Reclaim Open Learning

better online learning for higher ed


September 19, 2013 by Claudia Caro Sullivan

Jacob Ruytenbeek, yourClass
Matt Stock, yourClass
Paul Flynn, yourClass

yourClass – Teach. Learn. Create.

Our team started yourClass to solve three key problems: to make education more accessible to people in the developing world, to make education more affordable in the developed world, and to reward teachers more equitably for their contributions.

yourClass is a marketplace for live online learning that empowers teachers and students, not institutions. yourClass aligns with connected learning principles by providing a web platform that enables anyone to take or teach a class, anytime, from anywhere, on almost any topic. To foster openness, accessibility, and affordability, all live classes are 100% free. To ensure that students maintain a personalized learning environment, live classes are limited to 25 students on a first-come, first-served basis. However, to ensure that students can learn at their own pace, yourClass also gives students the ability to access recorded versions of these classes at anytime for a fee that is set by and shared with the teacher.

Our synchronous/asynchronous combination offers the best of personalized learning and learning at your own pace. We’ve also incorporated novel tools to foster open learning, like a hashtag-focused twitter feed that is embedded into the virtual classroom. Students can tweet directly from the virtual classroom using the specific class hashtag, enabling a worldwide audience to participate in global learning experience. In this way, we’re crossing the virtual classroom walls using social media to bring the outside world in for a rich and deep learning experience. We’re a work in progress and expect to launch our beta in Fall 2013.

We are a leading example of open learning because we enable and empower anyone to simultaneously be a student and teacher. Because anyone can teach a class on anything, class topics will naturally align with the student’s own interests. We have no formal curriculum and students can learn at their own pace on topics of interest to them. Our virtual classroom also allows for more than just one-way video learning since students can ask questions of both the teacher and each other. It’s a more interactive environment than typical self-paced learning materials. At the same time, we have screen-sharing and a virtual whiteboard that allow materials from all over the web to be incorporated and shared in the classroom.

Our classes have asynchronous “profile pages” that allow for discussion and posting (like a wiki of things) that students can access at anytime. Our audience is the professional learner – people who want to learn specific, focused subject matter, like “How to write for the Huffington Post” as opposed to learning

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yourClass has taught us about teamwork, about pushing boundaries, and about getting out of the way of the learner. The biggest lesson came from incorporating a twitter feed into the classroom which many say is a distraction, but we think may be one of the ways that students take notes socially.

Perhaps the biggest question remaining is where do we go from here? We have plans for many more new features, incluring a mobile app that allows anyone to teach a live global online class from a mobile device –something that currently doesn’t exist. This innovation would allow a large group of people in the developing world who have access to mobile devices but not a computer to share their wealth of knowledge as teachers and not just students.

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