Collaborative Learning Startup Skillshare Launches Hybrid Classes, Letting Anyone Join Online Or Offline

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When peer-to-peer learning startup Skillshare launched early last year, it very quickly became a marketplace for knowledge, allowing anyone to create classes based on his or her individual expertise. The idea was to create a platform through which people could come together and learn new skills. But it was limited in that users could only participate in classes that took place in their local area.

Now Skillshare is allowing teachers to create classes through which that will be available globally. With the launch of its new hybrid classes, students will be able to take part in collaborative learning through local classes as well as online. While its existing model has proven incredibly successful, with more than 5,000 teachers signed up on the platform, founder and CEO Michael Karnjanaprakorn believes that the hybrid model of learning will make the platform available to a much wider range of students. Since classes are no longer tied to a specific city or geography, practically anyone will be able to participate in a hybrid class.

Teachers will also have more flexibility to have more project-oriented classes, rather than lecture-oriented classes that it currently offers. It’s a step toward what Skillshare like to call “collaborative learning.” That is, lessons aren’t dictated to students from a teacher, with students expected to memorize facts verbatim or to execute on projects alone. Instead, Skillshare is seeking to make learning more of a many-to-many experience, with students collaborating on projects, and thus learning from each other as much as they learn from the teacher.

Skillshare’s already got some high-profile teachers signed up to participate in the new hybrid class program: Union Square Ventures managing partner Fred Wilson, Kollabora founder Nora Abousteit, and Airbnb’s former Global Head of Community Ligaya Tichy are all teaching classes that anyone around the world will be able to sign up for. (Karnjanaprakorn himself has been teaching a class available to online and offline students as well.)

The launch of hybrid classes follows the recent introduction of Skillshare’s new “Classroom” tools, which make it easier for students and teachers alike to share notes with one another and to collaborate on various projects. In many ways, the Classroom is at the center of the new hybrid classes, as it was an online extension of classes that were previously being taught offline. And it also helped move forward Skillshare’s collaborative learning agenda, by creating a place where anyone could exchange notes and thoughts.

In addition to the new class structure, Skillshare is announcing a few new hires and advisors. Tara Kirchner, former Head of Marketing at Flickr, is joining, while Ligaya Tichy will be acting as an advisor to the startup. It’s also seen substantial interest as it’s expanded to the west coast, with SF-based teachers such as Square’s Joe Robinson and Quora’s David Cole signing up.

Skillshare, which is based in New York City, now has about 15 full-time employees. The startup has raised $3.65 million in total funding, which includes a $3.1 million round it raised last August that was led by Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital. Other investors include the Founder Collective, SV Angel, Collaborative Fund, Jason Finger, David Tisch, Karl Jacob, Rafe Furst, Phil Gordon, and Scott Heiferman.