eat mortadella sandwiches.

 

Q&A With OurBoox Co-Founder Mel Rosenberg

In this Q & A I talk to Mel Rosenberg – a man on a mission to popularise the use of ebooks in education by allowing teachers and students to create and publish their own ebooks using his simple browser-based tool.

Ourboox___Create_a_Book_-_It_s_Simple__Free_and_Fun_and_OurBoox

What’s your elevator pitch?

Ourboox is the world’s simplest free platform for creating page-flipping e-books that incorporate not only text and pictures, but also videos, maps, quizzes, games, puzzles and much more. Our digital books can be created individually or in groups. They can be written in any language or combination of languages. They can be shared privately or with the world. They are educational, easy to create, and great fun. We launched in 2014 and already have almost 8000 books in twenty languages.English_Archives

Who is Ourboox targeted at?

Ourboox can be used by children (with supervision) and adults, writers, illustrators, educators, anyone who wants to share colorful content in e-book form.

Why did you create Ourboox?

Ourboox was originally envisioned as a simple platform for e-publishing children’s books and books of poetry. I write stories for children and my wife Shuli Sapir-Nevo (Ourboox CEO) is a poet. We had previously spent a lot of money self-publishing books that were very difficult to distribute. We hoped that a simple platform would bring together writers, illustrators, photographers. I found a genius web developer, Ran Shternin and the rest is e-history.

What do you feel is special about Ourboox?

Ourboox_-_Create_a_bookFirstly, there is no other platform that is easier to use when it comes to creating free digital picture books.

Ourboox facilitates  ‘reverse literacy’.  Until recently, a book was something that you interacted with passively, as a reader. Ourboox enables everyone to experience the exhilaration of being an author.

When I was in primary school, I wrote projects about the animals and plants of Australia and New Zealand, the beautiful sites of Quebec city. In high school I wrote essays on Shakespeare. I would love to have these works to show my own children but they are gone forever. Now there is a simple way for students to create, share and preserve them online.

Finally, because our books are free, we do not hide any of the text from search engines. As a result, they rank our books very highly in search.

What can Ourboox do that you can’t do with a paper book?

On Ourboox you can write about your favorite rock band and embed a video from Youtube or Vimeo right into the book. You can write a story about your grandmother and embed a map of where she was born. You can embed a padlet and ask your readers to comment within the book itself. Paper books can’t do any of these things.

eTwinning

 

What’s the business plan and how does Ourboox make money?

We don’t have a business plan and we don’t make money. Actually, Ourboox loses money. The books are free to publish (no matter how long they are and how many you make), and  free to share. There is no advertising on the site. So there is almost no revenue to speak of. Nevertheless, I am not worried.  I believe that we will be financially successful. I just don’t know how yet.

How would you like to develop Ourboox?

We want to attract more quality books written by teachers and students worldwide, in dozens of languages.   We are eager to have children writing books about their culture, their family, their grandparents, their aspirations. We need to develop further in this direction. We would love to team up with a publishing house to find a home for the manuscripts they reject, some of which are excellent, but not necessarily commercial.

We also want to create the possibility of allowing readers to donate a small amount to the authors of books they like. This will keep the books free, yet create a revenue stream. I believe that teachers and professional authors will be able to make more money through donations than through the paltry royalties they receive elsewhere.

What have been your greatest milestones so far?

Our_Story_Book_-_eTwinning_project_-_OurbooxI guess that if I had to pick two milestones it would be the recognition by the local Ministry of Education and the beautiful e-Twinning books coming out Europe which have been viewed many thousands of times.

Teachers have been slow to embrace ebooks and e-publishing. Why do you think that is?

I think that is starting to happen now. Most of our current books come from schools! Previously, educators everywhere (myself included) have clung to their love for books made out of paper, and rightly so. And paper books will continue to exist. But versatile e-books that teachers and children can create and share online are the future, and I think that this will catch on in the coming school year.

What can we do to persuade more teachers to use ebooks with their students?

We need to spread the word, and show teachers the kind of things they can do, and just how very simple it is. Here is a short e-book on that very subject: OurBoox for Teacher & Teaching

Mel RosenbergMel Rosenberg is a Canadian-born scientist, educator, inventor, musician and writer.  For most of his career he was professor of microbiology at Tel Aviv University. During this period, he invented a two-phase mouthwash and several other products for hygiene and microbial testing. Mel is a musician and singer, and has produced two CDs of jazz standards. He has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to university, and has written many books and films for adults and children on subjects dealing with science, creativity and self-improvement.

Online Tools and Resources for Teaching Young Learners

This is the slidedeck from the workshop I delivered for the British Council ‘Technologies and Classrooms’ summer school for teachers in Lithuania in June 2016.

It focuses on a range of tools and resources that teachers can use to support the language development of their younger learners.

There is a strong focus on on technologies that enable students to be creative in their use of language.

I hope you find the slide-deck useful. The images are linked to the sites and examples so please do download it and follow up on some of the links.

Download my ebooks for teachers:

Best wishes

Nik Peachey

Q&A with Study Bundles Managing Director Declan Sweeney

studybundles-logoTargeting an app at schools and institutions is a brave  move, but Study Bundles believe they have the right product to help educational institutions reduce their overseas and domestic student drop out rate pre-arrival and help them deliver higher levels of customer satisfaction and acculturation.

What’s your elevator pitch?

StudyBundles AdminWe help educational institutions secure more student enrollments by enhancing the means by which recruitment and admissions teams communicate with their prospective student community.

Who is your ideal customer?

It is the Director Admissions or Head of Marketing at a given education institution.

Why did you develop StudyBundles?

As teachers working in supporting new students into UK universities and colleges, we saw first hand the challenges students faced in making the transition. The academic,  linguistic, cultural and social changes involved in the transition to university or college can be overwhelming. We felt there was a real opportunity to do more for students during the pre-arrival wait period.

How does the app help students?

My-social-programme-2Students are invited to join at the application/offer stage, at which point they can begin to find out more about the college or university. By completing an initial profile piece it ensures all subsequent correspondence is personalized.

How does the app help the schools?

By using CampusConnect schools can
Increase their enrollment rates
Provide a better overall student experience
Operate more effectively.

What are the biggest challenges when developing an app for schools?

Managing expectations. The app provides significant operational improvements but it does require our clients to think carefully about its communications strategy and, potentially, to reorganise accordingly.

How do you overcome these challenges?

We present a very clear development roadmap at the outset, with key milestones presented. We are also clear about the methodology being applied (agile in our case).

The StudyBundles app is free for students, so how do you make money?

The institution pays for the service. They benefit from increased enrollment.

What has been your biggest milestone so far?

Without a doubt, securing our first customer, the University of Limerick, was a major step forward. It provided validation that there was a need for this type of service in the sector.

What mistakes have you made and what have you learned from them?

Underestimating the challenge in integrating a new system like this. Particularly as it involves a change in the way certain things were done. So change management essentially!

What are your plans for the future development of StudyBundles?

My-skills-2Roll out to different markets including, the EFL sector, and the UK independent school sector. We are also exploring how the app can add value as a tool to support early student retention, which is also really exciting.

Increasingly MOOCs and other online courses are gaining recognition in the educational world. Do you foresee a time when physical schools and universities will cease to exist?

No. Having completed a fully online course myself, I understand the value of face to face teaching and feel it will always have a place. The online component augments what happens in the classroom but cannot replace it.

Declan SweeneyDeclan Sweeney is a graduate of the Unviersity of Manchester and a qualified learning development specialist with over ten years’ experience working in Higher Education and Further Education colleges in the UK, Australia, and Poland. He holds a BA (Hons) and PGCert in Applied Linguistics. Based in Sligo in the beautiful Northwest of Ireland , with cofounders based in the UK he has overseen the founding and development of Study Bundles Limited. He enjoys rural living and spending time with his young family. Contact Study Bundles

Q&A With Kotobee Founder Ayman Abdel-Rahman

logoI was looking for a free tool I could use to publish ebooks to the Android platform when I came across Kotobee Author. I downloaded a free copy and discovered how easy it was to use and how versatile. In this interview Ayman CEO of Vijua talks about the Kotobee Author, its many features and how it can help aspiring writers, publishers and educational institutions.

What’s your elevator pitch?

Kotobee is a comprehensive solution for creating interactive ebooks and libraries in different formats, supporting all platforms.

Who is your ideal customer?

multiplatform-1Well, Kotobee really fits anyone wanting to create an ebook, putting aside all the tiny details. But ideally, our customers would be educational institutes (training, universities, schools) and ebook distributors.

What are the pros and cons of producing an app version of an ebook as opposed to a standard ebook for the iBook Store?

We get asked that quite a lot actually. For an app to work as an ebook, an embedded-reader is required. That is, an engine responsible for running the ebook file, providing common functions like search, note-taking, bookmarking, etc. That’s one of the things offered by Kotobee. Having an embedded-reader gives you the advantage of doing whatever you like with the interface. You can control the design, layout, functionality, etc. An app can have your own logo and name, hence stronger branding – something that is not possible with standard ebooks. The embedded-reader however increases the size required for download.

Library CustomizationA standard ebook for Apple’s iBook Store will give users the luxury of accessing all their ebooks from a single app, i.e. Apple iBooks. Publishing to the iBook Store is free, in contrast to the App Store, which charges $99 annual. Ideally it would be best to publish to both formats.

What ebook formats can be created using your solution?

The ebook formats supported by Kotobee Author, our creator software, are EPUB, Kindle (MOBI), HTML5 web apps, Mobile apps for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, desktop apps for Windows and Mac, and SCORM components for an LMS. All these formats are actually free to create on Kotobee, with the exception of mobile apps.

One of the services you provide is a branded e-library. What are the benefits of this service and what kind of customer is that aimed at?

Kotobee libraryThe Kotobee library solution is targeted at institutes who want to have their own platform for serving ebooks or courses to their users, instead of publishing ebooks individually. So the institute will have their own branded library app to offer to their students. The institute can then dynamically publish books to the library from a friendly administrator panel, plus they control users’ access to the library. User permissions can be assigned to specific books or book categories. Their library app would be made available for web, desktop, and mobile.

Our library solution is a significant investment and provides a full end-to-end solution for institutes.

With the library app you can:

  • Publish books dynamically (individually or in bulk) and edit them on the fly.
  • Collect statistics on book view and downloads.
  • Create book categories and genres.
  • Add users to the library, with different access permissions.
  • Limit the number of devices to be used per user, for security reasons.
  • Customize the look and feel, and enable only the components you need.
  • Assign different administrators and authors to your library.
  • Export the library to multiple formats.
e-Books have been slow to make an impact on the educational market. Why do you think this is?

Kotobee Reader AppThat’s a good question. We are actually seeing ebooks catching up really quickly in the corporate training sector, but not so much for large educational entities, that are long established and deeply rooted. Changes with such entities are slow. That explains why we are finding the majority of requests coming from small or new institutes, rather than established ones. Large entities are interested in having solutions that integrate with what’s already in place, rather than replacing it. Our SCORM ebook format is kind of popular actually even with older universities, because that simply plugs into their systems without any risk of change.

What do you view as Kotobee’s greatest achievement so far?

We’re proud to be offering the most comprehensive white-labeled ebook solution available today in the market.

What mistakes have you made and what have you learned from them?

Kotobee adA marketing mistake we had made in the past, is not providing a free value for users in Kotobee Publisher, Kotobee Author’s predecessor. Although we provided a free trial, this was not sufficient. To capture users and make effective exposure for your software, you really need to provide a free value to the users. This made exposure for Kotobee very slow. In Kotobee Author, we’re providing a good free package, for commercial or non-commercial use, without asking for anything in return. This has increased our customer loyalty and exposure through word of mouth.

How do you intend to change and develop Kotobee for the future?

Kotobee uiCurrently we are extending our ebooks’ SCORM components, to introduce new integration capabilities with LMS for universities and schools. We will also be creating support for built-in payments inside libraries, for example users can assign prices for ebooks and receive payments immediately into their accounts.

I know you are based in Egypt. Can you describe the startup scene in Egypt?

Egypt is a promising region for local entrepreneurs starting their ventures. The resources exist to initiate projects with zero-investment. These resources include various investment programs, co-working spaces, affordable offices, and a number of annual startup events to help network with key people. At the time of writing, a government-based fund exists to assist tech-based startups in different ways, leveraging up to 70% of their costs.

AymanAyman Abdel-Rahman is a digital publishing enthusiast with 10 years of experience in the ebook industry. He graduated from the University of Waterloo, Canada, with a Masters degree in Computer Engineering in 2006. Ayman spent his childhood in Kuwait, a few years in Canada, and currently settled in his home country, Egypt. He established Vijua in 2011, after the Egyptian revolution. Coming from a technical background, he is a certified project management professional (PMP) and is currently the managing director of Vijua, with particular focus on the Kotobee platform. Before establishing Vijua, Ayman was managing the Media & UX department at The Book Depository in Cairo. Ayman likes to write about ebook technologies in the Kotobee Blog and answers related questions on Quora.

 

Q&A With Off2Class Co-Founder Kris Jagasia

Off2Class-logoIt’s rare to come across a resource online for English teachers which is unique and empowering, but Off2Class is that rare thing. Off2Class provides high quality content for teachers who want to work online or in the classroom with digital materials.

What’s your elevator pitch?

Off2Class is a toolkit for ESL teachers. We combine teacher-led ESL learning content with a student management system. Part content, part software, 100% built for ESL teachers.

Who is your ideal user?

We started by working with freelance ESL teachers tutoring both online and in-person. We’re now also working with classroom ESL teachers and languages institutes. We love working with both user types buVideo_Tutorials_-_Off2Classt my personal favourite are our freelance teacher users. There is a ‘can do’ attitude that a lot of freelance ESL teachers possess making them fun customers to work with!

Why did you build Off2Class?

Off2Class Old WayMy business partner, James Heywood, had ventured into online ESL teaching and was frustrated that there was a lack of high-quality, teacher-led ESL content that was properly animated for an online classroom. We soon realized that it wasn’t just online ESL teachers that were frustrated, but lots of teachers were now teaching on screens and were finding it hard to access ESL content that was suitable for these new environments.

How many lessons do you have in Off2Class?

Our ESL Lesson Plan Library contains over 500 lessons and we add to the library every month. Our latest additions include our Listening Activities (which contain audio recordings of graded, authentic native English) and our Business English series.Off2Class resources

Is there a particular pedagogical paradigm or learning theory on which the lessons are based?

Our philosophy has always been to complement ESL teachers. Our lessons are designed to be teacher-led (i.e. taught and adapted live) and follow the communicative approach. We’ve paired our content with some powerful annotation tools and an online whiteboard that teachers can use to build on our lessons as they teach.

Do you suggest a specific pathway through the materials?

Off2Class-PlacementTest-2We recommend that teachers have their students sit our ESL placement test. For every student that sits the test, we will produce their gap analysis and individual learning plan which outlines a pathway to target their language challenges and fossilized errors using our materials.

Can teachers author their own lessons or customise the lessons in Off2Class?

Off2Class-Teacher-Logo-2Coming very soon! We’re in final testing of our lesson editor which will allow teachers to customize our lessons. We realize that every student is different and that teachers know their students best. We’re excited to release this next stage of customization!

Off2Class looks very much like a product aimed at teachers, so how have catered to what students need?

We believe that for meaningful secondary language acquisition (for 90% of learners) students require a teacher. There just aren’t that many students out there that can maintain enough motivation to learn a language entirely through self-study. By supplying teachers with the right, adaptive resources to guide their students through the language acquisition journey, we believe that we will be catering to what students need.Off2Class-library

Does Off2Class work on mobile devices such as tablets?

Absolutely, we work on any device or screen. We’ve gone to great lengths to make sure we can cater to any digital learning environment. Students can access their learning portals on any internet-connected device including mobiles and tablets. For online lessons we integrate with all major videoconferencing systems and for classroom teaching we are projected using IWBs, TV screens or projectors. We have many teachers that frequently use Off2Class in different environments, e.g. one day for an in-person tutorial on a tablet and the next day for a classroom session on a projector.

Do you use the data from Off2Class to improve or rework your materials?

Off2Class-newYes, we are constantly updating our content based on teacher feedback. Teachers can leave us feedback from within the lesson content itself. There’s a big ‘Give Us Feedback’ button at the bottom of our classroom which means teachers can give us commentary right when they think of it but without having to disrupt a lesson. We also prioritize our content releases based on data showing us which lessons are being used the most.

How do you plan to develop Off2Class in the future?

We’ve recently taken steps to increase the level of customization features on Off2Class and the teacher feedback has been tremendous. So most of our plans for development will follow this course – increasing opportunities for teachers to customize Off2Class so it better matches their own teaching style and preferences.

Off2class-AvatarProfilePic-01-Colour-KrisKris is in charge of customer satisfaction for Off2Class. In this role he gets to work with a variety of ESL educators teaching in both freelance and classroom environments. Kris launched Off2Class with his business partner James Heywood, who was frustrated that he couldn’t find any good, teacher-led digital content for his online and in-person ESL tutorials.

 

Q&A With EFL Magazine Founder Philip Pound

EFL_Magazine-1There are lots of teachers around the internet publishing their own resources through blogs and ebooks and this form of fast self publishing can be overwhelming for readers, so it’s great to see a new magazine stepping into the role of mediating the quality of online content for teachers and helping new writers get the support they need to get published.

What’s your elevator pitch?

is the magazine for English language teachers. The goal of EFL Magazine is to bring great content from great people to English language teachers, worldwide. And to help those same teachers to inspire and empower students.

Who is EFL Magazine designed for?

EFL Magazine is designed for those working in the English language teaching industry. Everybody from pre-service teachers to school managers and owners, support staff, recruiters and language learners.

What inspired you to create an online magazine for EFL teachers?

EFL_MagazineI had originally planned on building a portal of ESL/EFL sites from around the internet, and to curate the free content to make it easy to access content in the form of articles and resources. Some of the way in, I got the idea of making a magazine. I then started contacting teachers, teacher trainers, authors and writers to pitch the idea. The response was overwhelmingly positive to the idea of making a magazine, and I became encouraged. We launched in April 2015

What made you think that EFL teachers needed another magazine and how do you feel EFL Magazine is different?

Teaching_Resources___EFL_MagazineWell, all our articles are free to access. We’re also focused on teachers around the world and not on a particular country or region. Some magazines are quite scholarly, but I wanted to make a magazine that was practical and could be used by the teacher in the classroom. I’ve seen and read other magazines and I’ve been very impressed by the writing. I think there’s a place for everyone and that competition is healthy.

What’s the publishing cycle? Is it like a regular magazine with weekly or monthly issues?

We publish 3 articles a week, and we’ll be increasing that to 4 articles over the next few months.

What’s the focus of the main content of the magazine?

At the moment, a lot of our articles are ‘how to teach’ but some of the other kinds of articles we run are book reviews, Interviews, articles on psychology, articles on ‘teacher conditions,’ recruitment articles and articles on CPD and education. We’re expanding and adding all the time. For instance, over the next few months we’ll be running a regular feature entitled ‘From the Student’s Perspective’ where we’ll be inviting students to offer their perspective on learning English.

How do you decide who writes for the magazine? Can anyone submit an article?

EFL_Magazine-writeWithin reason, yes. I’d love to hear from anyone who is involved in the world of teaching. I’ve had some articles from the bigger names, but I’ve also published articles from newer writers who’ve gained a lot of experience from working with the magazine’s editor Sean Newton.

What would be your criteria for rejecting an article?

Well if an article is ad hominem or potentially libelous we wouldn’t consider it for publication. On the other hand, I’d like debate within the magazine to be robust, and I won’t shy away from contrarian opinion.

How big is your reader base?

This month we received 16,000 visitors and we’re growing steadily month on month.

You promote quite a few independently published ebooks on your site. How do you think these compare with the quality of books from the established publishers?

EFL_Magazine-ebooksThe quality of ebooks I’ve seen are excellent and there’s a lot of great writers out there.  As I said above, competition is healthy.

It looks like everything on the magazine site is free, so how do you pay the bills?

My day job is doing that at the moment. I am starting to get a trickle of advertising enquiries though. I have a number of plans I’m working on to monetise the site, but I believe the content comes first. If I focus on giving the reader as much value as I can in terms of articles they want to read and use, the readership will stay and grow.

How do you see the future of EFL magazine 2 to 3 years from now?

EFL_Magazine-resourcesWell, I said when I launched the magazine that I wanted it to be the biggest magazine for English language teachers, in terms of readership. And while that’s still my aim, my real goal is to have a magazine that’s a treat for the returning or first-time visitor. I envision the visitor coming to EFL Magazine and being awestruck by the range and quality of content on offer, then using what they’ve read to really make a difference, ultimately benefiting the student.

If you were starting the magazine again next week, what you do differently?

I’d definitely concentrate a lot more on SEO. I’ve just started to take this seriously, and It’s taking a long time to rejig articles to make them more SEO friendly.

What’s the biggest challenge for you in managing the magazine?

I used to think it was money. That is, if I had more money I could expand the scope of the magazine and offer far more to the readers. But actually it’s patience. If I keep persisting and listening to what the reader wants, EFL Magazine will grow. I just need to remain patient and focused on unending improvement.

Do you foresee a time when you may produce a physical version? Why/not?

Never say never! But seriously, I know that the trend is against print media, and producing a print magazine for a worldwide audience is challenging logistically, and costly financially. Having said that, I’m sure that it’s possible. Why not!

Philip-PoundPhilip Pound is the founder of EFL Magazine. Apart from Ireland, Philip has lived in the U.K., China, and now Japan. He has had a variety of jobs throughout his career, Including being a chef, a cinema manager,and employed as a sales manager for a number of companies.Along with EFL magazine, Philip is engaged in a number of business ventures in the fields of recruitment, outsourcing and software development.