EdCast Recruits Experts to Lead Informal Video Learning Channels

One sign that a Silicon Valley company has made its mark is that a new verb arises from its name. People these days Google, they tweet, they Uber across town. Now a Bay Area educational technology company is hoping its own action verb will catch on: EdCasting.

Mountain View, CA-based EdCast, which provides a cloud infrastructure for university online courses, is inviting experts to teach informally in a series of short bursts from its new social learning network. EdCasting is a bit like using Twitter—the experts periodically release their insights in brief videos or blog posts to their followers. But they’re not confined to 140 characters, and the dialogue is focused on learning.

“It doesn’t mix up with somebody’s dog pictures,” EdCast CEO Karl Mehta says.

Not that Mehta doesn’t admire the social networks that carry puppy shots, family news, and restaurant tips. People check them three to five times a day, he says. Mehta wants the same thing to happen with educational content, so people can weave learning into their daily routines.

EdCast has been courting what Mehta calls “global influencers” to fill its 10 channels of content, which cover technology, entrepreneurship, architecture, and other topics. The experts’ insights are available online and on EdCast’s mobile app.

Prominent recruits include Mitch Kapor of Kapor Capital on edtech and entrepreneurship, former Defense Secretary William Perry on nuclear security, music promoter and film producer Scooter Braun on music and technology entrepreneurship, and Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs on sustainable development. Companies and organizations can also claim a page on the network and teach. For example, non-profit U.S. news organization Fair Observer offers a series on economics.

The social learning network is a complement to EdCast’s Knowledge Cloud, which supports courses offered by universities, individual instructors, institutions, and companies, on their own websites. Data storage giant EMC uses EdCast’s service to support its corporate training courses. EMC is also EdCasting on the topic of big data.

Recognized experts are prominently featured in EdCast’s channels, but ordinary folks can also set up their own EdCasting feeds. If they gain a lot of followers, they may move up in the listings. “They can rise up organically,” Mehta (pictured above) says.

The short video format has become a staple among online education companies, including San Francisco-based Udemy, Lynda.com (recently acquired by LinkedIn) Google-backed Khan Academy, and Boston-based Thought Industries, which provides software that helps retailers make how-to videos that both educate consumers and attract them as customers.

EdCast is using the form to allow influential but busy people to share their knowledge without the need to create a full-fledged course. Mehta says renowned experts can enlighten students simply by commenting on the best articles they’ve found on the Web.

EdCast advises its experts to communicate through videos rather than articles, and to keep them no longer than seven or eight minutes. After that, people tend to zone out, Mehta says. The idea is to ease people into learning with short segments from high-value sources.

“You can just snack on it,” Mehta says.

But these small bites can whet the appetite for more formal learning experiences, such as a university course on the same topic, Mehta says. And the interaction with well-known specialists in a field—like professor Jeffrey Sachs answering his follower’s questions—can keep lifelong learners motivated and inspired, he says. That social connection amplifies the power of access to knowledge, he says.

“The bigger power is the power of inspiration,” Mehta says.

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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