The online education market is highly fragmented, says Nilanjan Sen, Founder and CEO of Examville, an online platform for classes, tutoring, test-prep materials and e-books. The Examville platform offers a unified place where students, teachers and parents access vital academic resources. Users connect and interact in an open, virtual and borderless education marketplace. “We recognized that like traditional education, the online education space is dominated by large companies and proprietary content,” says Nil. “As a result, the cost to access information and support is exorbitant.” Furthermore, says Nil, “there’s hardly any price competition among education service providers, which makes for a very rigid environment. Our goal at Examville is to create an open platform with marketplace features that enable learners of all levels to have access to diverse and affordable content. We also hope that by using our platform, learners can customize how they learn to match their skill sets.” Here, Nil discusses education, technology and social media issues—and invites anyone in for a visit to a very unique place.
Victor: What does the name mean?
Nil: The name “Examville” has its origins in two main concepts: 1) I wanted to create an open, virtual meeting place which would signify an inclusive town or village where users (learners, educators, and other content providers) can engage in the process of preparation around their educational needs and 2) Examville would provide the tools, technology, and content to its users to help them better evaluate their needs in order to achieve their individual educational goals. Ultimately, users would have access to a more customized learning experience to fulfill those goals. The confluence of these two concepts is at the root of the name Examville.
Victor: What is it? Who created it?
Nil: Examville is an online education marketplace that brings together students, educators, and content providers for affordable, web-based educational content and services. Examville’s global platform is open to all users with no-charge at sign up. Examville offers collaborative learning technologies and tools,
allowing teachers and publishers to quickly build online education businesses for their instructional materials, virtual classes, and tutoring services. Students from kindergarten through post-graduate levels and parents can use Examville to find online tutoring, take classes and practice tests online, and discover and share new study materials for a range of topics. Examville also provides a robust feature-set available to third-parties such as test preparation/tutoring companies, premium publishers, corporations, and other organizations.
Victor: What does it do? What are the benefits?
Nil: As a professor and test prep instructor, every day I dealt with scores of queries from students and parents regarding sources of homework help and quality study aid materials. Each day millions of students search for assistance
with their homework, test preparation, school projects, and more. At the same time, millions of parents are seeking support for their children. And while thousands of tutors, teachers and educational publishers are ready to assist them, no one comprehensive site exists where students, parents and educators can all assemble, seek guidance from each other, access multiple services from a variety of sources, or review and recommend helpful learning resources. Education remains a highly individualistic effort.
At Examville, our objective is to take education to the next level by allowing users of all types and levels to harness the collective knowledge of many. By leveraging online collaborative learning tools, peer review, parental recommendations, and educator inputs, we aim to make the learning process a social practice without sacrificing quality and credibility.
Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?
Nil: While most online education companies are concentrating on porting a lot of offline experiences to online, we are about socializing education. We want greater interactions among users. Because we are a platform, potentially any education company can use our platform. So we look at most of our potential competitors as eventual partners.
Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?
Nil: We started developing our platform in 2008. Examville is a work in progress. Initially we concentrated on creating the basic tools and aggregating content. We are moving to a new phase in development where you will see a slew of new features introduced that will make social learning easy and addictive.
Victor: Where did it originate?
Nil: Examville is an idea a long time in the making. Having been on both sides of the fence as a student and an educator, I am well aware of various hurdles faced by everyone when it comes to accessing quality learning resources. I set out with a simple goal to unite both the content creators (publishers, test prep/tutoring companies, teachers and tutors) and the consumers (anyone interested in learning) on a single, cohesive platform, via a single account, where users can easily connect with each other.
Victor: Where can you get it now?
Nil: Our site is live and you can access it via the URL http://www.Examville.com.
Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?
Nil: Currently, we have a “freemium model” on our site. Users can access premium content via subscription services or they can pay per content. However, we are still experimenting with our revenue model and we expect changes to be implemented as we understand how users access our site.
Victor: Any examples of it in action?
Nil: Our main features include live classes, online tests, tutors online, e-books from leading premium publishers, study aids, and Q&A sections.
In the live classes, an educator can create a class/course and teach a class in a virtual classroom on the Examville platform. Teachers/educators give a personalized storefront to detail their academic background, expertise, and class information to advertise to students on Examville and the community at large. Students can take live classes in a vast array of subjects.
In the online tests section, users can take practice tests utilizing the online test module. Tests include standardized tests such as the SAT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT, as well as subject tests, assessment tests, professional development and continuing education tests.
TutorsOnline allows students to post requests for specific help and tutors to teach online. It’s unique in that multiple tutors may submit their offer to tutor a particular student, and a student can choose the tutor who is best for them. The entire process, including the online tutorial session, takes place on the Examville platform.
The Study Aids feature allows users to download study guides, notes, outlines, and presentations shared by other users. Those uploading their education-related materials can also make money by selling their content.
The Premium Publishers feature offers downloadable titles by major publishers for elementary, middle school, high school, higher education and continuing education levels.
The Q&A section allows you to post questions and get answers from the Examville community.
We also have a Free Videos section featuring hundreds of lecture videos in a wide variety of topics.
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it not for?
Nil: The Examville platform is content and age independent. While our current users and content are largely high school and college students and teachers, we are introducing more content as well as tools targeted at users interested in continuing education and professional development. We are also planning to introduce services aimed at younger students in middle and elementary schools. Currently, we do not have any degree granting courses on our site. However, that may change in the near future.
Victor: Your thoughts on education these days?
Nil: Education is becoming increasingly expensive. As a result, large numbers of students are being excluded from the system. Going forward we will need more engineers, scientists and innovators. Education has to be central to our economy. Yet very little is being done to create a system that is all-inclusive. We have to ensure learners and educators have an easy way to discover each other at an affordable cost. Otherwise, we will create a system where a few privileged will have access to the best educational resources and the rest will fall behind. That divide is something we cannot tolerate as a progressive society.
Victor: Any formative experiences in your own education that helped to inform your approach to creating Examville?
Nil: During my undergraduate and graduate school years, I realized that most of my learning was taking place outside the classroom. Peer-to-peer learning was central to everyone’s educational experience. Still, that channel of learning was never formally addressed. At Examville, we hope to stress the importance of learning from others. All of us at Examville draw upon our past experiences to build tools and features that will enable social learning.
Victor: How does Examville address some of your concerns about education?
Nil: We are ensuring that anyone with reliable content and/or expertise is able to have a platform from where they can reach students who are looking for assistance. We want to ensure learners have choices. We want to ensure that everyone can learn at their own pace by allowing them to customize the content they wish to access. By introducing a marketplace on our platform, we also hope to introduce price competition between education service providers to the benefit of learners.
Victor: What is your outlook on the future of education?
Nil: Education will become more social. User-to-user learning will continue to rise. Education will be democratized. Users will have more say in how they learn.
Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of Examville?
Nil: Examville is committed to an inclusive and collaborative mode of learning. We are interested in breaking down the barriers between learners and educators and allowing them to connect with each other in a seamless experience. With the advent of technology, that learning and teaching can take place well-beyond regular classroom hours and outside of “brick-and-mortar” institutions. And, that process can happen in real time by and between people from all over the world. The Examville platform for learning, powered by technology, reflects our everyday lives.
Victor: What makes you say that?
Nil: In reality, outside the classroom, technology is ever-present by way of online social networking—providing access to information 24/7, and as a multimedia content source. Examville integrates technology with education in its attempt to transform the process of learning and the delivery of educational instruction. Examville brings various technologies and tools to make it possible for users to collaborate, share, and learn new things from others at their convenience, pace, and in their own way. In many ways, education becomes limitless, borderless, and instantaneous.
Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of Edtech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: victor@VictorRivero.com