Watchitoo Brings Video Conferencing Platform to Online Education
Eager to capture a piece of the hot online-learning market, New York’s Watchitoo took the wrapping off its Web-based ClassInteract video platform on Tuesday. CEO Rony Zarom says the platform can be used by universities and others to host live chat sessions for large classes without losing individual students among the faceless throngs of participants.
ClassInteract can host classes with thousands of viewers, according to Zarom, but only 25 participants who can be rotated by instructors will be active in each video chat at any one time.
Watchitoo previously developed video platforms for team collaboration at large enterprises such as CBS and MTV and also created a version, called Playground, for smaller businesses. Last month Watchitoo integrated its Playground service with Tracky’s social collaboration platform.
Now Watchitoo is plunging into online education with ClassInteract, which also lets instructors archive class sessions and store digital education materials in the cloud. Zarom says the platform is focused on universities and corporate training, though it could be used by other organizations that want provide online courses. ClassInteract works with third-party learning management systems and is already paired with Pearson eCollege, an e-learning software-as-a-service provider used by Yale University, Palo Alto University, and other institutions.
Zarom saw demand for scalable video chatting among universities as virtual learning has taken off. “There is a transformation happening in education from on-campus to online,” he says. “A lot of universities are interested in having separate entities that deal with for-profit education.” Some universities, Zarom says, may want to offer free online courses using his platform.
ClassInteract is device agnostic; it functions through Web browsers on tablets, laptops, and desktops. Naturally, students also need webcams to participate in video chats and can work in smaller subgroups, as well as view images and other digital media together.
Teachers using the platform have access to analytic tools and the ability to poll students. As online classrooms grow massive, Zarom sees a need to increase interaction between students and instructors. “When many universities look at their business plans, they envision serving [virtual] classes of 100,000 people,” he says. Managing classes on such a scale, he says, can be done through his platform.
Video conferencing, Zarom says, could help universities attract many more students—and much more cash—than traditional classrooms can accommodate. “There is a huge opportunity in growth in terms of revenue,” he says. “The size of classes is going to be big.” The trick, he says, is providing intimate online classroom settings through ClassInteract in spite of such scale. “At any given point, any student can make presentations to the others and ask questions,” he says.