On Schools and Enterprise Softwares

In user interface design, when decisions are made without the end users in mind, the result is a bad interface. In the enterprise world, companies purchase softwares based on a laundry list of features instead of usability. This results in horribly designed, overly complicated enterprise software. It turns out, softwares in school suck for the same reason.

I’ve recently had a coffee chat with a friend. He is running a startup making course content management software for the past few years. He gave me a demo. The product looks great, very professional and intuitive to use. Unfortunately, it takes a typical Canadian university two years to order a piece of great software like his. That’s why schools are stuck with horrible legacy softwares that only large companies can produce. Most startups will die waiting for the purchasing order.

Waterloo Jobmine

This reminds me of my university – Waterloo.  Often nicknamed the MIT of Canada, Waterloo produces technical talents that most large companies gladly recruit. But even for a technical university with abundant talents, our school chose Peoplesoft for our school’s coop system. I still remember having to click 5 times to get to the job search page every time after I login. It’s the same damn links every time! Not to mention the fact that I cannot click open multiple jobs in tabs. Waterloo’s Jobmine is my first taste of a bad enterprise software. And I am not alone. Students wasted countless hours of valuable time. A few of us joked about stepping on mines every time we use Jobmine. I was wondering at the time why Waterloo made such a terrible decision. It’s all apparent to me now after the discussion with my friend.

How do startups compete with these large enterprise companies with all these red tapes? It looks like we need to take a second look at the governance of a school. Schools should make purchasing decisions based on its end users – the students.

Introducing Learningfy’s Press Room

As the founder of Learningfy, there is nothing more exciting than to see instructors and students interacting on Learningfy.

It has been almost three months since we launched Learningfy. It’s very exciting to see the what people are saying about us on the Internet on multiple languages. We have been featured on thousands of blogs and websites. To capture these positive feedback, we have decided to put up a press page for all our visitors.

We are a team of ambitious and high energy individual looking to revolutionize the education system. This is a big problem to solve with a small team. But with your help, we can make it! Together, let’s make education more accessible and fun.

Enhanced Instructor’s Profile Page

Kaizen (改善?), Japanese for “improvement” or “change for the better”, refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes in manufacturing, engineering, supporting business processes, and management.”

 

Wikipedia

At Learningfy, we believe in personal growth. We strive to learn something new everyday. We also believe in continuously enhancing (kaizening) our website for the better.

Today, we are announcing a few enhancements to our instructor’s profile page. Now, as an instructor, you can enter your hourly rates, education background and the languages you use to teach classes.

We believe that the $5 classes lowers the bar for students to engage with teachers. It’s in no way our intention to de-value teaching. Therefore, we have decided to allow instructors to enter their normal rate.

In addition, we believe that in order to attract students looking for home work help, it’s important to demonstrate tutor’s education background. Hence, we will display education background prominently on an instructor’s profile page.

Lastly, after getting featured on wwwhat’s new, an influential technology blog based in Barcelona, Spain, we received lots of Hispanic instructors. As a way to accommodate our new instructors, we have decided to allow all instructor’s to enter their languages spoken.

We have planned for a number of other new enhancements including the ability for instructor to record a video introduction. So, stay tuned. Remember, if you have any feedback or questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at jerry-at-learningfy-dot-com.

Introducing “Meet the Instructor” Series

At Learningfy, we want to promote great teaching. That’s why we are introducing the “Meet the Instructor’s Series”. We would like to hear from instructors all over the world. We want to know your story, your philosophy and your teaching life.

Every week, we will feature one great instructor. We will ask you to answer the following questions.

  • What do you teach?
  • What’s your education background?
  • What do you enjoy the most about teaching?
  • What do you want to accomplish as a teacher?
  • What’s missing in the current education system?
  • What’s your teaching philosophy?

You will have a chance to take center stage on our blog. If you are interested in getting featured by us, please contact me personally at jerry-at-learningfy-dot-com.

We look forward to hearing from you!

The Unique Value of 1-on-1 Teaching

I’ve talked to lots of teachers and tutors lately as part of my journey into customer development. I’ve learned quite a bit from these teachers. One of the things I uncovered is the unique value of 1-on-1 teaching. Interestingly, almost all the teachers I talked to prefer 1-on-1 teaching. So, why don’t we have 1-on-1 teaching in the school system?

It’s All about Attention

We live in an attention economy. Companies are spending millions trying to get our attention from various medium. In such a environment, 1-on-1 is a unique gift from teachers to students and vice versa.

Teaching is about Engaging

Teachers love it when they can engage with students.

In a one teacher to many students setting, it’s hard to create lesson plans for all students. Each student is unique with different learning style. Yet, our schools completely ignored this fact. In most classrooms, we have one teaching style fits all. Schools become a training ground for conformity. Students must learn with their peer regardless of their learning ability or else they will be punished. This results in overwhelmed students or bored students.

In a one-to-one setting, a teacher can create customize lesson plan for the student. As a result, he can engage with the student more.

One-on-one teaching make teachers happier.

Learning is about Engagement and Happiness

For the students, 1-on-1 means they can get the undivided attention from the teacher. Students can learn at their own pace. When they have questions, they can ask without feeling shy. When the material is going too fast, she can ask the teacher to slow down. When she is familiar with the material, she can ask the teacher to speed up.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience outlines the condition in which we experience happiness. According to the book, happiness happens when the challenge we face matches the level of our skills. We are overwhelmed when the challenge is more than we can handle; we experience boredom when we do tasks that requires little skills.

In a one-on-one teaching environment, teachers can adjust challenges according to the capability of the students. This means a student is more likely to be in the flow channel. She is more likely experience happiness.

So, in other words, 1-on-1 teaching will result in happier teachers and happier students.

The Sad Truth about Our Education System

So, if one-on-one is so great for teachers and students, why don’t we have it in our school system?

Traditional schools simply cannot afford to pay for the 1:1 student to teacher ratio. As the diagram below shows, the ratio between students and teacher is about 16 to 1 in most of the Canadian schools. More or less the same for United States. So, in order to handle the 1-on-1 teaching, most schools will have to run at 16x of their current school budget by hiring 16 times more teachers. This simply will not happen.

Sadly, on the contrary, when the government is under financial pressure, the first thing they do is cutting funding for education. So, when a government is running in debt, the 16:1 ratio will increase.

What Can We Do?

This is the sad truth about our education system. So, what can we do about it? I believe parents should invest more money on private 1-on-1 tutoring. As I have demonstrated here, putting kids into tutoring school with a one teacher to many students setting will not solve the engagement problem.

However, because of the unique value of 1-on-1 tutoring, it tends to cost more. That’s why I started working on my website Learningfy. We seek to bring private tutoring to the average family by making private tutoring more efficient and affordable through webcams. Teachers may teach at the comfort and security of their home, and hence cut down on their commuting cost. This will bring down private tutoring cost while still allow the tutors to keep their margins.

Together, let’s revolutionize the education system. Create more happy teachers and happy students.

If you like this post, please consider signing up to the RSS feed, or follow us on twitter. If you are a teacher or a student, also take a look at our startup Learningfy. You can sign up for free.

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