EdStartup 101 Week 2: Response to Betsy Corcoran–Content, Process, Style

There are just a few hours before the next video goes up online, but I want to finally get my thoughts down about Betsy Corcoran‘s video for EdStartup 101 Week 2. My thoughts are all over the place with this one, but I’ll try to keep it organized.


There were several interesting or thought-provoking items in Betsy’s video.

* I’m not even closely related to the VC angel funding etc. world. Any of the budding ideas I have for my own projects do not require them. I’m really not interested in going that direction for several reasons. Mainly, I already have a full-time career that I value. Secondly, I’m looking at how to start something up that allows me to learn all the aspects–not hire people to do them. I’m looking at my EdStartup as educational for myself.

* Listening to her description of how hard it was to try the non-profit route hit home. I’m just try to work as part of an existing non-profit, and the headaches from regulation here in Tokyo are terrible. Much easier to go the for-profit route. And, if there are ever any profits, try to think about what to do with them to further educational goals.

* Her comment about page views driving online journalism-and tech journalism in particular- and that until recently edtech just couldn’t provide the page views to get coverage are kind of sad but true. Until the ad-driven page view model is replaced, we’ll be stuck with a lot of bad journalism. Is the MetaFilter model one to look at? Is there a way to monetize the ISI impact factor model in academic publishing?

* Interesting that there is such a bubble forming in edtech. I had no idea. Considering that education is chronically underfunded, where do these people see the money coming from? It isn’t like healthcare or defense where there are giant pots of money to dig into. On the other hand, maybe that is precisely the point. Create a product or service that allows educators to do more with less and you have something of potential value. But then, if you follow that logic, you may be chasing a dwindling pool. OK, I’ve talked myself out of the viability of edtech, so there must be something wrong with my reasoning. More money to earn from individuals than from institutions, for example.


My thoughts on video and how it was used this week.

*Use video for what video is good for. Video is great for giving people a personal connection, less so for rich information/date, and terrible for reviewing, linking to, or scanning. A short video intro from the experts first like we all did the first week would have been good for the personal. I find a one hour video like this not very useful. This was basically a single-iteration asynchronous communication. It doesn’t work that well. Let me explain.

  • The Q and A forum was not used before the discussion.
  • The video is produced live with only the few on YouTube at the time providing live comments, questions, and feedback. Though better than most YT comment streams, not all of it was helpful and only the few who were available at that time could participate. (Personal gripe: since I am at GMT+9 I will not be able to participate live in any of these.)
  • The YT video is marked “No description available”. Really?

* How about more accessible media? I am not a big YouTube user (as creator or viewer) so maybe there are better ways of doing this, but why do I have to futz around with trying various downloaders, mp3 converters (I wanted to listen on the train), etc. Why is YT the right tool for this job? More open video, an mp3 download/podcast, and a transcript would all be valuable.

* A one-hour video interview with an expert is a relatively low demand on the expert’s time, and maybe that is why this format is used, but I’d like to see something else. How about the 2-5 minute intro one day. Followed by more action on the Q and A board (people might ask more questions if they have something to hang them from). Then, if video is used, break it down into 3-4 daily 15-20 minute interviews. This would make it more communicative and multidirectional. Ideally, interspersed with some text-based discussion. All of this would of course demand several hours from the experts rather than one. Maybe not possible.


This is a personal request, but offered to help people communicate better. Maybe I’m just sensitized and this is confirmation bias in action, but since 2004 and then 2011 the word “tsunami” has entered everyone’s consciousness. Newscasters, journalists, and others seem to like to use this now for big game-changing events. (Perhaps to replace the cliched and tiresome “game-changing”).

Please don’t.

The phrase “Internet Tsunami” in this context is hard for me to listen to. Would you say an Internet Katrina? Or, an Internet 9/11? Think about it.

The phrase “Internet Tsunami” in this context is inaccurate. It’s bad writing. The metaphor is all wrong. What Betsy was describing was not an unpredictable result of a single event that destroyed almost everything in its path with little warning and replaced it with nothing.

(Sorry Betsy, you’re not the only one. Plenty of writers have been doing this lately.)


Not to leave on a sour note, I did enjoy the talk. It gave me a lot to think about. Betsy is really on top of things, and I became much more interested in EdSurge. I think near the end she said something like “company in search of a business model”. I hope that search goes well, and that we can all learn from it.

5 responses to “EdStartup 101 Week 2: Response to Betsy Corcoran–Content, Process, Style

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful comments. Apologies for the use of “tsunami” — you’re quite right. It’s a cliche at best; inappropriate at worst. Re long video versus short video: I’d also agree that some kind of teed-up starting point would be good.

    One of the values of our newsletter is we work hard to compress & filter–yet provide enough links that you can dive in deeply into an issue if you’d like. I think my feedback (as a “speaker”) is that it would be helpful to have, say three questions from the participants (or organizers) of the MOOC that could be addressed by the “expert” ahead of time. (I only saw two questions addressed to me and they largely focused on EdSurge’s own business plan, which seemed a tad bit too narrow for an introductory video.)

    As with many efforts in edtech at the moment, I think this MOOC is an experiment or work in progress. As a result I really like comments such as Ted’s because they point the way to creating a better experience all around.

    • Hi Betsy,

      Thanks so much for replying. Last time I tried a MOOC, I pretty quickly realized there was little point in my posting because it was just too massive. That, and the time difference meant most of the discussion had already taken place by the time I woke up. This place has a more manageable scale. And, expecting a response I should have addressed this to “you” not third person–sorry.

      I think you had the bad luck of going first, so there had been very little interaction or community building yet among the course members. Less dialogue==fewer good questions.

      The thing I like about video is the way personality comes through. You are much more present to me as an individual rather than as “that EdSurge person” after video. But a little goes a long way. I find it hard to watch a one hour video chat, partly (again, not your doing) the production values tend to be so poor; I can sustain attention for a while, but not that long.

      I guessed that the single shot, one hour format was selected because it was easier on experts, but now I wonder. Certainly you made time to comment here.

      Missed opportunity, but if the video format was used something like this, would you have been able to do make the time commitment?

      Monday: You post 3-5 minutes self-intro
      Monday-Tuesday: Online discussion in the Q&A Forum (optional for you, important for MOOC participants)
      Wednesday: 15-20 minute interview w/ live comments and follow up in Q&A
      Thursday: 15-20 minute interview w/ live comments and follow up in Q&A
      Friday: 20-30 minute wrap up interview.

      I think that would have generated much better discussion, been more inclusive, and made for a more focussed interview series (which I hope would then be better for you and for EdSurge in return.)

      • Hi Ted. Thanks for your comments. I like the idea of breaking up the videos & Q&A a bit more — it would be good to share this with the MOOC organizers. My only hesitation about spreading the live comments across a week is that it becomes a scheduling headache (esp. when you consider multiplying this across all the “speakers” involved.) So I’d probably opt for only two live sessions rather than three.

  2. Great post. I missed the chat but have always enjoyed the EdSurge commentaries. I too wonder where the money is going to come from in this Edtech bubble, but I think it is important to think about the question of profit so that entrepreneurs who truly care about education can be self-sustaining. I know there is a lot of cynicism on the educators side that people are trying to “make money” out of this space, but the reality is that it’s better to have people who truly care about education trying to make a business out of it than leaving it to the big corporations.

    • I have done and continue to do a lot of work through non-profits, but I agree that it is better to have actual educators trying to make a go of it in the for-profit education business rather than just having large, established corporations that have the sole goal of maximizing profit swoop in to collect rents and buy up competitors. I’m looking at you, Bb and Pearson, amongst others.

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