With the growing demand for video-based online education, Curious.com is joining the crowd today with a marketplace that aims help students and teachers connect around a range of subjects, from pipe soldering and salsa dancing to jewelry making and knife sharpening.
With 10K learners logging 150K sessions during its five-month private beta, Curious launches today with hundreds of short, video-based lessons for people who want to learn a new skill or rekindle a favorite hobby. Founded by former Homestead founder and CEO Justin Kitch, who sold his company to Intuit for $170 million, Curious is taking a page out of Udemy’s book by not only offering learning content to students but by allowing teachers to market, share and monetize their lessons and engage with new students.
To support its launch, the company has raised $7.5 million in Series A financing from Redpoint Ventures, former Apple Chairman Bill Campbell and Jesse Rogers, including a personal investment of $500K from Kitch.
Kitch tells us that there are millions of teachers out there who are itching to share their expertise with the world but don’t have access to the tools or marketing skills to bring their knowledge online. The Web today, he says, is littered with low-quality learning content delivered in static ways that fail to keep students engaged.
With Curious, Kitch wants to make online learning more digestible and accessible to the average web surfer, while helping wannabe teachers make a buck or two on the side by helping them, say, learn how to brew a tasty Pilsner. The platform allows teachers to sign up for free and use the site’s “lesson builder” to design, publish and market their own lessons in under an hour.
Teachers can link their related lessons and track how many views their lessons collect, while enabling learners to submit projects they drum up during class and create “Curious Cards” to share their achievements with the world. Through its comment and messaging system, Curious allows teachers to work with students individually, while answering their questions, reviewing projects and providing speedy feedback.
While there are a ton of online lesson platforms out there, from Khan Academy and Skillshare to Udemy, CreativeLive and Lynda.com, Curious is looking to set itself apart by keeping videos short and serving content in bite-sized, episodic chunks. Students can engage with the content on their own time, as Curious eschews the traditional scheduling approach, opting for convenience and immediacy.
Learners can stop lessons whenever they want, share projects during the process or at the end of the lesson and post questions to the community or directly to teachers. At launch, the site offers more than 500 lessons from over 100 professional teachers, curated by Curious’ staff of educators and video experts.
The startup wants to help its teachers monetize their content, but it’s also looking to keep things inexpensive at the outset, so the most lessons will cost is a few dollars. Teachers can offer their lessons for free, or for a few bucks a pop.
In another twist for video-based education, Curious offers its own micropayment system and currency, called “Curious Coins,” which allow learners to securely purchase premium lessons without having to swipe their credit card 15 times.
Another nifty feature that helps it stand out from the crowd is Curious’ internally developed media player, which breaks each video up into short 30- or 60-second intervals. Each section is watermarked, which allow attachments to surface at the appropriate interval and makes it easy to flip back and forth between sections. Comments pile up below the videos in a river, while students enrolled in Curious have the ability to view comments by section.
Curious isn’t yet ready to provide its own studios for teachers, so educators have to provide their own video, but the platform takes care of everything else. The Lesson Builder helps teachers split their lessons into sections, add attachments and text and publish. Curious’ team is actively perusing the Web to find the best teachers in any given subject, wherever they live, inviting them to the platform if they pass muster.
Curious takes the standard 30 percent for all lesson sales in its marketplace, although that could be subject to change going forward.
To celebrate its public launch, the startup is offering new learners $20 of free Curious Coins. For more, find Curious at home here.