Flip Video Co-founder Tackles Online Education With New Video Platform, Knowmia

Ariel Braunstein and Scott Kabat know a thing or two about building (and selling) a user-friendly mobile video experience, but can they do the same for the world of digital education? We’re going to find out. Braunstein and Kabat are the co-founder and former marketing executive, respectively, of Pure Digital Technologies, the makers of the popular Flip Video line of hand-held camcorders, which helped usher in a new era of amateur videographers.

Pure Digital was acquired by Cisco in 2009, which has since retired the production of the mini camcorders. In the meantime, Kabat and Braunstein have turned their attention to online education and the growing role video technology is assuming in the transformation of learning. Today, the co-founders launched a new venture called Knowmia — a crowdsourced video platform designed to help teachers find and create online video lessons while improving the learning experience for students.

Knowmia, a member of Y Combinator’s most recent batch of startups, has created software that organizes and curates video lessons from teachers all over the world to provide users (and students) with a more personalized, efficient and affordable alternative to online tutoring. Today, the platform offers more than 7,000 free lessons that cover a variety of subjects, including algebra, chemistry, history and American literature.

The videos generally fall between one and ten minutes in duration, and currently hail predominantly from YouTube and Vimeo. Knowmia has recruited its own teachers, who work with the team to review existing video content before it’s posted as well as add supplementary content, like notes and quizzes, and tag videos with keywords to help categorize them by topic and skill level.

The goal here is to provide a centralized hub of educational video content, like a YouTube for education or Khan Academy, allowing users to search by specific keywords which will then surface more relevant content. The more tags that are added, the easier it will become for students to search for “The Gettysburg Address” and find a specific video lesson on Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War that includes content on their specific search criteria.

In practice, it’s somewhat reminiscent of TED’s new education platform, which was created to allow teachers and educators to create unique lesson plans around its killer video content. TED has the benefit of calling on its repository of popular videos made by the world’s experts on a variety of subjects.

In comparison, Knowmia would seem to be the more mainstream version (both for better and worse), although with its so-called “Editorial Board” of teachers, it may well be able to prevent lower quality content from slipping through the cracks — one of the potential dangers of a giant, crowdsourced video repository — especially one that targets education. The potential for misinformation in the crowdsourced model is obviously something Wikipedia, for one, knows a thing or two about.

Going forward, the co-founders plan to keep the platform’s video content free; however, in search of monetization, the site will likely begin charging for its supplemental learning tools, like its “Mini Courses” which it plans to launch in the near future. These mini-courses will take shape as teacher-curated sets of lessons that will be sourced from the platform’s video library and will include teacher comments and quizzes in an effort to make it easier for educators to measure progress and retention of material.

Those teachers who have content included in the startup’s premium offerings will receive a cut of the revenue generated from the sale of the mini-courses, although the company has yet to decide on a price point for its courses. Teachers who register for Knowmia will be able to post their video lessons for free and will also have access to the startup’s free iPad app, which launched today in tandem with its online platform.

The team describes its “Knowmia Teach” app as an “iMovie for teachers,” allowing educators to mark up their lessons and videos in interactive demonstrations for their students. In this way, Knowmia’s app competes directly with that of Educreations (which we covered earlier today) and ShowMe, both of which offer interactive whiteboards for teachers that let them create interactive, multimedia lessons.

While there is certainly plenty of demand for online video in continuing education and in learning environments that are outside the classroom, whether as homework aids or for those trying to brush up on a particular subject, it remains to be seen how much teachers are salivating for this kind of resource. Knowmia is a great alternative to YouTube, providing teachers and students with a curated, moderated video hub. And if one gets tired of Sal Khan, Knowmia can have a lot of value for those looking for material from a variety of sources in a variety of teaching styles.

It remains to be seen whether parents will buy into these types of platforms as a viable alternative to online or actual, live, in-person (gasp!) tutoring, but the more these types of platforms provide teachers with real, usable tools to assess student progress and retention, the better.

As for the parents that happen to be the startup’s co-founders? Says Braustein:

As parents, we were interested in education and felt that we could make an impact based on our consumer experience with Flip. We immersed ourselves in the education market and found that if we could tap into the magic that happens when a student and teacher connect, we could create something special.

For more, find Knowmia at home here. iPad App here.