Edtech leans into the creator economy with cohort-based classes – TechCrunch

Entrepreneurs are looking to revive some of education's oldest tenets after the pandemic. These are not just bets. They're high-value businesses that seek to capitalize on digital adoption by consumers.
The creator economy is a boom in edtech, and it promises to help creators monetize their passions while still maintaining their identity. Due to increased demand for digital content and new creators, the creator economy has seen a rise in the last year.

The problems that Edtech and the Creator Economy try to solve differ from one another. For example, finding a VR solution for online STEM classes is not an easy task. Rather than streamlining the different monetization strategies of creators into one platform, it's a more complex problem. The rise of cohort-based classes platforms has helped to bring the two sectors together.

Cohort-based platforms allow experts to launch classes in their communities. No prior teaching experience is required. The class is run in a cohort, with the expert on demand as a sounding board. This is a wager on education but also gives students the opportunity to show their passion and push all their chips towards the center of the table, rather than working for an institution. Although the idea of experts teaching others is not new, it is being revived by a new wave of startups.

Entrepreneurs and investors agree that it is not a simple crossover. Entrepreneurs and investors worry that making creators educators could lead to a flood of unqualified teachers who don't understand true pedagogy. Others believe that true democratization requires that we change the status quo regarding who has the right to educate.

Anybody can be a teacher!

Many cohort-based platforms and institutions that offer massive open online courses (MOOCs), as well as traditional institutions, are founded on the belief that students want to study from teachers who are accredited. However, many of these platforms are also built around a controversial but compelling ethos: Anyone can become a teacher. This idea of giving people the ability to monetize their talents comes straight from the creator economy.

So instead of persuading a professor at college to teach part-time, how about convincing the top product manager at a startup to start a class that shares their trade secrets and tips? This is not just a theory, it's a venture-backed company. Mighty Networks has raised a $50 Million Series B to support its creators in launching classes. Nas Academy raised $11 Million last month to support creators in launching their MasterClass-type series. Maven, an early stage edtech company, raised $11 million to help creators launch MasterClass-type series. It was also the one that pioneered cohort-based classes and helped make them more popular as a branding strategy.

These companies are at the intersection of edtech's evolving views about education and the creator economy with its empowering premise that individuals can be businesses.

Mark Tan has participated in more than a dozen fellowships, and has received years of technical coaching throughout his career. Tan, who has moved from the Philippines and now lives in the United States, loves the convenience of online classes. He also enjoys the opportunity to connect with other students. He worked as a director at Wyze for the past three years, after which he moved to Amazon and Twitch because of this virtual networking.

Tan was able to see that you don't need to be an expert teacher to start a course on Maven. It will be about community-driven product creation and will start in just a few weeks.

I have been in fellowships where I met people who are well-known and it sometimes makes it difficult to get to know them, because they were there five or ten years ago when I was. It is easy to rely too heavily on the expert as the teacher.

What I discovered was that there is so much more to learn from others, so I spent more time connecting with [my peers] than listening to lectures.

The original price for the four-week course was $799, but it now costs $599. It requires a commitment to five to ten hours per week. The programming will include live workshops, open Q&As, guest speakers, and peer-to–peer networking.

Tan is in many ways the ideal example of a cohort-based platform founder when it comes to bringing creators onto their platform. Tan has worked in large, well-known corporations, has years of experience with the product he sells, and has a passion about education, having seen the benefits of peer-to-peer learning.

Ana Fabrega, a former primary school teacher who joined Synthesis after years of teaching, believes that the best teachers are those who have never been teachers before. Synthesis is an online enrichment school inspired in part by Elon Musk's Ad Astra model. While I believe that teachers instinct is to try to plan, control and over-engineer everything to ensure that kids don't struggle, I think it is best to do the opposite.

Fabrega said that Synthesis focuses more upon creating facilitators who can sense engagement and build intimacy with students, rather than educators who are focused on a particular curriculum to meet certain metrics.

She said that we want to ensure that the children are in control and do all the heavy lifting.