What if all the information you wanted online could be arranged into a Learning Playlist? With Mentor Mob, now it can.
Recently, we’ve been talking with edtech insiders to show you what it’s like in the sector because these individuals are at the front line of an education revolution. Take a peak at the past conversations.
This time we talked with Vince Leung, co-founder and COO of Mentor Mob.
What is MentorMob?
MentorMob is a crowd-sourced learning platform that enables the creative and thoughtful organization of the very best online content. Our goal is to make MentorMob the number one destination in the world for free learning content that answers the question How do I do this? the same way Wikipedia is the global standard for answering the question What is this?.
There’s an ocean of high-quality learning content on the Internet—from math and science to guitar and salsa dancing; but it’s disorganized and hard to find. This means that the growing number of people who primarily learn online are collectively spending millions of hours searching through digital glop. With MentorMob, the human element is reintroduced to learning online, so that the best educational content uncovered by a simple Google search is vetted by users and organized into step-by-step order within a Learning Playlist. This allows learners to spend 100% of their time learning rather than wasting their time hunting for the good stuff.
Tell us about the inspiration behind MentorMob’s founding.
My co-founder Kris and I are both voracious life-long learners, and we’re fascinated how the way people learn has shifted dramatically over the past ten years or so. Growing up, we both learned outside of school through friends, books, and DVDs, but now it’s much easier (and free!) to go online and get answers from user-generated sites like Wikipedia and Youtube. On one hand, this is incredibly exciting, since now anyone can create valuable content and make it accessible online. But it also means there’s an enormous amount of poor quality, disorganized content uploaded every day—to the point where Google searching alone is frequently not enough to make finding high quality sites and videos easy. Searching for “how to play guitar,” for example, returns nearly one billion competing results organized by popularity, and not necessarily in an intelligent order for step-by-step learning. I personally found this more than a little frustrating, and also saw an opportunity to help millions of people around the world learn things easier.
What is the most important lesson you learned when building MentorMob?
To be successful, a business has got to have the right team, the right product, and be introduced under the right market conditions. And though the strength of one of these three components can help overcome weaknesses in the other two, our goal is to nail down all three. Starting a company is hard enough as it is, and so I can’t overstate the importance of balancing patient research with decisive decision making, because that’s how you end up introducing a well thought out product with a committed team under favorable market conditions.
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What startup incubator do you work out of and how was it formed?
We work out of Catapult Chicago, whose offices are located on the 25th floor of a highrise overlooking the Chicago River. As a non-profit, it doesn’t take any equity from its portfolio companies, unlike the Y-Combinators of the world. A truly collaborative effort, Catapult Chicago is the brain-child of Chicago entrepreneurs Ryan Leavitt, Vishal Shah, and my MentorMob co-founder, Kris Chinosorn, in conjunction with forward-thinking Foley Lardner Attorneys Chris Cain and Galen Mason. Currently there are 12 startups working out of Catapult Chicago.
What sort of reception have you gotten from the education community? What about students?
We had no idea that MentorMob would catch on within the formal education space so quickly. We originally created MentorMob as a platform for extra curricular, lifelong learning, but now we regularly attend education conferences and even host events for conferences in the Chicago area. We’ve seen students in elementary school creating playlists to demonstrate their knowledge of a particular concept. One of our primary goals is to make MentorMob easy for anyone to use, so it feels good when an 8-year-old says making Learning Playlists is not only easy, but fun too!
What role do you think Open Educational Resources should play in education? Are they being utilized to their fullest potential now?
I firmly believe a solid education is a fundamental human right. At MentorMob we are trying to make learning free and accessible for the entire world because we believe that it has to be. OERs are essential for a future in which all learners have a direct portal to knowledge that satisfies their curiosity and meets their needs. This future is on its way to becoming a reality, but we have a lot of work to do, and there is so much room for growth.
What new technology or trend in education are you most excited about?
The concept of the flipped classroom has really taken off, which refers to the reversed teaching model created by teachers Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann. In a flipped classroom, instruction is delivered at home through interactive content, and “homework” is completed collaboratively in the classroom. Moving lectures outside of the classroom allows teachers to spend more 1:1 time with each student, when the difficult task of applying new knowledge actually happens. And we’re delighted that many teachers who have flipped their classroom deliver content to their students via MentorMob Learning Playlists.
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