Archive for July, 2010

Press Coverage!

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

We’ve been covered by a number of great journalists and bloggers since our launch a week ago. I’m thankful for their efforts and wanted to make sure to capture all of the articles in one place. Please let me know if you’ve published something on us. If I’ve overlooked it, then shoot it my way and I’ll post it here. Thanks again to everyone for your support!

TechCrunch - Sarah Lacy - NIXTY Launches with Ambitions to do Build Something Huge in eLearning

Chronicle of Higher Education - Sophia Li - Online Course Construction gets a “Do It Yourself” Web Site

Boston Examiner - Alphonso Sintjago - a New Provider of Online Continuing and Community Education

USA Today & Arkansas Democrat Gazette -  Bob and Joy Swabach - behind pay wall, so can read article here.

McGraw Hill Professional and Innosight Institute - Michael Horn - TechCrunch on NIXTY, Developing Countries as Big Opportunity

eLiterate - Michael Feldstein - New LMS Entrant: NIXTY

Kirsten Winkler - First Look at NIXTY

Hack College - Emily Chapman - NIXTY Offers Open Source Higher Ed

Could NIXTY Become the YouTube of Online Lessons? - Elizabeth Wellburn

Moodle Journal: Transforming the Consumption of Education

Cool Cat Teacher - Vicki Davis - Education Technology News

Center for College Affordability and Productivity - John Glaser - Innovating Out of the Status Quo

College Ready Writing - Lee Skallerup - An Open Letter to and Adjuncts

Michael Daehn - NIXTY Review - NIXTY Helps you Make Online Courses for Free

Xplana - Smart Phones, Social Networking and LMS platform


Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

We are delighted to have launched NIXTY. A number of people have been incredibly helpful in this process. We wanted to take a minute to say thank you to them for their feedback and support!

Bill Bean and Ron Hess - thanks for the ongoing honest critiques and support!

Tiffany Bregovi - for a dynamite paper on social media and charter schools. You are phenomenal!

Christine Agbuya - for the work with social media and business development!

Marshall Kirkpatrick - thank you for reviewing the site and giving us some specific and excellent feedback

Sarah Lacy - thank you for an amazing article and an ongoing education (no pun intended) on the globalized world. Can’t wait to read the new book!

David Wiley - thanks for all your pioneering work in the OER space, having a pragmatic vision, and 2 demo calls! Thanks also for your help and feedback on open education issues!

Toru Iiyohshi - thank you for the early consultation on the platform and suggestions for making it a better place to master teaching online

George Siemens - thank you for the recent consult and the need to move into learning analytics

Michael Feldstein - thanks for the critiques, publishing the early paper, and overall feedback and support

Michael Horn - thanks for writing a brilliant book and for helping us understand how to integrate disruption into our platform

Albert Wegner - thank you for a great business analysis and for the idea of WikiCourses (brilliant!)

Shawna Huggins Creech - thank you for all of the tips for making the system great for homeschoolers; thanks for all of the ongoing suggestions and for all of the bug testing!

Ann Zeise - thank you for sticking buy us even when it took longer to launch than anticipated! You are a homeschool treasure!

Jeff Barr - thanks for reviewing the product and the early words of support!

Dave Schappell - thanks for the really honest review, the practical tips, and the ongoing encouragement!

Ashish Gupta - thank you for all of your help building out courses!

Konrad Glogowki - thank you for your work with TWB and for the privilege of hosting the Certificate of Teaching Mastery Program.

Brandon Waterman - thank you for the technical support in our work with TWB.

Gabriel Weinberg - thank you for the consultations on gaining traction and for taking the time to review and give us critical feedback on the product. Looking forward to reading your book!

Marcela Morales - for an incredibly encouraging conversation and help with the OCW consortium!

Mary Lou Forward - for early feedback on how we can make this better for the open education movement.

Mike Caulfield - for feedback on making OCWs more accessible.

Tom Caswell - for his great feedback, work with OER movement, and ongoing support!

Ben Werdmuller von Elgg - for a great review and excellent tips on providing ’social glue’ to the site!

Robert Worthington - thanks for helping us better understand how we can support NGOs

Susan Henken-Thielen - for work with and agreeing to be part of our pilot program.

Gabriel Truitt - for great and timely programming!

Vicki Davis - for the encouragement and post! Looking forward to checking out the Flat Classroom Teacher Certification program!

Bob Moesta - for very early product reviews and insights into hiring NIXTY

Mark Morley - for early feedback and encouragement!

Hacker News Community - for the help thinking through challenging problems and helping us envision what an ideal learning platform might look like.

NIXTY and Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Several months ago I met with Jeff Barr, Chief Product Evangelist for AWS, at Maggiano’s in King of Prussia. We had a great chat about AWS and how NIXTY might use it. Well, we have now finally launched and we are solidly built on top of Amazon Web Services. I wanted to highlight a few ways we leverage AWS.

NIXTY uses AWS to host all of our infrastructure;  Our application stack, consisting of MySQL, Lighttpd, Memcache, and is hosted on EC2 nodes (with Linux).  S3 is used for backups and archiving.  AMIs and the robust API make scaling simple.

I imagine that many of the technical aspects are similar to how other startups use AWS. One thing that might make us a little bit different is how we use the Mechanical Turk service. Our mission is empowering education for everyone! To start, we wanted to populate NIXTY with 200+ open courses. There are just three of us running the company, and we’ve been bootstrapped since the beginning, so we didn’t have a lot of time or resources to get the job done. I posted the job on Mechanical Turk and within minutes we received several bids to help us build out the courses. To give you an example of what I mean, here is an example of a MIT open course; here is that same course in NIXTY. There was a fair amount of work done to optimize this course. Another example, we had a physics course that had a test with answers and solutions in PDF format. We wanted to provide this test in multiple choice format, so that people could simply choose the right answer. The problem was that we didn’t have any viable alternative answers (e.g., the b. c. and d. options on a multiple choice question). All we had was the right answer. Once again, we went to MTurk for the solution. We posted the exam and asked for someone with a physics background to come up with relevant alternative answers. The next day we had our test back with great alternative answers for all 10 questions.

MTurk continues to be an important service for us and will be even more so in the future. Educators have asked us for help building out their courses on NIXTY. They have the content, but they don’t have the time to build it out. No problem, we just post the job on MTurk and it gets done. Educators also often need help with research and other projects. In the future, we’ll have a teaching assistant option on NIXTY that will tie right into the MTurk service.

AWS has been a great way for us to build our startup. I highly recommend it.