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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Niall McKinney, President of Avado (Part 1)

Posted on Thursday, Aug 15th 2019

Avado is a $100M online learning company that focuses on group learning for enterprises. The discussion includes several exciting open problems that are ripe for new entrepreneurs to step in.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing yourself as well as Avado to our audience. 

Niall McKinney: I’m the President of Avado. Avado is an EdTech company with offices across the world. We’re about 500 people and we have revenues approaching $100 million.

Our focus is creating scalable online education programs for both individuals and businesses to significantly increase their skills across a variety of areas. 

Sramana Mitra: Let’s take some examples of what kinds of customers you cater to. If you could walk us through use cases or impact analysis of what you do and how that translates into impact.

Niall McKinney: We have two main customer groups. I’ll take examples of both of those. I’m thinking about the business customer group first. This is where we are selling our services and our technology to companies. Those companies are using us to help them solve critical skill gaps.

Most of our work for companies is in the areas of digital transformation, digital marketing, data, and to a lesser extent, HR and finance. A company will come to us and say, “We’ve identified a very specific set of skills that we need to improve across our organization.”

It might be for a very large number of people or for just a small group of people. To take an example, we work with GSK where they have identified a group of people who they wanted to upgrade their knowledge in specific areas around digital marketing and digital sales.

We created a blended learning program that uses some of the programs we are already running. We then deploy that in a GSK way. We then blend that with online interaction and some face-to-face interaction to create a very comprehensive program that transforms this group’s skills in digital marketing and digital sales.

It took about 18 months to roll out. At the end, the result was an appreciable change in those people’s performance when using digital in their plans to speak to their customers and partners.

Sramana Mitra: Interesting. I understand you’re a B2B digital training service. What is special about how you deliver your learning materials?

Niall McKinney: Great question. We have some very specific things that we think we either do uniquely or we do them better than other people. One of our guiding principles is that we believe people learn better together. For example, LinkedIn Learning.

You’re essentially learning on your own. You might not even be directed specifically what course to take, when you should take it by, and when you should complete it by. There’s not real interaction with other people who are experiencing the same thing as you.

When you think about other types of online services like Peloton, you’re training with other people. You can see a live instructor. Even if you’re watching a recorded session, you still get that experience that you’re doing it with other people.

That goes deeply into the psychology and motivation of humans, which is when people are learning, all of our data tells us that people are much more likely to learn and to apply the learning if they’re learning with other people at the same time. 

This segment is part 1 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Niall McKinney, President of Avado
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