Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Unlimited Classes from Live Instructors for less than $1/Day

For the last six months we've been working on something at eduFire that I'm very excited to be able to announce for the first time. It's called eduFire SuperPass and it's my personal (and far from complete!) answer to the question: How can we change education?

As anyone who reads Stingy Scholar likely knows, education has all sorts of problems. The cost of education is increasing rapidly the total cost of a year of college at many schools now is about $50K/year) and recent evidence suggests that higher education might, for the first time ever, provide a negative ROI.

Education is a raw deal for many teachers too. Most teachers take home a small fraction of the revenue that is generated every time they teach. I saw this first-hand when I worked for Kaplan and took home about $15 in pay for every $100 in revenue that Kaplan generated from my teaching services.

What we've built and are taking live today is eduFire SuperPass and here's how it works. For $29/month people can receive unlimited access to any SuperPass class on eduFire. Right now there are over 150 SuperPass classes on eduFire and we expect that number to increase greatly in upcoming weeks. These are live classes with actual instructors, not simply self-paced, computer-generated classes.

For us, it's not really about the money though. $29/month helps us create a sustainable company and helps our teachers make a living doing what they're most passionate about. In our view, education is the foundation upon which the rest of society is built. And, as we've written about on the eduFire blog numerous times before (e.g., here, here, here & here) we think there's a real (and massive) opportunity afoot to completely revolutionize how people around the world learn. We're far from the only ones who are working on this. There's a great group of companies and organizations out there who are seeing a world that doesn't exist and asking, in the words of George Bernhard Shaw, "Why not?"

So I'll encourage you to give SuperPass a try (we're offering a 7 day trial for only $1 to allow for easily sampling). Or if SuperPass isn't right for you do me a *huge* favor and drop me a line (jon at edufire dot com) and tell me what would make SuperPass something you would sign up for. We're just getting started here and your feedback will be invaluable in helping us create something that thousands (and ultimately millions) of people someday use and get a ton of value from.

It's our vision that world-class education should be available to everyone. And not just canned classes. Actual live teachers teaching students around the globe. We're excited about that vision and hope to have your help in the Revolution.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Information Must Be Free

Although we don't explicitly point to legal free materials, we can assume that's the focus here, right? So, clearly I wouldn't link to this fantastic site as there may be slight copyright violations going on.

I also wouldn't write a site summary like: "If you're looking for a thorough selection of finance and economics texts, no one can beat BD Analyst. An excellent resource for CFA prep and business students as well as financial professionals."

And of course, I wouldn't point to and recommend any specific materials available for download, such as the Brealey Myers Principles of Corporate Finance-4th Edition.

So yeah, not going to do that.

By the way, here's a post with people yelling at me for posting materials like this. Feel free to join in!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

We Papers

I don't know if wePapers should call themselves the YouTube of academic papers & documents. Because YouTube has stuff like this:

wePapers, on the other hand, has stuff like this and like this. For a new site I'm impressed by the depth and quality of the materials available on this site. For instance, in the economics subcategory there are 340 papers available on topics ranging from Game Theory & Competitive Strategy to the Case for Internet Music.

Basically, wePapers is everything that we like:

1. High quality academic materials including tons of stuff from Columbia, MIT, Hebrew University and UCLA

2. Professional clean interface. Great, fast-loading pdf/web integration to view, resize and read the documents

3. Easy access, navigation and downloading. The materials aren't trapped or hidden. Save them to your laptop. Print them out.

4. Totally free, no catches or büll$h!t.

Yeah, so check it out.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Unigo: Actually Useful College Reviews

I remember junior year of high-school when I went with my parents on the typical tour of New England colleges. At the time the ivy halls and quads all blended together and I left struggling to distinguish one school from the other. I wish I had Unigo back then.

The idea behind Jordan Goodman's site is to let students offer insights into the true character of their universities. With videos, testimonials and photos, Unigo feels like a mix between a friend's Facebook page and Amazon product reviews.

I went to check out my alma mater, NYU, to see how accurate the info was:

Here's Madeline Goico's summary of major stereotypes:

All the guys are gay. All the students are rich. There are a lot of Jewish people. Tisch students are pretentious. Stern students are amoral money mongers. NYU is a wannabe Ivy League.

Certainly won't see that in US News & World.

Check out some of the pictures. Now here's a tiny, filthy hole-in-the wall Goddard dorm. A party in U-Hall. Yeah, that's not what they show on campus tours.

And video tours? Zach talks about free printing in Stern hall? Visits the Weinstein cafeteria? Discusses the ridiculous scheme to move the Washington Square arch a few feet (Boy glad my tuition dollars were well spent).

Seriously. This is a great site. This is internet 2.0 at it's best.

Check out this article from the NY Times and other alums go and add your comments. Future generations should be warned.

Monday, November 24, 2008

PanchuMom: My Wife's New Blog!

If you've noticed a drop in activity from my part - say, over the last 6 and 1/2 months - that's largely due to Lucas, our little bundle of joy (and vacuum of blogging time). While my stingy scholar moments have been largely supplanted by horsey rides and nappy changes, motherhood's inspired my wife.

From "one hand" recipes and homemade toys to candid reviews of parenting books, PanchuMom covers the spectrum of the new mom universe. Cheli's blog is helpful, critical, personal and practical.

I hope you enjoy and please feel free to comment and share.

Friday, August 29, 2008

BBC's Ma France

Over the basic few months of Stingy Scholar sabatical, I've had a chance to post less free educational resources and use them more. This is one that I've used and will keep using.

I've always been a big fan of the BBC's free language learning sites - but they've gone above and beyond with Ma France, the interactive video program for post-beginner French students.

While there are many programs targeted at language beginners, few focus on that middle ground from memorizing conjugation tables and basic vocab to understanding conversation. And I'd wager that the majority of language students are stuck right there.

Ma France works like this:

(1) You watch videos with french, english, both or neither subtitles.
(2) You review the lesson grammar and vocab
(3) You practice with some review games cleverly put together (such as Bocchi or Solitaire)

The BBC has done a fantastic job designing MaFrance with tons of video exercises, sharply editted to keep you interested. Fun topics include speed dating or adventure sports.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Maps of History's Greatest Journies

It's been a while since I've posted - more on that soon - but I've been coming across many great links that I want to share.

For instance, check out these great interactive maps of history's great travels from Good Magazine. Not too much text on each journey, but it's fun to see the overlap between Magellan and Moby Dick. Credit to Boing Boing for finding this.

I have lots of unanswered emails and link suggestions. Sorry.

All of the correspondence makes me very happy and responses are on the way.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

1000 Professors sign statement of intent to use open textbooks

Nicole Allen over at Make Textbooks Affordable has been doing some great work lately. The most recent example: she's enlisted the support of over 1000 faculty members at schools around the country who have signed a statement of intent to use affordable textbooks, including open textbooks, whenever they have a choice.

Read the press release here.

Read the statement and see the list of faculty members (including Prof. Marty Ross, who taught my field geology course at NU) here.

Keep an eye on this space for more news about Textbook Revolution and Make Textbooks Affordable.

Monday, February 11, 2008

House Passes Legislation to Make Textbooks Affordable

I know this blog's been a bit quiet lately, but things are about to get much busier. We've had some great news on two fronts. First, Textbook Revolution, the sibling site to the Stingy Scholar, is about to get a significant makeover in the coming weeks. Our fellow open education advocate and coder-extraordinaire Joshua Gay has been hard at work for several months building a wiki-based version of the site that will let students, professors, and anyone else come in and add to our huge list of free books. They'll also be able to add reviews and tags. I think the result will be a much better site that really encourages professors to start adopting free textbooks en masse.

The second piece of news is even more exciting. I heard today from Nicole Allen, director of the Student PIRGs' campaign for affordable textbooks at, that the U.S. House of Representatives has just passed a very important piece of legislation to help bring transparency to the textbook market. Nicole asked me to post the following guest blog here at Stingy to help spread the word. What follows are her words on why this bill is so big. Make sure to tell your Senators that they should include this legislation in the final bill!

Nicole says:

Everyone knows that textbook prices are out of control: the average student spends about $900 a year, and prices are only going up. Making textbooks affordable is an important part of making higher education affordable. That's why new legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives today will bring down the cost of textbooks for millions of students.

The College Opportunity and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137) includes three critical provisions to help students deal with textbook prices. First, it requires publishers to tell faculty the price of textbooks when professors are choosing books for their classes. Publishers often withhold prices from professors, hoping that cost won't factor into their decisions - and students end up paying the price. If publishers put price on the table, professors can consider the cost to students when selecting textbooks.

Second, the bill makes publishers sell the parts of bundled textbooks separately. No more shrink wrapped packaging preventing you from just buying the textbook without the CDs, workbooks and online passcodes - or from buying a supplement without a whole new textbook! Eliminating unnecessary bells and whistles will ensure that students can buy what they need, not what they don't.

Third, the bill encourages colleges to give students course booklists the semester before the class starts so they can shop around and look for better deals. Students can usually track down lower prices and used textbooks online, but they need to know in advance which books to look for. Otherwise, they're locked into buying from the bookstore.

The House bill is a huge win for students. It helps ease the burden of textbook costs for students now, and it paves the way for more low-cost and open-access textbooks to enter the market. When the House meets with the Senate to combine their two education bills, the Senate should make sure to retain these critical textbook provisions to help students make college more affordable.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

eduFire - A New Way to Learn Languages...and More

A while back when Wynn asked me to contribute to The Stingy Scholar I told him that I wasn't sure of what I could commit over the next year. Little did I know... In addition to running I became increasingly convinced over the last year and a half that there was a big opportunity to bring some massive (and healthy!) disruption to the education industry. While there is a lot of cool stuff going on in the space it seemed like there was something missing.

What we're soon launching at (BTW, the name comes from the Yeats quote "Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire") is the first very small step in what might prove to be a long journey. The goal is to empower hundreds of thousands of people to make a living teaching people what they are most passionate about over the web. We're starting with foreign language training which according to some estimates is a $20 billion market globally.

We'll be launching the main service in a few weeks or so but in the meantime we've put up a teaser blog at that contains hundreds of free videos, articles and podcasts to help you learn a foreign language. While we only have a few hundred resources up right now we'll be taking that to a few thousand in the next month.

Our ultimate goal is to give you access to the best teachers independent of geography. It seems really interesting that since the beginning to time people have learned from teachers who were in close physical proximity. Through technology that has changed in the last decade but that's about to change radically in the coming decade. We're hoping to be a part of that change. I'd love to hear any comments you might have about how that can best be accomplished.

Thanks to Wynn and the gang for letting me pop in from time to time and may 2008 be your most learning-filled year yet!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Top 80 Charities for Open Source and Open Access Advocates

The lovely Amy Quinn sent me a link to this AWESOME OA/OS resource. You should go right this very second and check out all the open goodness!

Happy New Year (btw)...this is our first post of the NEW YEAR!

May our lives be full of easy and free sweet tools!

Monday, December 31, 2007

Open Source Living

Many thanks to Paul Hamilton for linking me up to Open Source Living! It is a mega good site with all sorts of goodies (like Yatzee! Wee!) The beauty is that there are goodies for all y'all (PC/Mac/Linux), and the whole site is completely compliant with all the rules about open source stuff. Oh, there isn't a space designated specifically for education, but different programs are tagged as educational. So, have fun digging!!!

Check it out!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The FREE screencapturing Kwout!

I ran across this AWESOME free tool called Kwout that allows you to quote a web page. It is free and no downloads. Here it was it looks like:

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007