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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Karen Francis, CEO of Academix Direct (Part 3)

Posted on Friday, Apr 18th 2014

Sramana Mitra: Does that mean that you catalog Pluralsight and TrainSignal and all of these course providers?

Karen Francis: Not everyone but if we don’t, it’s because we just haven’t contacted them yet. We’re really out there. We have a business development team seeking new course providers. You can also go to the site and say, “I have five courses. How do I get them on?”

Sramana Mitra: Now you get to pitch me why I should put out a course on your site.

Karen Francis: It sounds like you have fantastic content that meets the needs of global entrepreneurs. Many people are taking courses to advance their career in some way. A lot of the courses that are popular on CourseTalk are entrepreneurship courses. You don’t have to list all your courses. You can list five.

Sramana Mitra: We just have one program. It’s a $1000 annual membership fee program.

Karen Francis: You could list that.

Sramana Mitra: In fact, we have an affiliate program.

Karen Francis: There you go.

Sramana Mitra: We actually give out affiliate commissions. We’d be happy to work with you.

Karen Francis: See how it makes sense. When you ask the question about, “Are you targeting students, working people, or K12?” I’ll say everyone, because there’s so much on the site that there really is something for everyone. One of the things that we did last November was create a portal for high school students to give them a different lens on the courses. In about a month, we’ll be launching the capability where you can identify what your college chances are at the different schools. Let’s say you want to go to Stanford, you would put it the information which includes your SATs. We would then show you, based on a partnership that we have with a very intensive data supplier, what your likely chances are at Stanford. We’ll also show you all the MOOCs that Stanford offers.

We’ve had several conversations with admissions counselors from Ivy League schools specifically telling us that they’re starting to look at this – students differentiating themselves. I’m not saying that taking a MOOC will get you in if you wouldn’t have gotten in otherwise. It certainly sets you apart in terms of your interest. At the same time, it gives the high school student the ability to see what it’s really like.

Sramana Mitra: It’s very interesting. We’ve always covered online education but we just started covering it much deeper. The MIT circuits course on edX is a course that one of my childhood friend’s daughter in New Delhi had taken. This kid is 15 years old. She had written to Anant, edX’s founder, and Anant responded. He didn’t know that I had anything to do with it. I didn’t know anything either. It all just came together. If you read that story, you’ll see that we actually invited her to come and discuss her experience. It was really charming.

Karen Francis: It’s exciting. What is now possible is truly exciting.

Sramana Mitra: I like the fact that you’re creating this repository. How do people determine what they’re going to take?

Karen Francis: One of the points of differentiation for CourseTalk is that we enable student-powered reviews. The rating and review system is extremely important to the ranking of the courses that would come up for a search. We also have review widgets so that any course provider can attach a review widget to their course material.

Sramana Mitra: How big is the CourseTalk audience?

Karen Francis: It depends on what metrics. We have about 250,000 unique visitos a month and that’s growing. I want to grow it in the right way. I want people to really love the experience and make sure we’re giving them the type of experience that they want. We’re spending a lot of time on the user interface and addressing what people really desire.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Karen Francis, CEO of Academix Direct
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